TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Alabama punched out Auburn while punching its ticket to the Southeastern Conference championship game on a brisk Saturday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
AJ McCarron threw for 216 yards and four touchdowns and Eddie Lacy rushed for 131 yards and two scores as the No. 2 Crimson Tide walloped the Tigers 49-0 in the most lopsided Iron Bowl in more than six decades. Alabama scored touchdowns on its first seven possessions, converted its first 11 third-down opportunities and never allowed Auburn past the Tide's 41-yard line.
"It's been a great ride and a lot of fun, and what a way to end it," Alabama senior center Barrett Jones said of his Bryant-Denny finale. "Playing against our rival and beating them pretty good -- that was a lot of fun. I don't think the first team made any mistakes when we were out there."
The only Iron Bowl with a larger victory margin was Alabama's 55-0 rout in 1948. The Tide had a chance to break that mark, but backup quarterback Blake Sims fumbled at Auburn's 7-yard line late in the third quarter, and coach Nick Saban called for his team to take a knee on the Auburn 5 with 11 seconds remaining.
Alabama improved to 11-1 and clinched the SEC West title and will play Georgia next weekend in Atlanta for the conference championship and a spot in the BCS title game. The Bulldogs (11-1) were equally impressive Saturday in their 42-10 trouncing of ACC Coastal Division champion Georgia Tech.
It will be the 21st SEC championship game but the first pitting Alabama and Georgia.
"Georgia has a really good team and is playing really well right now," Saban said. "It will be a great opportunity for our players. In all the games I've been a part of, these are about as good as any game in the country other than the national championship game."
Said Jones: "I know it's going to be a raucous crowd, and I can't wait. It's going to be awesome. We're playing against a really good Georgia team, and it's going to be a great game and great for the SEC."
Saturday's slaughter only increased the likelihood of the imminent dismissal of Auburn fourth-year coach Gene Chizik. After guiding the Tigers to the 2010 national title, Chizik has gone 11-14 the past two seasons, including this year's 3-9 record that includes the first 0-8 SEC mark in program history.
It is the first nine-loss season for the Tigers since the 1950 team went 0-10.
"Obviously that was a very disappointing and embarrassing loss to our in-state rivals," Chizik said. "It was obvious to everybody. It was a sad performance, and the Auburn fans and the Auburn alumni don't deserve that."
Auburn's best performance this season came in the opener against Clemson in Atlanta, a 26-19 loss, and the Tigers were atrocious down the stretch. Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama outscored them by a combined 112-7 in the first halves of their games.
There was little surprise in Saturday's game, as Alabama opened with a 10-play, 76-yard drive that culminated with a 2-yard touchdown run by Lacy. The Tigers were their own worst enemies, giving the Tide 29 yards -- 15 on a T'Sharvan Bell blow to the head and 14 on a Jermaine Whitehead interference near the goal line.
Auburn committed only one defensive penalty, an offside infraction by Jeffrey Whitaker, to assist Alabama on its second possession as the Tide traveled 61 yards on 10 plays and took a 14-0 lead on a 2-yard run by T.J. Yeldon.
The Tigers drove into Alabama territory on their second possession before having to punt, and the Tide used a 32-yard Lacy run up the middle and a 37-yard scoring pass from McCarron to Amari Cooper to make it 21-0 with 12:38 left in the second quarter. If the game wasn't over at that point, it was when McCarron completed a 7-yard touchdown throw to Kevin Norwood with 8:39 left in the half.
"As an offense, we wanted to send the seniors out with a bang, and that's what we did tonight," Norwood said. "It was just one of those days where we were clicking on all cylinders."
Alabama led 42-0 at halftime, the largest such lead in Iron Bowl history. Auburn held the previous mark at the midway point with a 34-0 lead in its 40-0 win in 1957.
"We still had the same focus, passion and energy to go out there and execute in the second half, but it's just different guys," Tide safety Robert Lester said. "It gave our younger guys the chance to go out and execute and play at that same intensity."