No. 11 Auburn zeroed in on Vandy, not big-picture ambitions
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) The Auburn Tigers have put themselves in position to contend for a division title and possibly set up a huge showdown with No. 1 Alabama.
Coach Gus Malzahn wants to put the brakes on any such talk. He declares that the 11th-ranked Tigers are zeroed in on Saturday's matchup with Vanderbilt, not pondering the kind of ambitions fueled by a five-game winning streak.
''The only thing we've talked about is Vanderbilt,'' Malzahn said Tuesday. ''We've got our hands full. Hypotheticals in this league – if you look ahead in this league, you get burned. We've got our hands full. Our players know that, our coaches know it. We've not said one word about anything left in the schedule.
''I don't know what everybody else is saying but in our house, in our little room here with our coaches and players, we're locked in on Vanderbilt. That's it, 100 percent.''
Fans can be excused for perhaps getting ahead of themselves after two straight disappointing seasons for Auburn and a rough start.
The Tigers (6-2, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) do figure to be favorites in the next three games before the regular season-ending Iron Bowl. None of the opponents before that have winning records.
Auburn is favored by 26 points against Vandy (4-4, 1-3), then travels to Georgia (4-4, 2-4) before hosting FCS team Alabama A&M (3-5).
The Tigers have been hot since surviving an 18-13 win over No. 15 LSU. They've won their last three SEC games by 24 points over Mississippi State, 53 points over Arkansas and 11 points over Mississippi .
Auburn cornerback Josh Holsey said players can't get caught up in the buzz on campus. He said the team has embraced the ''one game at a time'' approach since a 1-2 start that included losses to No. 3 Clemson and No. 7 Texas A&M.
''You just can't get too bigheaded into those type of things,'' Holsey said. ''You've got to stay focused, stay level-headed. You can't start getting too ahead of yourself when you start winning. That's when teams start to slip up.
''We're hungry right now still. We've still got a lot to prove.''
Quarterback Sean White and tailback Kamryn Pettway have led the offensive resurgence after a 1-2 start. Pettway is leading the SEC with 133.3 rushing yards per game, including a nation's best 199-yard average in October.
White has remained the SEC's most efficient passer but also kept a pair of scoring drives alive against Ole Miss with third-down runs. That included a 16-yard scramble to set up the go-ahead score late in the third quarter.
''The third-and-13 (run) was unbelievably huge,'' Malzahn said. ''He sacrificed his body and found a way. There was a third and 5 early in the game, (where) he found a way to get a first down when they were playing man coverage.
''He's starting to really evolve as a quarterback in this league and really starting to establish himself as a really good quarterback in this league.''
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