For the majority of the season, it looked like the SEC was a virtual lock to get at least one participant in the BCS National Championship Game for the eighth straight year.
And then it happened.
Auburn cornerback Chris Davis ran a missed Alabama field goal back 109 yards for a touchdown as time expired on rivalry weekend to knock off the previously undefeated Crimson Tide and send the Tigers up to the No. 3 spot in the BCS Standings with one week to go in the BCS era.
Could the SEC's streak of seven consecutive titles end in the BCS' final season without an SEC team in the title game?
|BCS National Championship Game Results Since 2006 Season|
|Bowls played in Jan. of the year following the season|
Auburn topped Missouri 59-42 in the SEC Championship Game and then watched Michigan State knock off No. 2 Ohio State 34-24 in the Big Ten Championship Game as the clock neared midnight on Championship Saturday. When it did, all signs pointed to another SEC team playing for college football's biggest prize.
In 2012, the Auburn Tigers went 3-9 and 0-8 in the SEC, then were outscored 87-0 in their final two conference games. Now, one year later, they will play for the crystal football.
"It's been an amazing year," head coach Gus Malzahn said on the BCS Selection Show on ESPN Sunday night. "We found a way to get better each game. Found a way to win games, especially close games when the pressure's on a couple of different times. We've improved each game, and it's been a lot of fun."
Talk about sending the BCS out with a bang.
On the heels of back-to-back wins over Top Five teams in which it averaged 420.5 yards per game on the ground against the two top rush defenses in the SEC, Auburn could be considered one of the hottest teams in the country. Its scheme is easy to diagnose, but nearly impossible to stop.
Sure, Davis' missed field goal return versus Alabama and Ricardo Louis' 73-yard game-winning touchdown on a tipped pass two weeks prior versus Georgia have earned the Tigers the title of "fluky" or "lucky."
But there isn't anything fluky or lucky about what the Tigers are doing. Everyone on the planet knows what's coming, and there's nothing an opposing defense can do about it
On the other sideline in Pasadena will be the Florida State Seminoles, a team that has cruised through its schedule—the 63rd toughest in the country, according to Jeff Sagarin—by an average of 42.3 points per game.
It boasts the odds-on Heisman Trophy favorite in quarterback Jameis Winston, a dynamic and balanced offense and the nation's third-best defense (268.5 yards per game).
That defense, against Auburn's offense which doesn't seem to care if a team loads eight, 10 or 15 in the box, makes this title game a must-see event.
It wasn't the team anybody had pegged for Pasadena when toe met leather in August, but Auburn will be carrying the SEC's torch into the Rose Bowl and into the night as the book closes on the BCS era.
You didn't really think that show would go on without an SEC team, did you?