AUBURN, Ala. — When the initial Bowl Championship Series rankings were unveiled Sunday night, Auburn had just wrapped up its usual Sunday night practice.
It was a safe assumption head coach Gene Chizik had no intention of rushing to nearest TV set to see where the Tigers ranked.
“You can assume that,” he said.
Auburn (7-0, 4-0 SEC) debuted at No. 4 in the BCS standings, behind Oklahoma, Oregon and Boise State, the highest the Tigers have been in the rankings since 2006.
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“That’s music to my ears, but at the same time we can’t dwell on anything like that,” quarterback Cam Newton said. “That’s not really important right now. We just have to continuously do our job and execute and play good football.”
The Tigers’ national attention has only increased in the aftermath of their 65-43 win against Arkansas on Saturday.
They climbed two spots to No. 5 in the Associated Press, USA Today and Harris Interactive polls, even getting a first-place vote from one of the voters in the coaches’ poll.
Only the coaches’ and Harris polls count in the BCS standings. The rest of the formula is based on six different computer rankings, which put Auburn third behind Oklahoma and, this week’s opponent, LSU.
The Tigers, who began the season ranked 22nd by the AP and 23rd by the coaches, insist they aren’t trying to eliminate the doubters.
“We’re not trying to convince nobody,” linebacker Josh Bynes said. “As long as the 150 guys and the coaches in the room believe that we can handle it, that’s all that I really care about.”
Nevertheless, Auburn can make an emphatic statement at Jordan-Hare Stadium this Saturday against LSU, the only other unbeaten team in the SEC. The winner will be alone in first place in the Western Division.
Chizik doesn’t think keeping Auburn focused will be a problem after Saturday’s wild game. The Tigers’ defense allowed 43 points and 566 yards.
“Once they watch the film today, it will all come to reality that we are highly still in search of an extremely good four-quarter game,” Chizik said.
“Because we haven’t played it yet.”
Whoever wins Saturday will be in a good position in the BCS.
A win against a top-10 team will certainly impress the voters and give a boost in strength of schedule, two important factors in the BCS rankings.
Chizik has been on two coaching staffs when the BCS standings eventually mattered. He served as Auburn’s defensive coordinator in 2004, when the Tigers finished No. 3 in the regular season and were famously left out of the national title game.
Chizik was Texas’ defensive coordinator in 2005 when Texas finished the regular season No. 2, qualifying for the national title game against Southern California.
So when will he start to pay attention to the rankings?
“That’s a good question,” Chizik said. “If it ever happens where it becomes what we’re focused on, it’s going to be later in the year.
“We just got to continue to do the things that we’ve been doing every week. Trying to get better at every position which, as you saw yesterday, I know I say it every week, but it’s true: We’ve got a bunch of room for improvement at every position out there. And that’s how we’ll carry on.”