The ‘Iron Bowl’ Versus ‘The Game’ In the NFL: Which Rivalry Would Have the Edge?

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For years now, Alabama versus Auburn (otherwise known as the ‘Iron Bowl’) and Ohio State versus Michigan (otherwise known as ‘The Game’) have been considered the two best rivalries in all of college football. Well, what would happen if current NFL players from the alma mater of each rivalry joined forces to create its own team? Which rivalry would have the edge, ‘The Game’ or the ‘Iron Bowl’? Let’s evaluate, shall we?

As of the 2017-2018 season, 33 former Michigan Wolverines players and 42 former Ohio State players were on NFL rosters, giving ‘The Game’ a 75-player roster to break down, while there were 45 former Alabama players and 36 former Auburn players on NFL rosters, giving ‘The Iron Bowl’ an 81-player roster to break down. Instead of including all players, though, let’s construct the best two-deep roster possible for each respective rivalry

Quarterback 

The Game: Tom Brady, Cardale Jones

Iron Bowl: Cam Newton, A.J. McCarron

Storyline:

The Game already has a distinct advantage over The Iron Bowl with Tom Brady, arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, under center, but the Iron Bowl’s Cam Newton isn’t so shabby himself, which would make things interesting. Nevertheless, there’s only one Tom Brady.

The edge: The Game

Running back

The Game: Ezekiel Elliott, Carlos Hyde

Iron Bowl: Mark Ingram, Derrick Henry

Storyline: Highlighted by two Heisman trophy winners, the Iron Bowl would have an excellent one-two punch in the backfield. However, The Game’s one-two punch of Ezekiel Elliott and Carlos Hyde put up better numbers in the 2017 season, despite the fact that Ezekiel Elliott was suspended for the first six games of the year. Sure Mark Ingram was a 2016 Pro-Bowl selection, but Elliott and Hyde averaged a combined 157.1 rushing yards per game while Ingram and Henry averaged a combined 116.8 rushing yards per game.

The Edge: The Game

Wide Receiver 

The Game: Michael Thomas, Devin Funchess, Ted Ginn Jr, Jalin Marshall, and Braxton Miller

Iron Bowl:  Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, Ricardo Louis, ArDarius Stewart, Sammie Coates 

Storyline: The Iron Bowl has arguably the most unstoppable wide receiver in all of football in Julio Jones. With his size and athleticism, he is a coverage mismatch versus virtually every defensive back in the world, and his 1,444 receiving yards were the second-most in the NFL. Add Amari Cooper and Ricardo Louis to the Iron Bowl’s receiving corp and it has to have the edge over The Game, right? Well, not so fast.

In Michael Thomas, The Game has arguably the NFL’s best possession receiver who was sixth in the league in receiving yards. It also has big-bodied Devin Funchess (28th in receiving yards) and speedster Tedd Ginn Jr. – both of which had more receiving yards than Cooper and Louis.

The edge: The Game

Tight End

The GameNick Vannett, Jeff Heuerman

Iron Bowl:  O.J. Howard, C.J. Uzomah

Storyline: Although Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman provide solid blocking and are legit receiving threats, their 21 combined receptions for 266 yards and three touchdowns comes nowhere near O.J. Howard and C.J. Uzomah’s 36 receptions for 524 yards and seven touchdowns. As they say, stats don’t lie.

The edge: Iron Bowl

Offensive Tackle

The Game: Taylor Lewan, Taylor Decker, Darryl Baldwin, Chase Farris, Erik Magnuson

Iron Bowl:  Cam Robinson, Korren Kirven, Cyrus Kouandjio, Shon Coleman, Avery Young 

Storyline: Led by rookie Pro-Bowl Selection Taylor Lewan, The Game has a respectable set of offensive tackles. Taylor Decker started in all 16 games as a rookie in 2016, but due to him undergoing shoulder surgery had to sit out for 2017. Nevertheless, the talent’s still there.

For the Iron Bowl, Cam Robinson started in all 15 of the games he was active in during the 2017 season, but other than him, no other former Iron Bowl offensive tackle started in more than two games

The edge: The Game

Offensive Guard

The Game: Andrew Norwell, Kyle Kalis, Patrick Omameh, Ben Braden

Iron Bowl:  James Carpenter, Andre Smith, Chad Slade, Chance Warmack, Anthony Steen

Storyline: Anchored by All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell and an ultra-reliable Patrick Omameh, who started in all 13 games he saw action in last year, The Games guards aren’t so shabby.

The only former Iron Bowl guard that started in all of his active games in 2017 (16) was James Carpenter who was arguably the best offensive lineman on a mediocre New York Jets offensive line. The Arizona Cardinals’ Andre Smith started in eight of the 13 games he was active in.for the 2017 season as well.

The edge: The Game

Center

The GamePat Elflein, Corey Linsley,  

Iron Bowl:  Ryan Kelly

StorylinePat Elflein started in every game of his rookie season for the Vikings, making the 2017 PFWA All-Rookie Team. Ironically, three years earlier, Corey Linsley also made the PFWA All-Rookie Team and is the proven leader for the Packers up front. 

The only center in the NFL from the Iron Bowl is the Indianapolis Colts’ Ryan Kelly who only started in seven games in 2017 due to injuries.

The edge: The Game

Defensive End 

The GameJoey Bosa, Cameron Heyward, Brandon Graham, Frank Clark 

Iron Bowl:  Angelo Blackson, Jonathan Allen, D.J. Pettway

Storyline: I don’t know if there’s a rivalry in all of college football that has produced a better collection of defensive ends than ‘The Game’. Highlighted by pro-bowlers Joey Bosa and Cameron Heyward, the combination of those two and Michigan alumn Brandon Graham and Frank Clark recorded a combined total of 194 tackles and 44 sacks last year. 

To put that in perspective, only four out of the 32 NFL TEAMS AS A WHOLE produced more sacks in the 2017-2018 season!

The edge: The Game EASILY

Defensive Tackle

The GameAdolphus Washington, Michael Bennett, Ryan Glasgow, Willie Henry 

Iron Bowl:  Dalvin Tomlinson, A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed, Marcell Dareus

Storyline: Defensive tackle is by far the weakest of all positions for The Game. Adolphus Washington, Michael Bennett, Ryan Glasgow, and Willie Henry started in just 15 games combined in the 2017-2018 season. 

Although the Iron Bowl hasn’t produced many big-time defensive tackles itself, at least of few of them like Dalvin Tomlinson, A’Shawn Robinson, and Jarran Reed are starters on a regular occasion.

The edge: Iron Bowl

Linebacker 

The GameRyan Shazier, Darron Lee, John Simon, Joshua Perry, Raekwon McMillan, Curtis Grant

Iron Bowl:  C.J. Mosley, Mark Barron, Reuben Foster,  Reggie Ragland, Josh Bynes

Storyline: Despite Ryan Shazier’s late-season injury, he is included on this list because he played throughout the entire regular season, having a solid, 89-tackle season, putting up similar numbers to fellow Ohio State alumn Darren Lee.

Led by NFL All-Pro and Pro-Bowl Selection C.J. Mosley, however, the linebackers from the Iron Bowl put up better numbers across the board than The Game

The Edge: The Iron Bowl

Safety

The Game: Malcolm Jenkins, Malik Hooker, Vonn Bell, Kurt Coleman

Iron Bowl: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Landon Collins, Eddie Jackson, Blake Countess

Storyline: With veterans, Malcolm Jenkins and Kurt Coleman coupled with younger rising stars like Malik Hooker and Vonn Bell, The Game has a pretty good group of safeties. 

You can say the same with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Landon Collins, Eddie Jackson, and Blake Countess, too, though.

The edge: This is pretty even.

Cornerback 

The Game: Marshon Lattimore, Bradley Roby, Doran Grant, Gareon Conley, Eli Apple, Channing Stribling, Jourdan Lewis, Jeremy Clark

Iron Bowl: Neiko Thorpe, Trovon Reed, Nick Marshall, Jonathan Jones, Joshua Holsey, Chris Davis, Bradley Sylve, Dre Kirkpatrick, Cyrus Jones, Kareem Jackson, Marlon Humphrey,

Storyline: Having two cornerbacks like Marshon Lattimore and Bradley Roby on your roster would be an NFL coach’s dream come true. Veteran Bradley Roby could teach a younger and arguably more talented Lattimore a lot, and Lattimore could school some wide receivers.

With guys like Dre Kirkpatrick and Cyrus Jones, the Iron Bowl’s safeties aren’t bad either. The catch? The Game’s safeties are slightly better.

The edge: Ohio State

The verdict: 

The only positions on the football field where the Iron Bowl has an advantage over The Game in terms of NFL talent production are at linebacker, defensive tackle, and tight end. Other than that, The Game has produced either equal or greater talent at each and every position.

I imagine that with Tom Brady, Ezekiel Elliott and Carlos Hyde, the stable of wide receivers, the dominance on the defensive line, and all of the play-makers in the secondary, not only would The Game win in dominant fashion versus the former Iron Bowl stars, it would produce a team that could easily win the Super Bowl.

Although the Iron Bowl has been the more relevant rivalry (best in college football, actually) over the course of the last decade or so, having high stake-games, jaw-dropping finishes, and a combined six national titles since 2009, The Game is still the best rivalry in college football history.

The NFL talent produced by The Game is by far the best of any and every other rivalry, which further iterates the fact that there’s no better rivalry in college football.