There was no way Auburn running back Tre Mason was going to win the Heisman.
Neither was quarterback Jordan Lynch from Northern Illinois, for that matter. Or Alabama's AJ McCarron or Boston College running back Andre Williams. Even reigning Heisman winner Johnny Manziel didn't stand much of a chance. Rather, they were all essentially runner-ups to Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who became the second straight redshirt freshman to win the award last month.
It was a landslide for Winston, winning by the seventh-largest total in Heisman history.
But Mason nearly outshined Winston in the BCS National Championship Game Monday night, a 34-31 win for Florida State. While Winston was contained and pressured most of the game by the Tigers' surprisingly good defense, Mason broke free.
The junior proved to be an important component of Auburn's offense, running the ball 34 times for 195 yards and a touchdown. He also had a 12-yard touchdown reception.
Mason's performance gives him 1,816 yards on the season, passing Bo Jackson's all-time Auburn rushing record of 1,786 yards. The record-breaking evening comes just one game after Mason broke the SEC Championship's single-game rushing record with 304 yards.
Tre Mason 34 car 195 yds TD. Passes Bo Jackson for #Auburn single season rushing record. He has 80 carries the last 2 games— Scott Rabalais (@RabalaisAdv) January 7, 2014
Jackson, the 1985 Heisman winner, is regarded as one of the best college players ever. Even coming close to Jackson's production, let alone surpassing it, is huge for Mason.
“Run north and south,” Mason said Jackson told him via the Opelika-Auburn News. “Don’t waste no movement going east and west. Just run right at them.”
While Mason didn't bring home the Heisman, he almost stole the show away from Winston. Mason's longest run of the day, 37 yards, couldn't have come at a more crucial time with 1:19 left in the game to put the Tigers up 31-27.
It was only when Winston helped orchestrate a seven-play, 80-yard drive to score the go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds remaining did he surpass Mason as the game's most valuable player. The 16th and final BCS National Championship will go down as an all-timer, and Mason's performance helped make it possible.
Tre Mason strikes the Heisman pose after giving Auburn a 31-27 lead! pic.twitter.com/fR9d9EGv68— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 7, 2014
Once the disappointment subsides, it will be time for Mason to look toward his future. As a junior, he has a decision to make: Come back for another season as sure-fire preseason Heisman candidate, or declare for the upcoming NFL draft.
Since quarterback Nick Marshall will likely be coming back for another season as well, the opportunity is there for the Tigers to repeat as SEC champions and make it to the first four-team College Football Playoff. The sting of what could have been may be enough to keep Mason around for another year.
At the same time, his pro prospects are promising. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller tweets that, if Mason leaves the college game right away, he has a good chance to start for an NFL team in 2014.
Tre Mason is an NFL starter next year if he comes out. Good hands in the screen game and he plays in scheme that requires vision— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 7, 2014
Miller lists Mason as an early second-round prospect while B/R's Michael Felder says, "Mason is a quality back who can be counted on to pick up positive yardage on most plays. He runs with the violent aggression of someone who is hungry to get those extra yards. That approach is reflected in his ability to get first downs and yards after contact."
Mason has good speed, toughness, decent enough size and can contribute in the passing game. He's played in every game the past two years, so durability hasn't been an issue, which is especially impressive considering the number of carries he's been getting lately.
All signs point to Mason leaving The Plains for the greener grass of the NFL. No one could blame him if he did.
If the 2014 BCS National Championship was Mason's last game as an Auburn Tiger, he made his team, his fanbase and even Jackson proud.