Auburn vs. Missouri 2013 SEC Title Game Is Easily Most Unexpected Matchup Ever

Sean FryeFeatured ColumnistDecember 1, 2013

Nov 30, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers cornerback Chris Davis (11) scores a 100 yard touchdown on a missed field goal attempt during the fourth quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Jordan Hare Stadium. Auburn Tigers won 34-28. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

If you were told at the beginning of the season that the Tigers would make the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, you probably would've thought that LSU had a great season.

You also probably wouldn't have thought that Missouri or Auburn had a chance in hell of reaching the conference title game. But with victories over Texas A&M and Alabama, that's exactly what the two schools, which combined for just two conference wins and eight total wins in all of 2012, did on Saturday night.

COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 30:  Running back Russell Hansbrough #32 of the Missouri Tigers celebrates after the Tigers defeated the Texas A&M Aggies 28-21 to win the game on November 30, 2013 in Columbia, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Neither Auburn nor Missouri was among the six SEC teams pegged to win its division in the conference preseason poll. In fact, Alabama and Georgia were predicted to duke it out for the conference championship in that poll. South Carolina, Florida, Texas A&M and LSU also received first-place votes.

But Auburn was picked to finish fifth in the Western Division, while the media though Missouri would finish sixth in the East. The only teams that the media thought would finish lower than these two schools were Mississippi State, Arkansas and Kentucky.

What's even more shocking is how volatile the head coaching situation was at both of these schools prior to the start of the season.

Nov 2, 2013; Columbia, MO, USA; Missouri Tigers head coach Gary Pinkel walks on the field to congratulate Tennessee Volunteers head coach Butch Jones (not pictured) after the game at Faurot Field. Missouri won 31-3. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODA
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

At Auburn, Gus Malzahn was brought in to replace the fired Gene Chizik, who was just two years removed from a national title but had gone winless in the SEC in 2012. As for Missouri, Gary Pinkel had been in hot water after being arrested for DWI suspicion in November 2011 then suffering through a nasty divorce a year later.

Pinkel's debut in the SEC didn't go well, either. He got just two wins, while getting beat by 20 or more points four times. Many in Columbia thought that 2013 was a do-or-die year for who is now the program's winningest head coach.

But none of the turmoil that either of these teams suffered one season ago has stopped them from having one of the most remarkable seasons in all of college football in 2013.

Auburn started off the season 3-0 before dropping to then-No. 6 LSU, 35-21. Since then, Auburn has rattled off eight wins, victories over then-No. 24 Ole Miss, then-No. 7 Texas A&M, then-No. 25 Georgia and top-ranked Alabama.

As for Missouri, it started the season 7-0 before losing a 27-24 heartbreaker to South Carolina. Knowing the Tigers would have to probably win out to stay ahead of the Gamecocks in the standings, Mizzou won four straight games to end the season and earn its bid to Atlanta. 

The journey for both these teams is certainly unexpected and one to be admired. But it's also not over. With Ohio State and Florida State both facing conference championship games against ranked opponents, it's very possible that one of those two teams could fall. That likely means that the winner of the SEC Championship will advance to the BCS Championship.

Think about that for a second...let it settle. Missouri and Auburn, both of which were awful last year, could be playing for a berth into the national title game.

That's college football for you.