No. 2 Auburn aiming to defy odds 1 more time
The Auburn Tigers were slim favorites over Georgia and
double-digit underdogs against Alabama.
Then, a common assumption was that a hangover from that dramatic
Iron Bowl victory would surely linger into the Southeastern
Conference championship game against Missouri. Now, No. 1 Florida
State is an 8 1/2-point favorite to beat the second-ranked Tigers
and claim the BCS title on Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif.
The refrain feels sort of familiar to Auburn defensive end Dee
Ford, who said the Tigers will be ready anyway.
”Once the ball is rolled out, it’s time to play football,”
Ford said on Wednesday. ”It really doesn’t matter about any
rankings. I think any team can play in the national championship
that’s a good caliber team. It’s just all about who prepares. I
could care less about people not believing or saying, `This is the
time they’re going to fall.’ We prepare for all this.
”They’re saying that as though we didn’t prepare to win these
games. We prepared to win them, and we’re doing the exact same
things with these two to three weeks that we have right now.”
Auburn (12-1) has defied the odds, and the doubters, to this
point. The Tigers began preparations this week to face the
Seminoles (13-0) and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis
Winston after pulling out an escalating series of big games with a
couple of fantastic finishes and an overpowering 59-42 victory over
Missouri to win the SEC.
There was the ”Immaculate Deflection” against Georgia and the
return of a missed field goal to beat the Crimson Tide.
”These last few games, every win has been kind of like surreal
for me and I think for most of my teammates,” fullback Jay Prosch
said. ”Especially coming off a season like last year. So I think
it’s just something guys are soaking in and loving right now.”
At least Auburn is getting used to big stages and high stakes
after being out of national prominence for a couple of years. The
Tigers have beaten two straight Top-5 teams.
”I think if you look at our entire schedule, I would like to
think we are battle-tested,” first-year coach Gus Malzahn said.
”We’ve been in some true dog-fight games. We’ve been in some games
where the pressure was on on the road, at home, and our guys have
responded. In big games I know they are not going to panic, so I’ve
got to believe that will help us moving forward.”
Florida State, meanwhile, has gone unchallenged in virtually
every game. The closest call was a 48-34 win over Boston College
all the way back on Sept. 28.
The Tigers have already matched the 1999-2000 Hawaii teams for
the biggest one-year turnaround in NCAA history after going
”We knew this would be a rebuilding-type year,” tight end C.J.
Uzomah said. ”I don’t know if we thought instantly we would have
this amount of success. But there wasn’t a doubt in our mind we
would be able to get back up to this caliber in no time. The kids I
came in with – Tre (Mason), Quan (Bray), Greg (Robinson) – we
wanted to win a national championship and we wanted to have a
repeat of the 2010 season. And here we are, reliving it.”
They’re savoring the opportunity to claim a second title in four
”You just have to embrace the moment,” quarterback Nick
Marshall said. ”Just seize the moment of being in the championship
game, period. It doesn’t come too often, so when you’re in it you
just have to make the best of it.”
The Tigers’ momentum is paying off on the recruiting trail.
Auburn signed four junior college players on Wednesday,
including wide receiver D’haquille Williams from Gulf Coast
Community College. Williams is regarded as the nation’s top JUCO
Gulf Coast teammate safety Derrick Moncrief also signed with the
Tigers, along with Copiah-Lincoln offensive lineman Xavier Dampeer
and Georgia Military College defensive tackle DaVonte Lambert.