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Spotlight shines again on Auburn in Top 3 showdown
Oct. 7, 2014

Auburn's Gus Malzahn was ready for action at the BCS title game last year

By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala.  Mississippi State boasts its highest national ranking ever and is set to host one of the biggest games in school history.
Auburn, which has played in two of the last four national championships, is familiar with this big stage.
No. 2 Auburn visits No. 3 Mississippi State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in a game that will impact the SEC West race and the national standings.
Old hat. This will be coach Gus Malzahn's 20th game at Auburn, and this will be his 10th game against a Top 25 team. 
"I think the best thing for us from a player's standpoint and a coach's standpoint is we've been in some extremely big games that have been very important," Malzahn said Tuesday. "It's not going to be a shock to our system."
Auburn won the 2010 national title. Defensive tackle Jeff Whitaker was with the Tigers then. This group is more familiar with the 2013 season that produced one big game after another that culminated with a last-play win over No. 1 Alabama, winning the SEC title game over Missouri and playing Florida State in the BCS title game.
This year, Auburn has already beaten two Top 25 teams, as least on the day the Tigers played them, in Kansas State and LSU on the way to a 5-0 record and a 2-0 SEC start. Mississippi State has, at least when the games were played, has beaten two Top 10 teams in the last two games in LSU and Texas A&M. The Bulldogs are also 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the league.
LSU has since dropped out of the polls.
Still, Malzahn has run the Top 25 gauntlet.
"It's a tribute to our players because it’s extremely hard to do from a player’s standpoint to have guys rise to the occasion," Malzahn said. "We know we're going to get their best shot and we know that it's a huge game for them, but at the same time, it’s a huge game for us. We have goals and this is another big game. But the fact that we’ve been in some big games, it definitely helps. I know exactly what I’m going to get out of our players. They're going to play extremely hard and that gives you confidence as a coach."
Malzahn knows Mississippi State. That was the game in which quarterback Nick Marshall threw the game-winning touchdown pass with 10 seconds left. That game broke Auburn's 10-game SEC losing streak.
 "The fact that we hadn't won an SEC game in a really long time, for us to win that game the way we did it, coming back at the very end, really gave us momentum after that," Malzahn said.
Malzahn knows this challenge could come down to the end, again.
"The last three times that I've coached against these guys, it went down to the last play. So we're going to have to play well," Malzahn said.

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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