Dec. 30, 2013
As Auburn prepared to travel to play No. 7 Texas A&M in the eighth week of the college football season, it was finally getting a little attention. A 5-1 record had been good enough for a No. 24 ranking in the Associated Press poll. Voters in the coaches poll weren't yet impressed enough to put the Tigers in the Top 25.
As the season went into its second half, Auburn would have to pass almost one-fourth of the teams in the FBS to play in the BCS National Championship Game. At the time, nobody was paying attention to that. Auburn was not even a whisper in discussions about who might win the national championship.
It was a given that Alabama would be there. But who would be the other team? Florida State? Ohio State? Stanford? Oregon? Clemson? LSU? No one suggested Auburn would have a chance to be in that mix.
On Oct. 19, Auburn beat Texas A&M 45-41 at Kyle Field and jumped all the way to No. 11 in the AP poll, No. 17 in the coaches poll and No. 12 in the first BCS standings of the season. On the same day Auburn beat Texas A&M, Florida State exposed Clemson with a 51-14 beatdown on the road and Ole Miss knocked LSU out of the Top 10 with a 27-14 victory.
One of the great closing finishes in the history of college football had begun.
Auburn would not lose again, finishing the regular season with dramatic victories over rivals Georgia and Alabama and blowing up offensive records with a 59-42 victory over Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. But the Tigers would still need help along the way, and they got it.
No. 5 Stanford took care of No. 3 Oregon 26-20 on a Thursday night. Nine days later, USC took care of Stanford 20-17. Arizona made the Ducks a non-factor with a 42-16 beatdown. No. 10 Oklahoma State ended No. 4 Baylor's dreams of a perfect season with a 49-17 rout. Biggest of all was No. 10 Michigan State's victory over No. 2 Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.
The door had been opened, and the Auburn team that had been 3-9 a year earlier kicked it down. When the last regular-season game had been played, there was no controversy. Florida State, the only unbeaten team in the FBS, was No. 1. Auburn, winner of nine straight, was No. 2.
The season of 2013 will always be remembered as the most remarkable turnaround in Auburn history. Chris Davis 109-yard sprint to beat Alabama and Ricardo Louis' snatch of tipped pass to beat Georgia will be iconic plays for as long as Auburn football is played.
But one more chapter remains to be written in the success story that is Auburn's 2013 football team. That will happen on Jan. 6 at the Rose Bowl, when Auburn and Florida State play on the game's biggest stage for the game's biggest prize.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: