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Rivalry Saturday

Okay, okay. I know this is an LSU blog, but you'll have to indulge me. I grew up in Alabama. Yes, I grew up an LSU fan, but living in the Heart of Dixie, you can't help but be enthralled by the rivalry that is the Iron Bowl. I refuse to call it the Alabama-Auburn or Auburn-Alabama game because people take it seriously when you mention one school before the other. Very serious.

So, the entire nation is focused on the game in Columbus this weekend -- and probably should be. But for my money, it doesn't get any better than what will happen on the Bear's old stomping grounds in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.

A lot of people say Ohio State-Michigan is the best rivalry. Sure, they're usually ranked higher and the game usually decides the Big 10. But it doesn't mean more than an Iron Bowl. Nothing does. It defines people.

In a state where there are no pro sports, there is a passion for this one game, this one day that you won't find anywhere else. I'll let Bruce Feldman do his best to explain it.

For pure venom, I doubt there is one close to Alabama-Auburn. While writing a story about this rivalry a long time ago, I had asked a former Auburn star why he thought football was so vital to folks in the Deep South and in this state. His answer, while probably not one you'd hear from the chamber of commerce, was interesting: "Well, aside from having legendary coaches like Bear Bryant and a Shug Jordan, you have to keep in mind that traditionally we [the state of Alabama] are always last or close to last in education, in per capita income and a lot of other things that can wear people down. People, by nature, need something to brag on. Football is that for the people here." I'll add in this from Aaron in Auburn: "You have to recognize one thing that sets apart the Auburn/Alabama rivalry from any other -- its utter lack of distractions. In this part of the country, NFL is a distant second-favorite and baseball is a nice spring pastime (college, not the foreign sport of MLB)."

Rivalries aren't made by the fact that two teams might be ranked high or the game is important. Rivalries are made when the only thing each side thinks about is beating the other. Last weekend Auburn fans were upset about being knocked out of the national championship race. By Monday, it was forgotten. It was Alabama week.

There is a former Auburn athletic director who used to walk around the athletic administration building asking his employees, "What have you done today to help us beat Alabama?" He meant it. Everyday was about beating Alabama. It was the only thing that mattered. It still is.

So, while the rest of the nation is tuned in to 1 vs. 2 on Saturday, you'll find me huddled near a secondary TV, watching as a whole state's fate for the next 364 days is determined.

It's the only way I would have my "Rivalry Saturday."