- Associated Press - Saturday, January 1, 2011

AUBURN, ALA. (AP) - 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 _ there’s even a pants-swapping ritual.

Auburn left tackle Lee Ziemba and Ducks linebacker Spencer Paysinger have long lists they follow. Ziemba’s includes placing his helmet on the ground in a certain way; Paysinger wears the same socks.

No, whimsical rituals won’t determine who wins on Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz., but Ziemba plans to observe them anyway _ just in case.

He admits his many ritualistic habits are “crazy” and he’s close to being in a realm of his own: The Ziemba Zone.

The 6-foot-8, 318-pound senior was panicking before the Southeastern Conference championship game even kicked off. He couldn’t 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 doesn’t 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, that’s a must because that’s a superstition in its own right.

The shaggy-haired Ziemba did eventually find a headband, and the top-ranked Tigers managed to beat South Carolina despite that harrowing pre-game incident.

Paysinger, an oustanding 6-foot-3, 231-pound senior linebacker for second-ranked Oregon, can relate. He’s 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). I’m a simple man, I like to stick to what I know.”

His breakfast menu is a bagel and egg sandwich with fruit and cranberry juice.

Story Continues →