Will this year's game between No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Auburn really be the biggest ever, just because the stakes are so large?
Maybe the reverse is more accurate.
The game is always big, no matter what records the teams have. But when one of the teams is competing for a national championship, it sometimes seems like the game is just another bump in the road. When the year ends, it isn't like that team says, "We won the SEC and/or national championship, but the real highlight of the year was beating our rival. Winning that championship just doesn't compare."
In those years when neither team is going to win a championship, that's when it seems as if the Iron Bowl takes on extra importance. That's when a win really is the highlight of the year.
Alabama fans, think back to 1984 and 1985. Exciting games, memorable Alabama wins. Beating Auburn made not going to a bowl game more bearable in 1984. In 1985, beating with a field goal on the last play made a good season great.
Auburn fans, think about the 1972 season. Auburn won no championship, but the 17-16 win over Alabama made that team one of the most memorable in school history.
Alabama's win at Auburn in 2001, and Auburn's win at Tuscaloosa in 2002 don't mean any less because no championship was attached.
There's one exception to this rule, of course -- the 1989 game. Auburn clinched a tie for the SEC championship with Alabama and Tennessee by beating the Crimson Tide in the first Iron Bowl in Jordan-Hare Stadium. (This was before the SEC Championship Game.) Alabama finally was forced to come to Auburn, and the Tigers won. The championship was secondary.
But for this year, the winner Saturday has bigger fish to fry later on. And because of that, maybe Alabama's AJ McCarron is right when he says, "It's just another Saturday."
Contact Anniston Star Sports Editor Mark Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.