Auburn might be leading an even more charmed football life than Mizzou

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Cripes, even Google has doubts.
About 19,500,000 results is what the first line on
the page says after you type in the words “Auburn” and “luck” in the box
at the top and hit the little blue button.

 
“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
seanmkeeler@gmail.com.