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Before Thanksgiving Week Showdown, Alabama and Auburn Order Cupcakes

With No. 6 Auburn (8-2) having just walloped No. 7 Georgia (9-1) — the team the Iron Bowl’s winner will face in the Southeastern Conference title game on Dec. 2 — this year’s big game, which will take place at Auburn next weekend, is another high-stakes affair.

To prepare for it, Auburn does much the same thing as Alabama. Its most recent pre-Iron Bowl opponents have been Alabama A&M (twice), Samford (twice), Chattanooga, Furman and Idaho. Idaho and this year’s opponent, Louisiana-Monroe, are at least in lower-tier conferences of Alabama and Auburn’s own Football Bowl Subdivision. (Auburn has already played an F.C.S. opponent at home, beating none other than Mercer, 24-10, in September.)

Schedules like Alabama’s and Auburn’s tend to prompt the talk-radio charge that records inflated by such walk-in-the-park victories lead to artificially puffed-up playoff résumés, particularly when the easy opponents come so late in the season. One website called the SEC’s status as the Power 5 league that plays the most F.C.S. opponents an “ignominious distinction.”

“Cupcakes and home cooking,” an ESPN writer sniffed of such matchups in 2015, and a website…

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