Auburn mounts epic comeback to save national title hopes

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 13: Quarterback Cameron Newton  of the Auburn Tigers celebrates after a touchdown against the Georgia Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Admit it, when Alabama went up 21-0 in the first quarter today against Auburn, you thought it was over. You thought that all of the experts were right, and the Tide were stronger than an Auburn team that was nothing more than a great quarterback.

I know that’s how I felt. But then Cam Newton and Auburn mounted the biggest comeback in the history of the Iron Bowl, and the biggest comeback in school history to pick up a thrilling 28-27 win over the Tide. The win keeps Auburn undefeated, and could possibly be impressive enough that voters choose to move the Tide to No. 1, ahead of Oregon.

It probably also cements the Heisman for Newton, who was near flawless in the second half and finished with three touchdowns through the air and another on the ground. He wasn’t nearly as effective running the ball as he had been in past games, but that doesn’t matter. He already had Heisman stats, now he has a definitive Heisman moment. It will take an NCAA ineligibility ruling in the next two weeks to derail his Heisman campaign, because in order for him to lose it on the field at this point, the Tigers will have to lose to South Carolina and Newton will have to throw seven interceptions, lose three fumbles and slaughter a puppy at midfield.

As good as Newton was, though, the Auburn defense deserves a ton of credit for the way it played. The Tigers allowed just three points in the second half, and that came after a fumble on a punt return that set Alabama up in field goal range. Nick Fairley may be a prick, but he’s damn good, and led quite a charge in the final 30 minutes of the game.

Of course, I should probably mention Alabama helping Auburn out a little bit, too. The Tide choked pretty hard in this one, committing poorly-timed penalties and turning the ball over in the redzone twice. There was also Mark Barron’s “should I go for the pick or the hit” indecision on Newton’s second TD pass to open the third quarter that gave Auburn immediate hope.

I don’t say that to take away from Auburn’s win, I just feel it needs to be addressed.

But as big as this win was for Auburn, it was equally devastating for Boise State and TCU. The two non-AQs had to be ecstatic watching the first half of this one, only to be denied the best remaining opportunity they had to get into the championship game. Now they need Oregon to lose to either Arizona or Oregon State (in Corvallis, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility) or Auburn to lose to South Carolina.

I don’t see any of that happening. Then again, I didn’t see Auburn coming back, either.

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