Auburn may just be the most surprising contender to make a BCS bowl game in 2013, ranked No. 11 in the AP poll and 6-1 overall after upsetting Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M on Saturday—all just a year removed from a dismal 3-9 season in 2012.
Sunday, it was unveiled that the Tigers are ranked No. 11 in the season's first iteration of the BCS standings.
First-year head coach Gus Malzahn has turned the Tigers program around. Auburn is in control of its own destiny in the SEC West, the Tigers are on the verge of becoming a top-10 team, and they're in position to put together a strong finish to the season to shake up the SEC standings and the BCS bowl picture.
Where Auburn Stands
|Record (SEC)||AP Poll||Coaches Poll||Strength of Schedule||BCS|
Biggest Obstacle to a BCS Berth
With five games left on Auburn's schedule, it's clear the Tigers' BCS chances hinge on their final three games: against Tennessee, Georgia and No. 1 Alabama.
Auburn plays Tennessee on the road, but hosts both ends of "Amen Corner" this season for the first time ever—playing both the Bulldogs and Tide at home in an anomaly due to the SEC's transition to 14 teams.
Even if the Tigers lose to top-ranked Alabama, if they can get past Tennessee and Georgia and potentially finish the season 10-2, they will have put together a strong bid to make the BCS as the SEC's second-best team—ahead of the SEC East champion, if they were to lose to Alabama in the title game.
It's still early, and it's a lot to assume that Alabama will win the SEC West and go on to defeat the SEC East champion, but that just may be the most realistic scenario at this point in the season, and it may just be the one that gives the Tigers the best chance at making it into the BCS.
Of course, for that to happen, the Tigers will have to have put together a better resume than the East champion by the end of the season. If Auburn finishes the season 9-3 or 10-2, they'll have a chance to make it happen with a little help.
Mainly the Tigers would need No. 5 Missouri to falter—which is still very possible as the Tigers from the East still have No. 20 South Carolina, Tennessee, Ole Miss, and No. 14 Texas A&M left on the schedule, and their starting quarterback, James Franklin, will likely miss a few of those games out with injury.
If the SEC East champion doesn't look so impressive by the end of the year, two teams from the SEC West could make it into the BCS, and Auburn could be one of those teams.
The Big Picture
As it stands, Auburn just needs to handle its own business. After LSU's loss to Ole Miss Saturday, the Tigers, once again, control their own destiny in the SEC West standings, and they'd be a lock for a BCS berth if they can stay on course throughout the season and manage to upset Alabama in the season finale.
Even if Auburn can't pull together a complete dream season, a spot in a BCS bowl could still be in play for the Tigers. There's plenty of football left to be played, and Auburn will need a little help from the upside-down East division, but the Tigers are real contenders to earn a BCS berth in 2013.
Final Bowl Projection
Justin Lee is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @byjustinlee.