TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Iron Bowls are always important, but Saturday’s game could hold an extra bit of significance. With Alabama all but certainly out of national title contention, a few Crimson Tide players will have decisions to make concerning this year’s bowl game.
Chief among those are Wil Anderson Jr. and Bryce Young, who are both projected to be top-10 picks in next year’s NFL Draft. With that in mind, could this weekend be the last time we see the duo in crimson and white?
As of Monday, we’ll have to wait and see.
“You know, I haven’t made any decisions yet,” Anderson said when asked about his future. “I’ve just been real focused on this season and continuing to be a good leader and showing guys the right way of how to do things around here. It’s been a great time around here. Playing in Bryant-Denny has been fun, so many memories. I just want to keep those memories going so it’s been fun and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
Young is keeping his decision close to the vest as well.
“I take everything one day at a time, he said. “So all I’ve been focused on throughout the year has been the next opponent, and obviously, this is huge. This is a huge game. This means a lot to me, to people in the entire state, to us as a team. This is a huge game, so all I think about is today. How can I be the best version of myself today to get ready to put myself in the best circumstances, how we as a team can do that, and that’s all my head’s focused on.”
Anderson and Young are two of the most prolific players in Alabama history.
Last season, Young became the program’s first Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. The junior currently ranks third on Alabama’s all-time lists for passing yards (7,692) and passing touchdowns (72). Last year, he set the single-season marks for passing yards (4,872) and passing touchdowns (47) while also setting the single-game passing record with 559 yards against Arkansas.
Through 10 games this season, Young has completed 63.8% of his passes for 2,664 yards and 24 touchdowns with four interceptions while adding three more scores on the ground. The junior suffered a shoulder injury against Arkansas on Oct. 1 that caused him to miss the second half of the win over the Razorbacks as well as the victory over Texas A&M the following week.
Anderson has started in each of his three seasons at Alabama. The five-star edge rusher ranks second on the team’s career sacks list with 32.5. He has also piled up a combined 58 tackles for a loss during his time with the Crimson Tide
Last season, Anderson took home the Bronko Nagurski Trophy leading the nation with 17.5 sacks and 33.5 tackles for a loss. Through 11 games this season, he leads the team with eight sacks, 14 tackles for a loss and 10 quarterback hurries. He also returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown against Louisiana-Monroe and blocked a field goal against Texas.
Alabama’s most likely bowl destinations include the Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Cotton Bowl. Outside of the College Football Playoff, the highest-ranked SEC in the CFP rankings is slated for the Sugar Bowl while the conference’s next two spots go to the Cotton Bowl and the Orange Bowl.
Alabama (9-2, 5-2 in the SEC) will host Auburn (5-6, 2-5) on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CT. The Crimson Tide is a three-touchdown favorite in the matchup.
“You know I’m looking forward to it,” Anderson said. “I was just joking about it in the weight room. Me and Henry [To’oTo’o] got a chance to sit down and just take a look at the whole stadium and we were just laughing about it because this is what you dream about as a kid, playing football in the backyard with your friends and you get moments like this. It’s just a dream come true. It’s been a blessing. I had a chance to meet a lot of great people and build a relationship with them and I hope it lasts forever.”
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