November 25, 2012 1:02:25 AM
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama football team left no doubt it is the state's best team.
Proving it's the best team in the Southeastern Conference and perhaps the nation won't be nearly so easy.
AJ McCarron passed for four touchdowns and Eddie Lacy rushed for 131 yards and two scores to lead No. 2 Alabama to a 49-0 beatdown of Auburn University on Saturday, the most lopsided Iron Bowl in 64 years.
The Tide (10-1, 7-1 SEC) clinched the Western Division title outright and a spot in the conference title game against No. 3 University of Georgia with the winner likely getting a Bowl Championship Series national championship shot.
"In all those games that I've been a part of, they are about as good as any game in the country other than the national championship game," Alabama coach Nick Saban said of the SEC title matchup.
Georgia will present a tougher challenge than Alabama faced Saturday.
Auburn (3-9, 0-8) completed the worst season for any team within two years of winning an Associated Press national title in what might have been the last game for embattled coach Gene Chizik.
University President Jay Gogue has only said he'll evaluate the program at season's end.
Chizik met Saban briefly at midfield, hugged McCarron, and walked off the field with cameras following his every move. He declined to discuss his future.
"This isn't about me," Chizik said. "I've got a locker room of guys that are here that are very disappointed. That's my focus, I'm not going to entertain any of those questions. My focus is to be back in there with them."
Chizak said the Tigers' performance was "sad."
"That was a very disappointing loss, embarrassing loss to our state rivals," he said. "It was obvious to everybody.
"The Auburn fans, the Auburn alumni, don't deserve that."
And most haven't seen a game like this one. The biggest Iron Bowl margin was Alabama's 55-0 victory in 1948, the most lopsided in a rivalry that captivates a state.
This one could have topped that but Saban played subs for much of the second half. The Tide lost a fumble inside Auburn's 10 and then ran out the final seconds after getting to the 5.
Alabama outgained the Tigers 483-163 and had 25 first downs to Auburn's seven.
"We didn't take our foot off the gas," Lacy said. "We kept playing in the fourth quarter."
Auburn hasn't scored an offensive touchdown in the last two meetings since Cam Newton & Co. completed the rivalry's largest comeback in the Tigers' last visit to Bryant-Denny Stadium two years ago. This one supplied another milestone of sorts.
It's the first time Alabama has scored 40-plus points in two straight Iron Bowls, following last season's 42-14 win when Auburn managed to score on a kick return and fumble recovery.
The 42-0 halftime score was the same as the Tide had last week against FCS team Western Carolina, which finished 1-10. The previous largest halftime margin in the Iron Bowl was 34-0 by Auburn in 1957 in a 40-0 win during its only national title run before 2010.
"We had that sick feeling in our mouth," offensive lineman Chad Slade said. "You know, you hate to feel that way. I lost it last year, and I lose it this year. It's hard, it's real hard just to speak on it. Next year has to be a different story."
McCarron completed 15 of 21 passes for 216 yards in 2-1/2 quarters, including a pair of touchdowns apiece to Amari Cooper and Kevin Norwood.
Lacy ran 18 times for 131 yards, pinballing off defenders from a defense that ranks last in the SEC against the run.
Auburn freshman Jonathan Wallace completed 5 of 14 passes with two interceptions against the nation's top scoring defense. He's only the third freshman quarterback to start an Iron Bowl for the Tigers and first since Gabe Gross in 1998.
Wallace voiced his support for Chizik.
"He should be back. I definitely love coach Chizik and the whole coaching staff," he said. "They know exactly where this program needs to go, and they know what to do. I hope they are back next year. I really have no doubt. I really do believe they will be."
Tre Mason ran 21 times for 82 yards for Auburn, topping 1,000 for the season on the game's final play.
The Tide produced an array of big plays running and passing. McCarron and Cooper -- who had five catches for 109 yards -- connected for touchdowns of 37 and 29 yards. Norwood scored on a 7-yarder and a 38-yarder that completed the scoring with 24 minutes left.
Alabama produced touchdowns on its first seven possessions until a fumble deep in Auburn territory ended that streak.
The Tide also converted its first 11 third-down tries.
The worst news for Alabama was on the injury front. Saban said wide receiver Kenny Bell sustained a broken left leg and will have to have a rod inserted.
Auburn only pushed the ball across midfield only twice, making it as far as the Tide's 41 in the first quarter before punting. The Tigers have been outscored by 129 points in their last three SEC games, all against top 10 SEC opponents Texas A&M University, Georgia, and Alabama.
The Tide shut out four opponents this season, the most in a season for Alabama since 1979. Last season's team also shut out LSU in the BCS title game in January.
"This was a great team victory," Saban said. "Everybody contributed. We asked for everyone to play their best game today. When you make a commitment to something, it comes from the heart, and I really thought our players did that."
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