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Alabama, Auburn prepared for monumental Iron Bowl

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Is this the biggest Iron Bowl in the history of Alabama and Auburn football? It may be, at least in the past 40 years. A trip to Atlanta is on the line in this year’s Iron Bowl. For the first time since the SEC split in to two divisions and introduced a conference championship game, the SEC West representative will be determined solely by the outcome of the Iron Bowl, the annual match-up between Alabama and Auburn. The stakes could not be any higher, not when the winner will also have a legitimate shot at advancing to the BCS Championship in Pasadena in addition to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.

Something is going to have to give on the field this weekend too. Auburn has the SEC’s top rushing offense, averaging 320.27 yards per game this season. Only one time this season has Auburn been held under 200 yards on the ground (Mississippi State). The Tigers have also rushed for 37 touchdowns this season. Tre Mason leads the charge with 1,153 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. Quarterback Nick Marshall compliments the running game with 823 yards and nine touchdowns. Auburn has had their way with opponents with their running game, but this weekend the Tigers will go up against the SEC’s best rushing defense.

Alabama’s defense has stymied opposing offenses to just 91.27 yards per game and just five times has an opponent scored a touchdown on the ground against the Crimson Tide, and no team has done so more than once in a game at all this season. Auburn has rushed for at least four touchdowns in each of their previous six games.

Alabama has been following a path to Pasadena since wrapping up a BCS championship victory over Notre Dame in Miami last season. Auburn, on the other hand, has appeared out of nowhere in the rear view mirror in the last few weeks and now is signaling to pass. Of course, Alabama’s running game has been pretty solid this year as well, averaging 211.4 yards per game and recording 25 rushing touchdowns. the sophomore duo of T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake has accounted for over 1,600 yards and 20 of those touchdowns.

The running games of both teams should take center stage in this year’s Iron Bowl, but many eyes will be on Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron. In recent weeks a number of Heisman candidates have stumbled down the stretch btu McCarron continues to be a steady player, if not impressive. Is McCarron a worthy Heisman candidate? It is a tough sell to hop entirely on that ship, but if McCarron can go in to Auburn and put together the kind of numbers he had earlier in the season against Texas A&M in leading Alabama to a win, perhaps it will be easier to believe McCarron is a legitimate candidate. There is nothing wrong with being the kind of trusty and dependable and proven winner McCarron has become, but there is still something to prove before getting firmly behind the McCarron for Heisman bandwagon that seems to have developed over the last week or so.

As mentioned before, the winner of this game will be crowned SEC East champion and move on to Atlanta next week to face Missouri or South Carolina. A Missouri win against Texas A&M will send Missouri to the conference championship game, while a loss to Johnny Manziel and the Aggies will send South Carolina back to Atlanta for the first time in three seasons. The winner will also remain in contention for a BCS championship shot. The Crimson Tide would be a lock as the top-team team in the country from the beginning of the year through now if they manage to win this weekend and again in the SEC championship game. Auburn, ranked fourth in the BCS standings, could put together a solid case for jumping over an undefeated Ohio State team. It would be quite the debate, at least.

The way things are lining up though, it may be possible both Alabama and Auburn are playing in BCS bowl games in January. That is a feat that has not happened in the BCS era.

AP Top 25: Wisconsin, Texas A&M move up in top 10

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 24:  Trevor Knight #8 of the Texas A&M Aggies runs the ball against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the first quarter at AT&T Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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Like the coaches poll, there was not a ton of movement toward the top of the AP Top 25 this week, although there are some musical chairs being played. Wisconsin moved into the top 10 following a win at Michigan State over the weekend, moving up to No. 8. No. 9 Texas A&M also moved up a spot following an overtime win against Arkansas.

No. 1 Alabama continues to pull in the most first-place votes with 50 this week. No. 2 Ohio State received four and No. 3 Louisville received six. No. 4 Michigan once again received one first-place vote, which has been the case each week thus far.

Boise State makes its first appearance in the AP poll this week, checking in at No. 24.

Here is the full AP Top 25 for this week, with first-place votes noted:

  1. Alabama (50)
  2. Ohio State (4)
  3. Louisville (6)
  4. Michigan (1)
  5. Clemson
  6. Houston
  7. Stanford
  8. Wisconsin
  9. Texas A&M
  10. Washington
  11. Tennessee
  12. Florida State
  13. Baylor
  14. Miami
  15. Nebraska
  16. Ole Miss
  17. Michigan State
  18. Utah
  19. San Diego State
  20. Arkansas
  21. TCU
  22. Texas
  23. Florida
  24. Boise state
  25. Georgia

Coaches Poll: Alabama No. 1, Wisconsin and Miami continue to climb

EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 24:  Corey Clement #6 of the Wisconsin Badgers runs with the ball during the game against the Michigan State Spartns at Spartan Stadium on September 24, 2016 in East Lansing, Michigan.  (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)
Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images
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There was not a whole lot of movement in the top portion of the Amway Coaches Poll this week, as most of the top teams maintained their positioning within the top 10. Alabama remains on top of the coaches poll, without much debate, ahead of Ohio State, Clemson and Louisville.

The Miami Hurricanes had the biggest rise in the coaches poll this week, jumping up five spots to No. 14 with a 3-0 record. The Hurricanes trail No. 13 Baylor, the highest-ranked team in the Big 12 in this week’s coaches poll.

No. 8 Wisconsin is one of three Big Ten teams in the top 10, joining Ohio State and No. 5 Michigan. No. 15 Nebraska moved ahead of No. 16 Michigan State this week.

Here is the full coaches top 25 for this week, with first-place votes noted;

  1. Alabama (61)
  2. Ohio State (2)
  3. Clemson (1)
  4. Louisville
  5. Michigan
  6. Stanford
  7. Houston
  8. Wisconsin
  9. Washington
  10. Texas A&M
  11. Tennessee
  12. Florida State
  13. Baylor
  14. Miami
  15. Nebraska
  16. Michigan State
  17. Ole Miss
  18. Utah
  19. TCU
  20. Georgia
  21. Florida
  22. Arkansas
  23. North Carolina
  24. San Diego State
  25. Texas

Jim Grobe says he called for a punt from Baylor 24-yard line but headset went dead

WACO, TX - SEPTEMBER 02:  Interim head coach Jim Grobe of the Baylor Bears during play against the Northwestern State Demons at McLane Stadium on September 2, 2016 in Waco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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With a lead in a tight game against Oklahoma State on Saturday night in Waco, Baylor head coach Jim Grobe appeared to make one of the most ridiculous coaching decisions witnessed in a while when Baylor lined up to go for a first down on fourth and one from its own 24-yard line in the third quarter. After the game, Grobe said he was calling for a punt but a headset malfunction meant nobody heard his call.

That’s because Grobe accidentally turned off his headset.

“All season it seems like when our defense has our backs against the wall we play better, so I figured I’ll just spot them on the 20,” Grobe said in a laughing manner after the game. He was fortunate to be able to laugh it off, because that could have been a game-changing play.

The communications issue did not harm Baylor — the defense stuffed Oklahoma State on a fourth down play at the one-yard line and the offense moved 99 yards for a touchdown — but that is simply something that can never happen, and a head coach needs to find a way to step in and make sure his team is not going for it on a textbook punting situation. Oklahoma State could have settled for taking three free points with a short field goal kick, which would have trimmed the Baylor lead down to just one point at the time, but Mike Gundy went for the lead and a touchdown.

In Gundy’s defense, knowing how potent Baylor is on offense, going for the touchdown made sense in that situation. It is the obvious case of hindsight being 20/20, although it was just the third quarter, and not the fourth.

Arizona freshman RB JJ Taylor breaks left ankle

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 24:  Running back J.J. Taylor #23 of the Arizona Wildcats rushes the football against the Washington Huskies during the first quarter of the college football game at Arizona Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
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One of the bright spots for Arizona in the first month of the season had been freshman running back JJ Taylor. Unfortunately for he and Arizona, he will be missing some serious playing time after suffering a broken ankle Saturday night against Washington.

Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez announced after an overtime loss against Washington that Taylor broke his left ankle. Before having to leave the game with an injury, Taylor had rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries against Washington. It is expected Taylor could miss the next six to eight weeks of action, which could effectively end his season.

Ironically, Taylor was showing off his ability to break ankles earlier in the game…