ATLANTA — If offense was the only requirement, Auburn would have been be a shoo-in for the BCS title game. But even with a shaky defense, it will be there.
Tre Mason rushed for 304 yards and four touchdowns, leading No. 3 Auburn to a 59-42 victory over No. 5 Missouri in Saturday's SEC title game that looked more like a video game.
"You're looking at one of the top running backs in college football," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "He was a warrior; unbelievable."
The win combined with Ohio State's loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game put Auburn in the BCS title game.
"We won the SEC championship," receiver Sammie Coates said before the Big Ten title game. "What else do you want us to do?"
Mason had scoring runs of 7, 3 and 1 yards before bursting up the middle on a 13-yard score that clinched the victory with 4:22 left. He carried the ball 46 times in being named the game's MVP and had 195 yards at halftime — 6 off of the title game record.
"I've never had holes that big to run through," Mason said. "No one expected 300 yards."
In a game in which both teams barely played defense, Auburn (12-1) finally stopped Missouri (11-2) on fourth and 1, setting up Mason's final score. Chris Davis broke up the pass. It wasn't quite as thrilling as his 109-yard return of a missed field goal to beat Alabama last week or Ricardo Louis' last-minute deflected touchdown catch to beat Georgia the game before, but another huge play for the nation's biggest turnaround team.
Auburn, which was 3-9 a year ago and didn't win a game in the SEC, claimed the title in its first season under Malzahn.
"We're playing our best football right now," Malzahn said.
Missouri had its own bounce-back after going 5-7 overall and 2-6 in its first season in the SEC. But coach Gary Pinkel's team was denied a title in its new league after leaving the Big 12, unable to slow — must less stop — Auburn's dynamic offense.
"There's a real frustration that comes over you on defense when they're coming after you over and over and over again," Pinkel said. "We had trouble stopping it, obviously, and couldn't get it fixed."
James Franklin passed for 303 yards and three touchdowns for Missouri while Dorial Green-Beckham hauled in six passes for 144 yards and two scores. Missouri piled up 534 yards — the teams combined for 1,211 yards in a conference supposedly known for defense — but it wasn't nearly enough against Auburn's hurry-up spread.
Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall shook off two early fumbles, one of which Missouri returned for a touchdown. He ran for 101 yards and a touchdown and passed for 132 yards and another score.
The lead changed hands seven times. Missouri's last gasp was Franklin's 5-yard touchdown run followed by his two-point conversion run that closed the gap to 45-42 heading to the fourth. But Auburn dominated the final 15 minutes behind Mason.
Late in the game, when Auburn had finally wrapped it up, Mason got a hug on the sideline from Auburn's greatest back, Bo Jackson.
"He's one of the better players ever to wear an Auburn helmet," Malzahn said, referring to Mason, not Bo.
Said Mason: "Thanks, Coach."