The 2014 Iron Bowl returned Alabama back to the place where the 2013 Iron Bowl knocked it down from -- No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25.
The Crimson Tide have been in the top spot in the College Football Rankings for the past two weeks, but the AP voters had been holding out, keeping undefeated Florida State in that position with Alabama at No. 2. But after the Tide beat Auburn 55-44 their sixth win in a row in the highest-scoring Alabama-Auburn game in history, on the same day Florida State yet again held on by a thread to beat an unranked team, they picked up four more first-place votes -- enough to vault past the Seminoles by just three voting points. This is the seventh consecutive year that Alabama has reached No. 1 at some point.
While questions continue to surround that coveted fourth spot, it seems that Alabama, at the top with an SEC championship matchup against East champion Missouri looming on Saturday, is the team most securely in the top four. The Tide do have one flaw on their ledger, a road loss to AP No. 13 Mississippi on Oct. 4, but it is the way that they have come back and beaten four ranked teams in their past six games that has won them the top spot.
The run started with close call against Arkansas, followed by a statement-making 59-0 win against Texas A&M. The Tide topped Tennessee, then LSU in overtime, and held on to take Mississippi State down from the No. 1 spot and move themselves up to No. 2 with a 25-20 win. After a Western Carolina tune-up, a chance at putting an end to the bad “kick-six”-inflicted taste in their mouths and exact revenge against Auburn awaited.
Alabama’s run back to the top has been highlighted by a historic season from wide receiver Amari Cooper. His first reception on Saturday made him the all-time program leader in career receptions and his first touchdown made him the all-time single-season leader, adding to an already-long list of Alabama records held by Cooper. He finished the game with three touchdowns and 224 yards, an Iron Bowl record.
The 24-hour rule is in effect for Alabama -- 24 hours after the Auburn game, the focus will be entirely on Missouri. Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide may not be talking much about their aspirations beyond that, but it won’t stop the national conversation and playoff prognosticating. And Alabama has earned its place at the head of that discussion.
Notes from the rest of the Top 25:
Florida State became the first team to lost a No. 1 ranking twice in a season since Penn State in 1997. … Mississippi State fell to No. 10 after its loss to Ole Miss, which rose to No. 13. … Arizona and Kansas State each entered the top 10. … Georgia Tech moved up four spots to No. 12 after beating Georgia, which fell from No. 8 to No. 15. … LSU, Utah and Nebraska all re-entered the poll.