Auburn might be leading an even more charmed football life than Mizzou
DEC 03, 2013 6:46p ET
"There are guys in their locker room, I would assume, (who) are the only guys that believed in them when the season started," Missouri wideout L'Damian Washington says when asked about the Tigers, Mizzou's dance partner Saturday.
"Whenever you have something like this, something special happens. You saw it against Alabama and at the Georgia game. The team has a special mojo going for them right now. We have the same thing going right now. We're a team that definitely believes and has a lot of confidence going for us right now."
Two schools, same journey. Two Cinderellas, same ball.
Welcome to The Charmed Life Bowl, better known as the 2013 SEC Championship Game.
Hard-line, old-school SEC types -- especially the ones in Gainesville and Athens -- will grit their teeth and swear that MU coach Gary Pinkel must've been walking around with rabbit's feet in both pockets the way Missouri's foes seemed to get softened up, week after week, by devastating injury after devastating injury.
But that's nothing compared with what they say about Auburn in Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge these days.
Texas A&M? Scored the game-winner with 1:19 to spare.
Mississippi State? Ditto, only with 10 seconds left on the clock.
Georgia? A Hail Mary. No. A deflected Hail Mary. No, not even that. A Hail Mary that got batted into the air and into the arms of a Tigers receiver only because two Bulldog defenders ran into each other on the play rather than securing a lollipop that should've been an interception.
Alabama? Nick Saban has four -- FOUR! -- national titles, and even he may not be able to shake the unholy stigma of The Kick Six.
"I think you create your own luck," Pinkel told reporters Monday. "You get a play here or something happens, but they're a great football team. You kidding me?"
Saturday's matchup in Atlanta may be as wacky as it is unlikely -- Mizzou was 2-6 in the SEC a year ago; Auburn 0-8 -- but, on at least two levels, it's kind of fitting, too.
We've got strength against strength, pitting the SEC's top rushing offense (Auburn, 318.3 yards per game) with its read-option trickery, against the SEC's No. 2 rushing defense (Mizzou, 119.1 yards allowed per game) with its sack-happy defensive-end tandem of Michael Sam and Kony Ealy.
And we've got two sets of Tigers, neither of whom has any concept of what it means to quit.
"When we lost to LSU (on Sept. 21, Auburn's only defeat), I think that our team really found ourselves," fullback Jay Prosch says. "Because, even though we lost that game, we fought to the very end and had a chance to win that game and never gave up. And I think that (we) knew we were going to fight every game. After that, that's what we did.
"When we lost to LSU, that's when we decided that's who we were and after that, we knew we were going to fight to the end, no matter what."
In tilts decided by eight points or less, Auburn is 5-0 this fall; the Tigers were 1-3 in those situations a year ago. You know what they say about repetition, right?
After a while, it becomes a habit.
"I think it is unique and it is rare that you have teams that believe they are going to win no matter how bad it looks," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn told The Associated Press this week. "They still have bright eyes and belief in each other and that is what our guys have found a way to do. We talked all week before last week's game that we have to get it close to the fourth quarter and we will win the game. And they believed it and they found a way to do it."
Mizzou lost three games by eight points or fewer a year ago. This fall? Just one.
"Coming off of last year, we had a terrible season, and they didn't have a great one, (either)," Auburn tailback Corey Grant says. "Just to see us in this position, and see them, it's kind of weird, but that's just how the SEC goes.
"You never know from year to year who's going to be in the title game."
You make your own luck. And your own stinking destiny.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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