In the 2010 Iron Bowl, then-Auburn head coach Gene Chizik’s defense faced an Alabama offense led by quarterback Greg McElroy. Host Alabama built a 24-point first-half lead, but Chizik’s Tigers rallied for a stunning 28-27 victory.
Four years later, Chizik and McElroy are SEC Network analysts. The annual Iron Bowl remains the most heated rivalry in college football. Front Row caught up with the analysts prior to the Auburn at Alabama game (Saturday, ESPN, 7:45 p.m. ET, with an alternate view available on SEC Network).
Do you remember your respective 2010 game plans?
McElroy: I don’t necessarily remember the specific game plan, but I remember [Auburn] shifted the defensive line to a 5-down front and that caused us a lot of problems over the course of the game. We didn’t have much of an answer until the final drive, when we finally got it together offensively.
Chizik: We didn’t have a special game plan for McElroy. They had so many great players it was hard to have a game plan for just one guy. Overall strategy stopping the run was first in mind. Play-action pass game was second. If there was a focus, it would be stopping [former Alabama running back and wide receiver, respectively] Mark Ingram and Julio Jones.
What is your fondest Iron Bowl memory?
McElroy: It has to be 2008, when I took the field with the team up 29-0. It was third-and-6 and we called a simple concept. I decided to throw the “go” route on the outside against the press coverage with single safety and hit it.
Chizik: Obviously, [I cherish] the 2010 comeback game being down 24-0; also, [in] 2002 as the defensive coordinator when we went into Tuscaloosa after losing our entire backfield from the week before against Georgia. They were 10-1 and we were 7-3. They were coming off the huge win on the road shutting out LSU while we were coming off a disappointing last-second loss to Georgia. We were huge underdogs and won the game 17-7.
What does the Iron Bowl mean today?
McElroy: There is nothing bigger than the Iron Bowl. Regardless of the stakes, there are few games that are as competitive and physical as that game.
Chizik: The game is a 365-day-a-year obsession. It is the most heated/hated rivalry in the country in my opinion. I have been part of Florida-Georgia, Clemson-South Carolina, Texas-OU, and Auburn-Alabama. It is the most intense rivalry of all of those, without question.