Did anybody really see this coming?

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Auburn’s players have already hit the field briefly here at University of Phoenix Stadium.

A few of them came out in their sweats, running around and getting the lay of the land, so to speak.

When you think back to the summer and all the preseason predictions, it’s still sort of surreal that the Tigers are here.

We knew they’d recruited very well this past signing period. We knew there was some promising young talent in the program. But we also knew that the depth on defense was still shaky, and we knew this was a team that didn’t finish very well in 2009. The Tigers lost five of their last six SEC games.

All SEC fans are optimistic by nature, but there was really no way of seeing this coming when the season ended a year ago.

Of course, what we didn’t know was that Cam Newton would have perhaps the greatest season for a quarterback in college football history after coming over from junior college.

What’s more, we didn’t know that Nick Fairley would emerge from the shadows to become the most dominant interior defensive lineman in the college game.

And on top of it all, the Tigers’ chemistry and resiliency have been off-the-charts good.

Here they are, on college football’s biggest stage playing for their school’s first national championship since 1957.

Who would have thunk it?