Jan. 1, 2014
By Phillip Marshall
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. - The holidays weren't much fun for Auburn players last season. While others went to play in bowl games, while Alabama and Notre Dame went to play for the national championship, they were left to watch on television.
Tuesday, the No. 2 Tigers (12-1) arrived in California for Monday's BCS Championship Game at the Rose Bowl against No. 1 Florida State (13-0).
"We were just sitting around watching all the bowl games," All-SEC center Reese Dismukes said. "Really, in the back of your head, you just want to get to a bowl game. You don't want to be sitting at home in December and January. That's not fun at all. We just came in, had to work hard and just get back to the situation we're in right now."
All-SEC defensive Dee Ford said he turned his focus to offseason work.
"I'm a fan of football," Ford said. "I watch all football. I watched every bowl game, including the National Championship. You know, when you put in work, you expect results, but you don't really process that into your mind.
"You really stay focused on the task at hand. You don't look at the big picture and say `I want to win a national championship. You focus on the task at hand, which at that time was the offseason for me."
Gus Malzahn had been on the job just a month when Alabama and Notre Dame played for last year's national championship.
"The night of this game, I was thinking about recruiting and I was thinking about our players and getting our staff together and everything that goes with that," Malzahn said. "There were a lot of moving parts a year ago."
Fisher: Scoreboard not important for Florida State
Florida State has won every game this season by 14 points or more and the last nine by 27 points or more, but Seminoles' head coach Jimbo Fisher says those things don't really matter to him or his players.
"It doesn't matter to us, because we don't look at the scoreboard," Fisher said. "We don't care what the score is, and we play every game like that. We were behind in the Boston College game 17 3 in the second quarter, played very well. Miami game was 21-14 at half. We had a big play, we had it 14-14 when we scored before the half. But as crazy as it sounds, we don't care what the score is.
"We're about playing every play one play at a time, putting our head down. We don't look at the scoreboard, give effort on every play, and at the end we look at the results. We don't become a result oriented team, so we don't know if it's close or far away. We just want to play well. If we continue to play well, sometimes they're not close."
Speeding up the process
Malzahn said he was confident when he arrived last December that Auburn would win championships, but he set no timetable.
"You know, it was a process and I never let me mind go there," Malzahn said. "Auburn is a great place. They expect championships, and I knew we would get back to it, I just didn't know when, but here we are."
Auburn's running game has Florida State's attention
Auburn's running game, the nation's most prolific at 335.7 yards per game, cause problems for defenses from numerous directions, Fisher said. It starts with tailback Tre Mason and quarterback Nick Marshall.
"I think their versatility in going outside and inside, and then they also have the quarterback when you add the speed sweeps and you have to set edges on the defense so they can't outflank you," Fisher said. "At the same time, you can't worry about too much outside when you set at the edges, because you become weak inside, and then they have the quarterback who will do the runs and then the play actions back off of it.
"They create outside runs, inside runs, and then the quarterback can run. It's very three dimensional. It causes a lot of problems and also they block very well up front. And then their receivers block very well. I think that's an underlying thing that we don't talk about enough. Their receivers do a great job blocking downfield, as well."
Doing it together key for Seminoles
Senior Florida State defensive back Lamarcus Joyner said that the key to the Seminoles' success goes far beyond talent.
"One team, one heartbeat," Joyner said. "We started that way back in January, and we kind of adopt the attitude and the character of Coach Fisher. We want to thank him for being a wonderful leader. We kind of adapt to his character, and we're able to do great things from that."
Jameis Winston's precise passing
It's not an accident, Florida State wide receiver Rashad Greene said, that Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston has passed for more than 4,000 yards.
"Jameis' balls are very precise, first of all," Greene said. "He reads your body language when you're in and out of your cuts, so the ball is pretty much out of his hands before you even come to your break. That gives you enough time to run your route right, and once you get your head around the ball, it's there. That's perfect for tight coverages and things like that."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: