Auburn's improbable run continues


Auburn fans rolled Toomer's Corner on Saturday night, immediately after the No. 3 Tigers beat No. 5 Missouri 59-42 in the SEC championship game to end the most unforgettable month in their storied history -- and perhaps the most dramatic in college football history.

Hopefully, Auburn fans carried double rolls of tissue to their beloved gathering spot at the corner of College Street and Magnolia Avenue.

The Tigers would have to roll Toomer's Corner again.

Because just before midnight ET on Saturday night, No. 10 Michigan State stunned No. 2 Ohio State 34-24 in the Big Ten championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, all but ensuring that Auburn will play No. 1 Florida State in the Jan. 6 Vizio BCS National Championship at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, Calif.

Florida State, which blasted No. 20 Duke 45-7 in the ACC championship game to finish 13-0, is expected to be No. 1 in the final BCS standings released on Sunday night, followed by Auburn. The top two teams in the final BCS standings will play in the last BCS National Championship. A four-team playoff replaces the much-maligned national championship system next season.

But like in many of the previous 15 seasons of the BCS, weeks of angst and controversy over who were the two most deserving teams to play for a national championship became moot. On the last Saturday of the regular season, everything fell into place again and the BCS delivered us a national title game almost everyone can agree about, just as BCS chairman Bill Hancock promised it would.

A month ago, few would have predicted Auburn would be one of the last two teams standing. But the Tigers beat Georgia 43-38 on a 73-yard Hail Mary pass with 25 seconds left (off the hands of a UGA defensive back, no less) on Nov. 16, and then two weeks later defeated archrival and two-time defending BCS national champion Alabama 34-28 on the mother of all miracles -- a 109-yard return of a missed field goal on the final play of the Iron Bowl.

The Tigers didn't need a dramatic finish to dispose of Missouri, after breaking open a tight game with two touchdowns in less than three minutes late in the third quarter. Tailback Tre Mason ran for an SEC title game record 304 yards with four touchdowns on 46 carries, and Missouri's defense had no answer for coach Gus Malzahn's fast-paced spread offense.

After producing two of the most improbable endings in history, the Tigers might have received their most fortunate break on Saturday night.

Auburn started Saturday ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings, firmly behind the Seminoles and Buckeyes, the last two unbeaten FBS teams. Even after piling up 677 yards of offense -- 545 rushing -- in its rout of Missouri in Atlanta's Georgia Dome, Auburn wasn't assured of playing in the final BCS National Championship until the Spartans ended the Buckeyes' 24-game winning streak and handed Urban Meyer his first loss as OSU's coach.

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