It's hard to imagine things working out more perfectly for the Auburn Tigers than it did on Saturday. Taking care of business in the SEC Championship Game against Missouri, Gus Malzahn's team needed some help from Michigan State in the Big 10 title game and got it when the Spartans took down the Buckeyes.
For fans of the Tigers all they can say is "it's about time.". After watching Auburn get left out of the title game in 2004 an seeing Alabama win titles the last two seasons with a loss, it's fitting in the last season of the BCS that it works in Auburn's favor for once.
Tre For Heisman
After watching perhaps the greatest individual rushing performance in Auburn history, there is no question in my mind that junior Tre Mason should be taking a trip to New York City this weekend when the Heisman Trophy announcement is made on Saturday. While many think it's a foregone conclusion that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is going to be the winner, in my mind what Mason has done is the most outstanding performance in the country for the 2013 season
Carrying the ball 283 times for 1,621 yards and scoring a school-record 22 touchdowns, Mason has put the Tigers on his back at the end of a grueling season and has come out smelling like Roses. With 46 carries for 304 yards and four touchdowns against Missouri to wrap up the SEC Championship for Auburn, Mason showed the world what fans of the Tigers have been seeing since last year.
With not enough help and with nothing to play for other than pride, Mason ran for 1,002 yards and scored eight touchdowns for an Auburn offense in 2012 that struggled to move the football on just about everyone it faced. While that was obviously a frustration for the motivated Mason, it was also fuel for his rise to stardom this year.
Carrying the ball just 39 times the first three weeks of the 2013 season for a total of 206 yards and two touchdowns, Mason has dominated the competition since then. Rushing for more than 100 yards against every opponent with the exception of Ole Miss (21-77) and Florida Atlantic (10-60), Mason's finish to the year has left no doubt that he should be the SEC Player of the Year and challenge Winston for the nation's most prestigious award.
Former Players Out In Droves
Saturday's SEC title tilt in the Georgia Dome gave plenty of former Tigers an opportunity to check out this year's team and they showed up by the dozens. Charles Barkley and Bo Jackson got plenty of publicity before, during and after the game, but I saw more guys cheering on their former school to a victory. From the 1980s guys like David Jordan, Greg Carr, Craig Ogletree and Lee Mark Sellers were watching and there with family. Out of the 1990s I saw Takeo Spikes and Fred Beasley in the Dome proudly wearing their Auburn gear. From more recent teams Ben Obomanu, Zac Etheridge, Tristan Davis and Philip Lutzenkirchen were there as well. I spoke briefly with Davis about Malzahn's offense and asked him if he would have liked this system. He was all smiles and answered "I love it. Every play looks like a score."
Another Top Run Defense
It's way too early to start breaking down the BCS National Championship Game that is still almost a full month away, but one of the talking points once again is going to be Auburn's running game against a team that has a top run defense. There is no question that Florida State has talent and has done a good job of dominating teams in the ACC, but the Seminoles haven't seen anything like they'll face in the Rose Bowl next month.
Georgia, Alabama and Missouri all entered games against the Tigers with defenses very good against the run and left demoralized and dominated by Auburn's offensive line, backs and Marshall. In the last three games alone Auburn has 1,164 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. That is more yards than nine teams (Wake Forest, SMU, South Florida, Oregon State, UConn, Florida International, Southern Miss, Purdue, Washington State) had all season long and more touchdowns that 19 teams had this year.
Just how dominant has Auburn been on the ground this season? The Tigers lead the nation in rushing attempts (676), rushing yards (4,364) and rushing touchdowns (46), and trail just Ohio State and Wisconsin in yards per carry.
Florida State may be the one team that can withstand the onslaught of this Auburn offense, but first it will have to follow the state motto of the last team that tried and gave up 545 yards. The Seminoles will have to show me.