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Alabama opens as 34-point Iron Bowl favorite
By Mark Edwards
mark.edwrds@decaturdaily.com
Associated Press?Dave Martin
Western Carolina running back Michael Johnson (5) is stopped by Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley (32) and defensive back Vinnie Sunseri (3) during the first half of an NCAA college football game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

TUSCALOOSA — Alabama beat Western Carolina, and the area along University Boulevard known as The Strip saw its biggest celebration Saturday night since the Crimson Tide won a national title last January.

One popular three-minute mashup of various fan videos online show Alabama center Barrett Jones making a cameo about two-thirds of the way through. Walking through a throng of fans on The Strip, he was slapping hands and yelling, “Whoohoohoo!”

If only a win over the Catamounts had caused this. Of course, it happened because previously unbeaten Kansas State and Oregon lost Saturday night, which shook up the BCS standings. Notre Dame is No. 1 in the new standings released Sunday night, followed by Alabama at No. 2. It appears the Tide now has all obstacles to the BCS National Championship Game out of its way.

But Alabama still has more games to play before a prospective trip to Miami to play for the national title.

The annual showdown with Auburn is Saturday. The Crimson Tide players began working on the Tigers on Sunday at 4 p.m. Apparently, Nick Saban’s 24-hour rule in which players can enjoy wins don’t count when it’s Stanford beating Oregon, even if the Tide’s guys might have a little Upset Saturday hangover.

Saban said all the right things about the Tigers after his team dispatched Western Carolina 49-0: “Obviously, we are going to have a difficult game next week. You throw everything out the window in terms of records when you play rivalry games. It’s going to be important that we have a good week this week.”

But is it possible Alabama might overlook Auburn and focus instead on a Miami trip? If not that, maybe Alabama will look to the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 1 against Georgia, which is third in the BCS standings?

And is it possible it might not matter if Alabama overlooks the reeling Tigers, who have only three wins in 11 games this year?

According to Vegasinsider.com, the betting line opened Sunday afternoon with Alabama as a 34-point favorite. Earlier this year, the Crimson Tide was favored by only four points more than that over Western Kentucky. Alabama promptly overlooked the Hilltoppers and still won 35-0.

Covers.com’s betting archives go back to 1985 and show no game in which either team was favored by more for the Iron Bowl. Alabama was a 21.5-point favorite last year, winning 42-14. The Tide also was a 15-point favorite in 1992, winning 17-0.

This marks the fourth time Alabama has entered as a double-digit favorite in the last five years, and the Tide won each of the other three: 2008, 2009 and 2011.

Also, this is a series that doesn’t have many true upsets. If you examine both teams after each season is done, how many times did the better squad not win the Iron Bowl, regardless of the betting line?

Definitely in 1949 (Auburn win) and 1984 (Alabama win). Maybe in 2002, too. Alabama finished that year ranked 11th by The Associated Press, while Auburn was No. 14. The Tigers won the Iron Bowl, and they were an 11-point underdog that year, by the way.

Possibly in 1972. Still, the Tigers finished the season ranked No. 5 by AP, while the Crimson Tide was No. 7. If Alabama had the better team that year, it wasn’t by much.

But if there’s a serious worry for Auburn on Saturday, it’s that Alabama team hasn’t been beaten up by the schedule to this point. After some early season injuries, the Tide has remained relatively healthy for the last month.

Running back T.J. Yeldon sprained his ankle against Western Carolina, and that’s the most serious issue. Saban he could’ve played but didn’t as a precaution. Wide receiver Kevin Norwood rested the leg injury that has bothered him. Running back Eddie Lacy (neck) and receiver Kenny Bell (ankle) did less Saturday than they would an ordinary practice.

So, if Alabama parties too much, doesn’t work enough on Auburn and sets itself up for a fall ... the Tide still will win and advance to the SEC Championship Game.

Contact Decatur Daily Sports Editor Mark Edwards at mark.edwards@decaturdaily.com or on Twitter at @DailyEdwards

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