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The Iron Bowl is for the SEC West *and* Gus Malzahn’s future. Both sides feel OK about that.

Bama-Auburn determines Auburn’s Playoff fate for sure, maybe Bama’s, and possibly Malzahn’s as well.

NCAA Football: UL Monroe at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Gus Malzahn is 1-3 against Alabama.

If the Auburn coach falls to 1-4 on Saturday, there’s a good chance he jumps to back to his home state of Arkansas.

If he wins, he’s SEC Championship bound, a national title contender for the second time in five years on the Plains.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a coach whose future hung more in the balance at any one game.

The 2017 Iron Bowl shapes the immediate term of the SEC West. The winner meets Georgia in Atlanta for a certain Playoff berth.

But given Malzahn’s tenuous situation at Auburn and the possibility he leaves and helps Arkansas pick a new athletic director, it’ll shape the division years into the future, too.

I asked an Auburn fan about Malzahn, and he felt great.

In a call with Jack Condon, the managing editor of SB Nation Auburn blog College and Magnolia, I asked for his feeling on Malzahn pre-Iron bowl, from 1 to 10.

“I think, kind of with the rest of the Auburn family — as we like to be called — he’s at the moment, after beating Georgia like that, probably an 8 or an 8.5,” Condon said. “If he beats Alabama and does something similar to what we saw against the Bulldogs, I don’t know if there’s a way he could be anything less than about a 9.5.

“And if he wins the SEC and goes to the Playoff, he’d be at a 10. And he could do just about anything he wanted, no matter really what happens in the Playoff.”

I then asked a Bama fan about Malzahn. He also felt great.

Auburn’s rolling right now. So I asked Josh Chatham, an executive editor at SB Nation’s Roll Bama Roll: Are you scared of Malzahn’s Tigers going forward?

“Absolutely not,” he answered. “Most Alabama fans at this point hope that Auburn keeps Gus for a really long time, I think.”

Chatham sees Malzahn as more a schemer than a player developer, and he can’t work up a sweat worrying about an Auburn coach who’s never recruited his own star QB out of high school.

“He doesn’t seem to develop fundamentals very well,” Chatham said. “His philosophy to me seems that football is more about the coach and how he can misdirect and trick the other team, as opposed to creating better football players across the board and creating depth on his roster.

“Let’s be frank here. He’s supposed to be an offensive guru, and his offense, some of these seasons, has been just absolutely atrocious. And his quarterback play has been just awful.”

But both sides have a healthy fear of what could happen Saturday.

Auburn’s defense is playing out of its mind right now, and the Tigers have the right quarterback in Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham. Running back Kerryon Johnson has a Heisman finalist shot if he finishes strong. Auburn’s UGA win was a demolition. Chatham doesn’t worry about Malzahn beating Saban yearly, but right now?

“There’s definitely concern about it,” he said.

(One particular worry is that Alabama might have to start a rookie at middle linebacker. That’d be five-star Dylan Moses, who at one point was the No. 1 overall player in the class of 2017. “He’s still a true freshman, and they’re very depleted as far as their depth goes,” Chatham said.)

On the other side, Auburn might not get this chance again for a while. The Iron Bowl won’t be back on the Plains next year, and AU hasn’t won in Tuscaloosa since 2010. To whatever extent momentum’s a real thing, the Tigers have it now, and they’ve got a chance to beat Bama at home and take the West. It’d be a shame to waste it.

“I think this year, there’ll be more people disappointed if we don’t beat Alabama, just based on the fact that our defense is playing out of its mind and the game is at home,” Condon said. “We actually have a healthy team.”

Every Iron Bowl’s a nail-biter. It’s just a little more of a nail-biter now.