The title of this piece might be putting it lightly. Auburn's 2013 season has been so awesome—so magical, so oozing with drama—that its top five plays aren't just its own. They might be the five best plays of the entire college football season.
Alright. Maybe that's a slight exaggeration. But it's not a huge exaggeration, which says all you need to know about this spellbinding year on the Plains. Gus Malzahn has taken this team, which went 3-9 overall (and winless against SEC foes) last season, and spurred it to the BCS National Championship Game.
More often than they probably should be, teams nowadays are billed ones "of destiny." It's a catch-all term that is used to describe good luck, especially when it occurs in repeated bunches. Quite frequently, the term is cliche and grossly misused, but with Auburn in 2013, it's more of an understatement than anything.
Let's relive the five best moments of the year.
It was hard to choose between this and another big play Sammie Coates made this season—the game-tying touchdown catch with 32 seconds to go against Alabama.
In the end, though, despite being less dramatic and momentous, Coates' stiff arm in the first quarter against Texas A&M is a moment that will endure. He helped set the tone early against the Aggies, and even though he didn't score, he sent a message that Auburn was game for a fight and not to be trifled with.
That message was a big one, too. Prior to winning in College Station, Auburn was regarded as "much improved" but not actually "good." They were a team to look out for, but not a team to be scared of.
Beating Johnny Football helped change that. And plays like this helped beat Johnny Football. Ipso facto, Coates' stiff arm was more than just cool...it was important.
This is cheating, but a list would be remiss to ignore what Tre Mason did in the SEC Championship Game, rushing 46 times for 306 yards and four touchdowns.
No one play sticks out among the rest, but really, that's what makes Mason's game so incredible. He was consistent and methodical, picking up the desired yardage on seemingly every touch, while also sprinkling in a few long gains. There was nothing the (other) Tigers could do to stop him.
According to ESPN, Mason broke SEC Championship Game records for rushing yards, scrimmage yards, all-purpose yards, rushing attempts and touchdowns. That is a pretty impressive sweep.
And it came at a perfect time.
Auburn is a rushing team first and foremost, in some ways because it doesn't have the personnel to support a wide-open passing offense. So it came as only a minor shock when, trailing by six in the third quarter against Mississippi State, Nick Marshall caught his own batted pass and ran it for a long gain.
The play was deceptively important in a game that, thanks to what would happen against Georgia and Alabama, quite often goes overlooked as a landmark in Auburn's season. The Tigers needed their first (semi-) miracle to beat the Bulldogs in Jordan-Hare, winning 24-20 on a touchdown with 10 seconds remaining.
Marshall's self-pass helped set up those heroics, leading Auburn on a drive that would eventually result in a field goal. It was also just really cool to watch.
Again: That this isn't play No. 1 says everything you need to know about Auburn's season. A list of the best college football plays in 2013—for anybody—might rank this No. 2 and see few complaints. And yet, here it is on a team-specific list.
Nick Marshall threw a blind heave on 4th-and-18 with the game on the line against Georgia, lofting the ball into the seeming hands of two Bulldogs defenders. But those players got in each others' way, resulting in a ricocheted ball that hung in the air for Ricardo Louis to scoop up and score.
The win assured that Auburn would enter the Iron Bowl at 10-1 and that it's game against Alabama would be played for the crown of the SEC West. And yet somehow, someway, unthinkably, it was only an appetizer for what would come next.
The "Kick Six," as it's been coined, is a play that will live in either college football lore or college football infamy, depending on which teams' colors you choose to wear.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban made a rare coaching gaffe when he decided to kick a 57-yard field goal with one second on the clock, ignoring the signs from God—Cade Foster's three previous misses—that it simply wasn't his special teams' day. He sent out freshman kicker Adam Griffith, who had made all of one field goal in his short career, and put him in a spot that was bound to fail.
But no one thought it would fail to this degree. Auburn's Chris Davis fielded the kick in the back of the end zone, darted past a woefully unprepared Alabama coverage team and tip-toed down the sideline for the game-winning score as time expired. It was the signature moment in a year filled with signature moments.
And because of it, Auburn will be playing in Pasadena next week.