Joe Medley commentary: Confidence not a problem for Auburn

Anniston StarDecember 18, 2013 

Auburn Football

In this file photo from fall camp, Gus Malzahn provides directions during practice. Auburn's head coach said the team's Monday practice session had a focus on the younger players, allowing them a chance to shine in front of the coaching staff. Todd Van Emst

TODD J. VAN EMST — Todd J. Van Emst

AUBURN, Ala. --Florida State has Jameis Winston, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback.

Florida State has those play-on-Sunday wide receivers … like Missouri's, only better.

Florida State's secondary has the Seminoles leading the country in interceptions.

And Auburn? The Tigers have to run out of miracles sometime, right?

Yes, there are reasons why oddsmakers have made Auburn an 8.5 points underdog headed into its Bowl Championship Series final showdown with top-ranked Florida State, but Auburn's mindset won't be one of them.

Don't expect this bunch to shrink from the moment.

"It's just all about who prepares, and I really couldn't care less about people not believing that, or 'This is the time they're going to fall,'" senior defensive end Dee Ford said Wednesday, when was asked directly about Florida State being more than a touchdown favorite.

"We prepared for all of this, but they're saying it as though we didn't prepare to win these games," Ford said. "We prepared plenty, and we're doing the exact same thing with these two, three weeks that we have right now."

Ford was one of several players who talked during the crush of Auburn's BCS championship media day, and it was a far grander occasion than anyone projected for a team that went 3-9 a year ago. National media, including ESPN producers and USA Today's George Schroeder, were on hand.

Players made the gauntlet of ESPN, state TV and radio reporters and a gaggle of print reporters who came to load up on stories about the team no one expected to play for a national championship -- the team that few expect to win in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 6.

Auburn is used to it. The Tigers are 5-0 against the spread as an underdog this season and won four of those games outright.

They caught breaks along the way, like Ricardo Louis' tipped-ball catch for the game-winning touchdown against Georgia.

Dramatic endings against Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama outshouted everything Auburn did to put itself in position to win those games, and those endings fed the sense from the outside that Auburn lives on a well-stretched bubble.

There's also the sense that undefeated Florida State, which dominated its schedule, has finger poised and ready to burst Auburn's bubble.

But Auburn dominated Georgia for three quarters before Georgia's comeback forced a miracle.

The Tigers rushed for 296 yards while playing then-top-ranked Alabama toe to toe down to the final second, when Chris Davis returned a missed field goal 109 yards for the walk-off touchdown.

A week later, Auburn clearly had gotten over it enough to handle the big moment. The Tigers rushed for 545 yards in beating then-No. 5 Missouri 59-42 for the SEC championship.

Now, Auburn and Florida State have weeks to prepare for each other.

"Especially when you have two weeks to prepare, honestly, if you're a top-caliber team, I think any top-five team can play with two weeks to prepare," Ford said. "All the hype, once the ball is rolled out, it's time to play football. It really don't matter anything.

"I think any team can play in the national championship, that's a good-caliber team."

-- Joe Medley is a sports columnist for the Anniston Star. You can write to him at jmedley@annistonstar.com.

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