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December 7, 2013
ATLANTA | The dream is still alive. Somehow.
The Bowl Championship Series' final season will feature one of the most improbable, incredible, unforgettable teams ever to advance to such great heights. Auburn keeps winning, keeps designing new escape strategies and, now, finds itself one game away from another national title.
It seems impossible.
Let's start here: Auburn annihilated No. 5 Missouri inside the Georgia Dome Saturday. True, the defense made more than its fair share of mistakes and a 59-42 score sounds more like Mountain West than SEC.
Yet it has become clear that nobody can stop Auburn's ground attack. Alabama was the league's top rush defense and the Tigers gashed the defending champions for 296 yards. Missouri came into the game Saturday as the SEC's second-best rush defense and conceded a million rushing yards.
That's what it felt like, at least. The official tally was 565 yards. Tre Mason put together the kind of performance one expects from Heisman Trophy finalists -- four touchdowns and 304 yards on 46 carries. Forty-six carries. The previous school record, held by Carnell Williams and Mike Dyer, was 41.
Auburn averaged 7.4 yards per carry Saturday.
Quarterback Nick Marshall was 9-of-11 passing for 132 yards. Another night as an ideal collaborator. Missouri couldn't stop the runs, couldn't stop the pass, couldn't get stops in the tough situations.
That's how the Tigers won their eighth conference title. And at 9 p.m. EST, that was the biggest story around. This team, picked to finished sixth in a seven-team division, reeled off nine consecutive wins against a taxing schedule to prove itself as the best team in the nation's best league.
A miracle season, without a doubt.
Then came the scene in Indianapolis. Michigan State, left for dead after wasting a 17-point lead in the Big 10 championship game, scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat No. 2 Ohio State around 11 p.m. EST. That turn of events bumped third-ranked Auburn into the BCS national title game.
A miracle season suddenly entered the absurd.
Auburn now is headed to Pasadena, Calif., to play Florida State for a second national title in four seasons. Only 12 months removed from a 49-0 loss in Tuscaloosa. Now with a coach who agreed to terms on a new contract earlier this week that will keep him at Auburn for a while.
Is it destiny? Is it divine intervention?
All we know for sure is that what we've seen these past three weeks is reality. The fact that we saw it all unfold is the only clue that it's actually real.
Because, really, the whole thing doesn't feel real.
Remember this night. Savor it for what it is.
We've witnessed history -- and there's more to be made.