Dec. 17, 2013
Cam Newton celebrates with Auburn fans after scoring a touchdown in the BCS title game in Arizona (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn's headed West for another BCS title game. Don't worry. The Tigers know the way.
Auburn won the 2010 BCS championship when it beat Oregon in Arizona, and now will try to win another against Florida State in Pasadena on Jan. 6.
Nine Tigers who played in the 2010 game are still on the team. Other Tigers on that roster have since moved into the playing rotation. Coach Gus Malzahn, then the offensive coordinator, is back as the head coach. Rhett Lashlee, then Malzahn's chief aide, is back as the offensive coordinator. Kodi Burns, who scored a touchdown in the title game, is a graduate assistant.
There are more connections to 2010. But will that help?
"I think any time you have experience in something, you learn from it. And I felt pretty good about our plan in 2010," Malzahn says.
The 2010 season was Cam Newton running over and passing through everybody. The 2013 season has been marked with comeback wins, big plays and a running game that is second to none.
Malzahn said the two seasons have not been the same.
"I don't think there's been too many of those déjà vu moments. These have been very unique in their own way."
The nine Tigers who played in 2010 and are still around are Nosa Eguae, Jake Holland, Ryan White, Chris Davis, Craig Sanders, Ryan Smith, Dee Ford, Kenneth Carter and Jeff Whitaker, who is being redshirted this season because of an injury.
Malzahn said he learned about preparation in 2010 for a game that is more than a month after the SEC title game.
"The routine part of when to turn it on as far as the window go specific with the game plan and focus on yourself. That's important," he said. "You've got to continue to get better, and that's been our MO all year. That's what I told them: It's about getting better. There is a balance."
Malzahn said he's not concerned about the players being ready too soon.
"It's probably more for the coaches a challenge than it is for the players," he said.
Auburn practiced in full pads Tuesday, its second workout since taking more than a week off after winning the Southeastern Conference championship. Malzahn said the Tigers will build through Saturday's practice on campus before taking a holiday break, and resume after Christmas before flying to California on Dec. 31 for a BCS welcoming ceremony.
For a coach who loves a fast pace, Gus Malzahn will pace himself as he moves to the championship game.
"Any time you have a 30-day window that you're off, one of the biggest things is staying in shape," he said. "And that's one of our big advantages: that we're in great shape. We've got to continue to do that. Coach (Ryan) Russell has a plan that he feels good about. So that will be a big factor."
Malzahn's 2010 offense took some time to get going in the BCS title game. That game wasn't decided until Wes Byrum kicked the game-winner for a 22-19 victory on the last play of the season.
"I think both defenses were prepared. That's one thing. Both defenses were good," Malzahn said. "The second thing is the first quarter did take each group to kind of get going. Hopefully, we can learn from that experience, and get off to a faster start."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: