ATLANTA -- Brooks Forehand woke up at 3 a.m. Saturday ready for football. Tired, but ready for football.
“I felt like a kid waiting for Christmas,” said Forehand, a longtime Auburn fan. “I couldn’t sleep.”
Forehand of Columbus and decades-long tailgating companion Milton Watts of Smiths Station, Ala., were among the fans in the sold-out Georgia Dome on Saturday to see Auburn put its undefeated season and national championship hopes on the line against South Carolina in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
The 56-17 victory all but guaranteed Auburn a spot in the BCS national championship game. The final BCS standings will be released tonight. The top two teams will face each other in Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 10. Auburn’s opponent likely will be Oregon, which beat Oregon State on Saturday.
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Coupled with an undefeated regular season that featured come-from-behind victories against LSU and Alabama and the recent clearing of quarterback Cam Newton amid allegations of a pay-for-play scheme, Forehand described the fall as a wild one for Auburn fans.
“We feel like we’ve been on a magic carpet ride the whole time,” Forehand said. “Every game we say we can do it one more time, one more time.”
Auburn and its fans had been in similar situations before. The Tigers were undefeated and was voted in several polls as the national champion in 1957 when Forehand’s brother-in-law, Bobby Lauder, was on the team. But an otherwise perfect season in 1993 was squashed when NCAA sanctions kept Auburn from playing in a bowl game to contend for a national championship, and the BCS rankings left Auburn out of the mix after another perfect season in 2004.
With the path to the national championship open, Saturday’s game had an entirely different feel for Auburn fans, Watts said.
“It’s hard to believe we’d get back here,” Watts said. “But we’re sitting in pretty good position to get to (the BCS national championship), so this game is obviously huge to us. It’s a little different than the other years.”
Chris White, 706-571-8571; follow Chris online at twitter.com/le_chriswhite and at facebook.com/lechriswhite.