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'Business trip' begins with first Atlanta practice, Auburn seeks win No. 11
Gus Malzahn speaks to reporters Wednesday after Auburn's first Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl practice at Georgia Tech. Photo: Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics
Dec. 27, 2017

By Jeff Shearer

ATLANTA - Gus Malzahn passed up a chance to take a joy ride Wednesday night, focusing instead on what he hopes will lead to a victory lap after Monday's Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

While the Tigers raced karts at an entertainment complex in metro Atlanta, Malzahn and his coaches stayed at the team hotel, reviewing video from their first practice at Georgia Tech.

"We're starting to get into a routine," Malzahn said after practice. "We're playing a really good UCF team. They're really explosive on offense. They've got a lot of guys that can run on defense. The only undefeated team. We're glad we're here. We're looking forward to it."

Bowl games have long been considered a reward for a successful season. Auburn's itinerary includes visits to the King Center, the College Football Hall of Fame and NBA game. Still, the focus remains on Monday's 11:30 a.m. CT matchup with UCF at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

"This is a very important game for us," Malzahn said. "Our guys understand that. It's not only a chance to win our eleventh game, which we've done six times in school history, but to finish this season off the right way.

"There's been some real special moments and a victory would cap that off and that this team would be remembered for a long time to come. Probably more importantly than that, the next step for our program. Our guys are locked in. We're here with our game face on, and we should be with playing the opponent we are.

"We know we're going to get their best. I know they're here to win, too. Our mindset is more of a business trip probably than it has been in the past with a bowl. That's by design. Our leaders, our seniors, that's what they want, that's what they expect. So that's a good thing from a coach's standpoint."

Kerryon Johnson, the SEC's offensive player of the year, practiced Wednesday and looks to add to the 19 touchdowns he's scored this season.

"He looked good again today. Like I said before, he's going to play and I'm hoping he'll be as close to 100 percent as he can," Malzahn said.

Auburn (10-3) has a chance to beat an undefeated team for the third time since November. Doing so would create momentum for the offseason.

"I think this group gets it," Malzahn said. "We've been talking about that our program is set up for long-term success. There are opportunities you have to accelerate that. Our leaders get that, not just from this year, but from next year as far as a team that's taking the next step that gets the bigger picture of the future of the program."

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl Ticket Information

Join Coach Malzahn and the seventh ranked Tigers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium as they play tenth ranked and undefeated UCF in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Monday, January 1. Tickets are available online at or by phone at (855) 282-2010.

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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