For all the hype surrounding this edition of the Iron Bowl, not many people expected it to end with the Auburn Tigers being victorious. Yet it did, shocking the college football world while also dashing the Alabama Crimson Tide‘s hopes at a third straight National Championship game appearance.
Instead, a team with two miraculous, last-second comebacks in the past three weeks has put themselves in a position to shock everybody if they can beat either South Carolina or Missouri in the SEC championship game next Saturday in Atlanta.
Who would have predicted this at the beginning of the 2013 season? A team that won zero conference games all of last year continues to defy the odds, even when they’re stacked against them.
It’s not all about luck though. New head coach Gus Malzahn instilled a system of belief upon arriving this past summer and asked that players buy into his intricate, yet successful offensive system. It had worked to perfection behind 2010 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton during the Tigers’ undefeated National Championship season just a few years ago.
Having a versatile player like Nick Marshall, who’s shown flashes of greatness this entire season under center, also helps. Only a junior, the former Georgia Bulldogs defensive back and two-sport star is definitely maturing into what the Tigers need him to be: a guy that limits mistakes, thus giving his team a chance to win.
Hey, maybe the Tigers were destined to be in this position. Two weeks ago, Marshall saw a long Hail Mary pass get tipped right into the arms of Ricardo Louis. This time around, Alabama coach Nick Saban lobbied hard for the officials to put one second back on clock just so he could attempt a 56-yard field goal. They obliged, but his begging proved costly as Auburn ran the unsuccessful kick back 107 yards to smash all of the Crimson Tide’s dreams.
Whatever it is, the Tigers are one win away from reaching their ultimate dream of playing for all the marbles — something no one could have seen coming three months ago.