It must be destiny.
That is the only way to explain how this Auburn team finds itself playing for college football's biggest prize.
After last week's 34-28 last-second win over Alabama on a 109-yard missed field goal return for a touchdown by cornerback Chris Davis, the Tigers picked up right where they left off, beating Missouri 59-42 in the SEC Championship Game.
Running back Tre Mason gashed the Missouri defense—which came in giving up 119.08 yards per game on the ground—to the tune of 304 rushing yards and four touchdowns on an Auburn single-game record 46 carries.
"We're the SEC champ," head coach Gus Malzahn said. "I believe we've won it the last seven years. We've played the toughest schedule of anybody (in the discussion) and we're playing our best football."
Mason, Malzahn and Co. will get to find out, because after Michigan State upended No. 2 Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, 34-24, Auburn appears destined for a BCS National Championship Game showdown with No. 1 Florida State in Pasadena on Jan. 6, 2014.
After his record-setting performance against Missouri, Mason celebrated Auburn's title game appearance with his Twitter followers.
Was the new offense the reason for Auburn's turnaround?
Yes, in part anyway. Missouri could have walked 15 guys into the box and still wouldn't have been able to stop Auburn's potent rushing attack.
Defensively, it's a different story. The Tigers struggled to contain Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who had six catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns.
But Auburn proved what's been obvious for a few years now: Defense doesn't win championships anymore; "just enough" defense wins championships, and that's a moving target based on the offense and scheme a team runs.
Let's be real, though. While the Tigers' offensive renaissance has been nothing short of remarkable, Auburn's a team of destiny, and that won out again on Saturday night.
A 73-yard miracle touchdown? No problem.
A 109-yard missed field goal returned for a touchdown as time expired in a de facto SEC West title game? Yep.
Rushing for 296 yards against the SEC's best rush defense and following it up with 545 yards on the ground against the conference's second-best defense against the run?
Yep, that happened too.
Ohio State falling to Michigan State in the final game of championship Saturday? The Football Gods wouldn't have it any other way.
With the uncertainty of a BCS National Championship Game berth as the elephant in the room, Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs made sure that he emphasized what winning the SEC title meant to his program immediately following the win over Missouri.
"Nothing is going to take away from what these guys accomplished...It is nothing short of phenomenal being 12-1 with this team, which was 3-9 a year ago...it is priceless."
Priceless—like the giant crystal football Auburn will be playing for in early January.
Just as the football gods planned.
*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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