Auburn RB Tre Mason
Before the season started, the Auburn/Georgia game was thought to carry major BCS National Championship implications for at least one of the teams involved.
Here we are on game week of the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, and it does...just not for the same team.
Instead of the Georgia Bulldogs fighting for the crystal football, it's the team that won it three seasons ago—the Auburn Tigers—who still have hopes of hoisting the trophy at the end of the season.
The 9-1 (5-1 SEC) Tigers currently boast the No. 7 ranking in the most recent BCS standings and have a legitimate shot at getting back to the BCS National Championship Game for the second time in four seasons.
So what needs to happen for the Tigers to get to Pasadena to play for the title? Here's a short snapshot of the BCS chaos that needs to ensue.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn
This is the obvious first step.
The Tigers control their own SEC West destiny, but they can't afford to lose another game and expect to have a realistic chance at the BCS National Championship.
Sure, LSU won the title in 2007 with two losses. This isn't 2007.
The landscape is much different at the top of the BCS, and it's incredibly unrealistic to expect the dominoes to fall around the country to allow a two-loss team back into the mix in 2013.
Auburn's been fighting an uphill battle since it was unranked and coming off of a 3-9 season in 2012, but if it beats Georgia, upsets Alabama—which should be undefeated and No. 1 when the two meet on Nov. 30—and beats either No. 9 Missouri or No. 10 South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game, it will boast quite a resume to put in front of the computers, Harris Poll voters and coaches who vote in the USA Today Coaches' Poll.
Ultimately, style points won't matter for Auburn. Being a one-loss SEC champ—if that's the way it shakes out—should be enough to put the Tigers at the top of the one-loss pecking order.
But they wouldn't hurt.
Stanford looked awesome against Oregon last Thursday night in that 26-20 win, and if the Cardinal run the table, a debate between the merits of Auburn and Stanford will be one that is quite heated around the country.
That's why style is important.
Auburn is viewed as a one-dimensional team by some, after quarterback Nick Marshall threw a total of 15 passes over the last two games—both of which were big road wins over Arkansas and Tennessee, respectively.
If Auburn wins out and Marshall is able to find success through the air, then Stanford's chances—and the chances of every other one-loss contender—will be diminished by what will be a complete Auburn team.
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer
Rooting against Urban Meyer shouldn't be terribly difficult for Auburn fans.
His Ohio State team sits at 9-0 and with the No. 3 ranking in the BCS standings, but the jury is still out whether the Buckeyes are a contender or pretender.
In the case of a potential one-loss SEC champ, it doesn't matter, though.
An Ohio State team that posts a 13-0 record, and a 25-0 record over the first two years of Urban Meyer's tenure in Columbus, will be impossible to leap for any one-loss team in the country. Sure, an argument could be made that a one-loss SEC champ—or any other elite team—might be better than the Buckeyes based on a weak schedule in which they've yet to face a top-15 team. But losses have to count for something, and if Ohio State doesn't have any, they would deserve the spot.
So where could they trip up?
Michigan poses a minimal threat on the road at the end of the season, but the Big Ten Championship Game will provide the best opportunity for Ohio State to falter—especially if it runs into Michigan State in Indianapolis.
The Spartans are 8-1 (5-0 Big Ten), have a one-game lead over Nebraska in the Leaders division and boast the nation's top defense (210.2 yards per game).
If Ohio State gets to the Big Ten Championship Game with a BCS title game slot on the line, the Spartans defense is certainly capable of forcing the Buckeyes to buckle under the pressure.
Baylor head coach Art Briles
Remember when Baylor was all offense, no defense and a product of an easy early-season schedule?
Yeah, about that...
Baylor throttled Oklahoma 41-12 last Thursday night in a game that wasn't really as close as the score indicated. The Bears held the Sooners to just 237 total yards, 4-of-17 on third down and 2.6 yards per play.
That outcome solidified the Bears as a legit football team. They're only giving up 306.1 yards per game and 15.4 points per game, both of which rank in the top 10 nationally.
Head coach Art Briles and the Bears are on the outside looking in right now, but if dominoes fall in their favor, they could be in the title-game mix.
That's assuming they run the table, which is a tall order. The Bears play at No. 12 Oklahoma State on Nov. 23 and at home versus No. 24 Texas to close the regular season on Dec. 7. Mark the game with the Cowboys down, because that's the one that's going to cost the Bears a title shot.
Stanford QB Kevin Hogan
Auburn is looking up at No. 4 Stanford and No. 6 Oregon in the current BCS standings, but if Auburn runs the table, it should be enough to vault the Tigers ahead of the two one-loss Pac-12 North teams and to the top of the one-loss pecking order.
Nothing is definitive in college football, and that especially holds true when we're discussing computer rankings and humans voting in polls.
But just in case, it'd benefit the Tigers to not have to deal with that kind of headache.
Stanford visits USC this weekend, hosts Notre Dame at the end of the season and potentially could face a tough opponent in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Oregon hosts the same Utah team that beat Stanford this week and will travel to Arizona before hosting Oregon State in the Civil War to close out the regular season.
It might not matter for Auburn, because wins over No. 25 Georgia, No. 1 Alabama and either No. 9 Missouri or No. 10 South Carolina will resonate with voters and the computer polls.
Florida State QB Jameis Winston
This is a long shot, because if there's any team in the country that's playing on Alabama's level, it's Florida State.
The Seminoles rank No. 2 in the BCS standings, boast the fourth-best defense in the country (274.1 yards per game) and feature redshirt freshman Jameis Winston at quarterback—who's leading the pack in the race for the Heisman Trophy.
Unlike Alabama, though, the Seminoles have a cake walk to Pasadena.
Syracuse, Idaho, Florida and the ACC Coastal champ don't exactly strike fear into the hearts of the opposition these days.
If Auburn does get itself into this discussion, Florida State will likely be the team that avoids the November potholes and joins the Tigers in the title game.
But then again, it's college football, and crazy things seem to happen in November.