Desperation to delirium: Auburn miracle sets up Iron Bowl for ages

Let the build up, well, build.

The biggest Iron Bowl since the invention of the smelter is upon us. That was assured by the Hail Aubie or the Prayer in Jordan Hare -- or whatever you want to call it Saturday.

If you think the latest Auburn-Alabama game is just another speed bump for the No. 1 Tide on its way to a third straight championship, check the video tape. That was Auburn’s sophomore Ricardo Louis catching the winning, uh, pass against Georgia.

Ricardo Louis who had caught all of 160 yards in passes this season, somehow clutching the winner on a fourth-and-18, 73-yard WTF-just-happened tipped pass to beat Georgia. Ricardo Louis who had two games this season with negative receiving yardage catching the, uh, pass of his life.

To call it a pass would be an insult to Bulldog defensive backs Tray Matthews and <player idref=-Clemons, who had Nick Marshall's underthrown effort absolutely tracked down. Harvey-Clemons mistake was actually trying to defend the heave. Had he done ... nothing the ball seemingly would have fallen harmlessly to the ground.

But desperation became delirium.

Harvey-Clemons tipped it just enough for Louis’ look-what-I-found catch that sets up one of the biggest Iron Bowls in history. In two weeks, Auburn and Alabama will meet with a little thing called the SEC West title at stake. The winner gets to play for the SEC title.

And the way things are going -- especially for Bama -- a national championship berth.

That's getting ahead of things. The Iron Bowl is a Super Bowl unto itself, especially this one.  It is already looking to be the biggest Auburn-Alabama game since, arguably, 1989. That was the first-ever Iron Bowl played at Auburn. The Tigers won 30-20 knocking the No. 2 Tide out of a national championship shot.

Thirty thousand fans lined the Tiger Walk that day. Grown men cried.

One thing is assured: Tears will be shed one way or another in two weeks. To the winner goes Atlanta. No matter what, the game will go down in history.

Auburn is the best turnaround story since Robert Downey Jr.'s career. A year ago the Tigers were 0-8 in the SEC. They're currently 10-1 overall. Iron Man 3, though, has nothing on this Iron Bowl Forever. 

The approach may be unconventional.  The Tigers absolutely cannot throw the ball with any consistent effectiveness. They came into the Georgia game ranked 110th in passing. Nope, they couldn’t pass at all -- until they could with 25 seconds left.

You have to feel for Mark Richt and Aaron Murray. Richt, the Georgia coach, has been through this ringer before. See the 2012 SEC championship game against Bama. Injuries have been a killer this season.

Murray was set to shake off a can’t-win-the-big-one legacy when the Dawgs’ quarterback scored what seemed to be the winning touchdown with 1:49 left.

Then fate intervened.

At this point three years ago Gus Malzahn was coaching a Heisman Trophy winner under a cloud of suspicion, steam-rolling toward a national championship.

On Saturday, he was coaching the best about face in college football. Maybe turnarounds/comebacks are Malzahn's thing. Remember when he was struggling as an offensive coordinator at Arkansas?

Remember when Cam Newton was eventually cleared of an NCAA wrongdoing? (Not so much for his dad.) Remember when Auburn was down 24-0 in that 2010 game to Alabama?

Remember when that Auburn offense coordinated by Gus rallied for a 28-27 win that kept a championship run alive?

Sure you do, because with those 25 seconds ticks left Saturday, Malzahn's hope rested on the arm of Marshall -- a onetime Georgia defensive back.

No way was Auburn going to convert a fourth-and-18. Not after Georgia had rallied from 20 points down in the fourth quarter.

No way? No problem.

Hail Aubie, or the Prayer At Jordan Hare, may have set up the game of the season.

Until two weeks from now. An Iron Bowl for the ages awaits. Fire up the smelters.  


CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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