Dec. 8, 2013
Auburn defensive end Nosa Eguae hopes to start another BCS Championship game (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Phillip Marshall
ATLANTA - When Melvin Smith, secure in his job coaching cornerbacks at Mississippi State, got a call from first-year Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn last year, he was immediately interested. Smith saw the chance at Auburn to do something he'd long dreamed of doing.
"I came here to win the national championship," Smith said Saturday after No. 3 Auburn beat No. 5 Missouri 59-42 to win the Southeastern Conference championship. "I told the players I don't have as much time as they do, and I need them to get it done. I think they're going to."
Within hours, Smith's words were prophetic. No. 2 Ohio State had fallen to No. 10 Michigan State, opening the door for Auburn to play Florida State in the BCS national championship game on Jan. 6 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
The first dominoes will fall this morning when the polls are released. The BCS standings will be released tonight. It will be a major surprise if Auburn is not No. 2, setting up a showdown with the unbeaten Seminoles.
Even before Ohio State had been beaten, Malzahn said his team deserved to play for a national championship.
"Yeah, we're the SEC champ," Malzahn said. "I believe we (the SEC) won it the last seven years. We play the toughest schedule of any of the other teams. A lot of teams aren't getting better each week. This team is. We're playing our best football right now. I like our chances against anybody."
Athletics director Jay Jacobs said again, as he had over the previous week, that a one-loss SEC team deserved to be in the game. A day earlier he'd announced that Malzahn had signed a six-year contract. Jacobs was feeling good as he stood in the Auburn locker room.
"It means more than anybody can describe to the Auburn family," Jacobs said. "This program is the front porch of the university. It takes everybody working together to get to Atlanta and win it. It's a great day.
"I don't have to worry about losing my coach. He's the right guy at the right time for Auburn. It just goes to show this program wasn't in the dumpster. There were some broken parts and they were kind of scattered. We added a few parts, and Gus did a tremendous job of pulling it all together."
Senior defensive tackle Nosa Eguae started at defensive end as a redshirt freshman when Auburn went to Phoenix, Ariz., and beat Oregon 22-19 in the BCS Championship Game. And now he's on the verge of going big game again for his career finale.
"To go out like this is something I'll remember for a lifetime," Eguae said. "To be at home last year and to go from that to being SEC champions, to being the best team in the Southeastern Conference, is a blessing. I'm looking forward to the rest of it with these boys.
"We had a plan at the beginning of the year. We seniors wanted to have the biggest turnaround in college football. We all bought into that. We worked the plan, and this is the finish. To God be the glory."
The final chapter, Eguae said, should be playing in another BCS Championship Game.
"The teams that wins the Southeastern Conference," Eguae said, "should have a chance to play for the national title."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: