It's the valleys that make it worth it in sports.
After all, if you never know the sting of defeat, there is no joy in victory. We cheer when our teams win because we know they could lose. We delight in triumph because we know it's not guaranteed.
Auburn has been through a valley since its 2010 national championship. It began with the 2011 season, an 8-5 campaign, followed by Gus Malzahn's exit and the disaster of 2012, when the Tigers went 0-8 in the SEC. And it ended when Auburn became the first team to go from winless one season to an outright SEC championship the next, and the only team to go from winless one year to any kind of title on the field. (Kentucky won a share of the SEC title in 1976 after an 0-6 season in 1975, but the Wildcats' record in their championship year included a Mississippi State forfeit.)
And the Tigers clinched their title in about as memorable an SEC Championship Game as there's been in a while. The two teams combined for 101 points -- a record for the event that cleared the second highest-scoring game in the series by 26 points. They generated 1,211 yards of total offense and 52 first downs. There were seven lead changes.
But as well as Missouri played Saturday -- and they played a very good game -- the story of the day was Auburn. The Tigers ran for 545 yards, shattering the old record for the most rushing yards in the title bout by 195. That one-game total is also the sixth-highest rushing mark in SEC history. (Auburn's overall total of 677 yards also broke a record.) Tre Mason had 46 carries for 304 yards and four touchdowns -- all records for the SEC Championship Game, breaking marks of 31 carries, 201 yards and three touchdowns. He led a running attack that Missouri often looked powerless to stop.
Not that the Eastern Division Tigers didn't get their own yardage. James Franklin was 21-of-37 passing for 303 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Henry Josey was magnificent when he ran the ball, gaining 123 yards on nine carries. Franklin tacked on 62 rushing yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Dorial Green-Beckham had 144 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns on six receptions. Against Auburn on Saturday night, though, it simply wasn't enough.
Whether Auburn's win is enough for anything more than a Sugar Bowl berth remains to be seen. If either Ohio State or Florida State were to lose in their respective conference championship games, the Tigers would almost be guaranteed a ticket to the final BCS National Championship Game. That would give them an opportunity to win their second crystal football in four seasons and extend the SEC's string of national titles to eight.
Auburn and its fans already know that they are out of the valley. The only question know is how high the summit will be.