We can officially start the countdown. Finally, we are a week away from the biggest game in Auburn football history. It seems like it was September when Auburn stepped off the field last, claiming its seventh SEC Championship in Atlanta. There's something not quite right about waiting 37 days to play a football game.
The Auburn team that takes the field next week is not close to being the most talented ever to wear the orange-and-blue. But when it comes to playing as a team and believing in one another, this group may be the best ever.
It's often said that to win a championship you've got to have team chemistry and a little luck. We saw it a year ago with Alabama in games against Tennessee, LSU and Auburn. It has been no different this time for these Tigers. Like the old saying goes, the harder you work, the luckier you get.
I'm going to take a few minutes and give you my top ten key games and moments that helped pave Auburn's way to a trip to Glendale and a shot at the national championship...
December 31, 2009 - There's no question Auburn wanted Cam Newton to pick them over Miss State; but few could have dreamed how significant New Year's Eve 2009 would be for the Auburn football faithful. When Newton chose Auburn over the Bulldogs, it set in motion something not even the most wildly optimistic Tiger fan could imagine.
Auburn vs. Arkansas State - Nobody expected Auburn's opener to be much of a test. The surprise came when the heralded, but mysterious Newton took the field for the first time. He proceeded to roll up 357 yards in total offense including 171 yards on the ground in an easy 52-26 win.
Was this Newton kid for real or was it just a good player taking advantage of an overmatched opponent? Gene Chizik has said this night gave him his first inkling of how special Newton could be in the weeks ahead.
Auburn vs. Miss State - The Maroon Bulldogs had circled this night back in January. It was an opportunity for Dan Mullen's team to make a national statement on a Thursday night game televised by ESPN. Instead, the country was introduced to defensive lineman Nick Fairley.
By the time the party had ended in Starkville, Fairley walked away with five tackles, including three for losses and two sacks to go along with it. Throw in a fumble recovery and Fairley was on his way to the Lombardi Trophy and Auburn escaped with a 17-14 victory.
Auburn vs. Clemson - Spotting Clemson the first 17 points of the game, when Auburn's Wes Byrum kicked a 35 yard field goal to cut the lead to two touchdowns at the half, many blue shirt wearing Tiger fans thought the party was over. Little did anyone know this night would start a pattern of dramatic comebacks.
In a call eerily similar to what helped Auburn get a win over LSU in 2004, Clemson was called for an illegal procedure after making what appeared to be a game tying field goal in overtime. Clemson's second kick sailed wide left and Auburn was on its way.
Auburn vs. South Carolina - In the week leading up to the game, all the headlines were about running backs Michael Dyer and Marcus Lattimore, the two top prep backs in America the prior year. Lattimore chose the Gamecocks over Auburn on national signing day and this was a chance to prove who was best.
Dyer ran over Lattimore in the stat book, rushing for 100 yards on 23 carries; but the story of the night was again Cam Newton. Trailing by 14 points, Newton took over in the second half, rolling up 176 yards of rushing and 158 yards through the air.
The first whispers of the Heisman Trophy came that night as Auburn rallied for a 35-27 win at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn vs. Kentucky - Getting a team excited to play in Lexington is never easy, even when they beat you the prior season. When Auburn grabbed a quick 24-7 lead over the Wildcats, many Auburn fans thought about leaving early and heading to Keeneland and the tracks. They should have known better.
Kentucky roared back to tie the game with a field goal with 7:31 left. Nick Fairley threw Randall Cobb for a three yard loss on first down from the 15 and the Wildcats had to settle for three. From there Newton took over, going three-of-three on third downs and setting up Byrum's game winning 24-yard field goal as time expired. The final drive of 19 plays was the second longest in school history.
Auburn vs. Arkansas - In what may have been the most entertaining game of the 2010 season, Auburn and the Hogs combined for 108 points, the highest scoring non-overtime game in SEC history.
Fans were treated to five lead changes and more big plays than you can count. In the end, it was middle linebacker Josh Bynes who came up big for Auburn. Two Bynes interceptions in the fourth quarter helped the Tigers outscore Arkansas 28-8 in the final 15 minutes. Auburn would go on to win 65-43 in a game much closer than the scoreboard indicated.
Auburn vs. LSU - October 23, 2010, will always be remembered as the day Cam Newton solidified his standing as the Heisman leader and Auburn put itself in the driver's seat for the SEC and national championship.
With the score tied at 10 in the third quarter, Newton made the run that will define his season, going 49 yards while out running LSU All-American defender Patrick Peterson to the end zone. The run broke former Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan's record of 26 touchdowns set back in 1971.
Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb would seal the deal with a 70 yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter, giving Auburn the 24-17 win.
Auburn vs. Alabama - In perhaps the biggest and best Iron Bowl in Auburn history, Gene Chizik's cardiac kids did the unthinkable, shaking off a miserable first half and a 24 point deficit to defeat the defending national champions 28-27.
Auburn defensive end Antoine Carter arguably produced the defining moment in the second quarter, when he stripped the ball from Alabama running back Mark Ingram who was racing toward the goal line when the ball rolled out of the end zone for a touchback. From that point on, most everything went Auburn's way.
A little more than 10,000 Auburn fans made the trip to Tuscaloosa on the Friday after Thanksgiving; but 30 years from now hundreds of thousands will claim to have been in Bryant-Denny Stadium that afternoon.
Auburn vs. South Carolina (The Rematch) - By kickoff, a good portion of the national media had talked itself into believing South Carolina would win the SEC Championship Game. Conventional wisdom said the team who lost earlier in the year had the psychological advantage. So much for conventional wisdom.
Auburn jumped out to a 21-7 first quarter lead and never looked back, beating the Gamecocks 56-17 in a route at the Georgia Dome. Auburn proved to everyone they were significantly better now than they were in late September. The win capped Auburn's seventh SEC Championship and stamped its ticket to the BCS Championship Game against Oregon on Monday night.