AUBURN, Ala. Some believe the national championship game might come down to superstitions being observed or neglected.
Sounds a bit farfetched, but several players and coaches from Auburn and Oregon would rather not chance it. So one will have to win two hands of solitaire on the bus ride to the game, another will eat the same game-day breakfast theres even a pants-swapping ritual.
Auburn left tackle Lee Ziemba and Ducks linebacker Spencer Paysinger have long lists they follow. Ziembas includes placing his helmet on the ground in a certain way; Paysinger wears the same socks.
No, whimsical rituals wont determine who wins Monday in Glendale, Ariz., but Ziemba plans to observe them anyway just in case.
He admits his many ritualistic habits are crazy, and hes close to being in a realm of his own: The Ziemba Zone.
The 6-8, 318-pound senior was panicking before the Southeastern Conference championship game even kicked off. He couldnt find his headband.
My whole mindset was just way off. Oh, man, Ziemba said. I was screaming at the top of my lungs for a headband.
Ziemba likes everything just so before games. And during them.
If he doesnt win two games of solitaire on the bus to the game? Trouble.
Drink water on the sideline without throwing some of it to the right? Uh oh.
Lose a headband? Disaster. A knee pad? Well, thats a must because thats a superstition in its own right.
The shaggy-haired Ziemba eventually did find a headband, and the top-ranked Tigers managed to beat South Carolina despite that harrowing pregame incident.
Paysinger, an oustanding 6-3, 231-pound senior linebacker for second-ranked Oregon, can relate. Hes probably the most superstitious Duck. Like Ziemba, Paysinger needs things to be the same way each week.
I wear the same socks, after I wash them, and I like to eat the same meal the morning before a game, Paysinger said. I did that first three years ago before (the season opener with Washington). Im a simple man, I like to stick to what I know.
He had his own stressful break with ritual before last seasons game against rival Oregon State.
Last year against Oregon State we stayed at a different hotel the night before, and it really bugged him, teammate Casey Matthews said.
The Ducks still managed a 37-33 victory and went on to play in their first Rose Bowl since 1995.
I think (superstitions) are pretty funny, but if it works for you, keep doing them, Matthews said.
Auburn receivers coach Trooper Taylor said the Tigers have quite a few superstitions, mostly little things.
The coaches arent immune to the comfort of faithfully observing a superstition. Before the Tigers opener, running backs coach Curtis Luper couldnt find his pants. Turns out, Taylor was wearing them. And a new tradition was born.
The next week, coach (Jay) Boulware said, Troop, youve got to put Loops pants on again, Luper said. I reluctantly gave him my pants. Thats been for 13 consecutive (games). Itll be 14 on Monday. Ive got to give my pants to Troop. He parades around in them, and then I put them on.
Now, he said, 14-0 is the goal.
AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson in Eugene, Ore., contributed to this report.