COSTA MESA, Calif. — One year ago, Dee Ford was sitting on his couch.
It’s the last place he wanted to be on New Year’s Day. But after Auburn’s disappointing 3-9 season, he had more than enough time on his hands. So whenever a bowl game flashed across his television screen, he stopped and watched.
And it wasn’t just the bigger bowls he tuned in for, either.
“I'm a fan of football. I watch all football,” Ford said. “I watched every bowl game, including the national championship. You know, when you put in work, you expect results.”
Never miss a local story.
Witnessing Alabama’s 42-14 demolition of Notre Dame in last year’s BCS title game didn’t affect Ford in the way many would think. The senior defensive end didn’t immediately start dreaming about playing in the championship game the following year.
That kind of thing was too far into the future to put much stock in, anyway.
“You don't really process that into your mind,” he said. “You really stay focused on the task at hand. You don't look at the big picture and say ‘I want to win a national championship.”
Reese Dismukes couldn’t have agreed more. Auburn’s starting center wasn’t greedy.
Heck, after experiencing such a dismal campaign in 2012, the Tigers would have been fine with any postseason destination.
“In the back of your head you just want to get to a bowl game,” he said. “You don't want to be sitting at home in December and January. That's not fun at all. But (we) just came in, had to work hard and just got back to the situation we're in right now.”
That “situation,” of course, has the Tigers on the verge of capturing their second BCS championship in four seasons. When first-year coach Gus Malzahn took the job last December, being in position to win a national title this quickly was the furthest thing from his mind.
He had more pressing concerns, after all.
“I was thinking about recruiting and I was thinking about our players and getting our staff together and everything that goes with that,” he said. “There was a lot of moving parts a year ago.”
Make no mistake, though: Malzahn was confident the Tigers would a part of the national title discussion far sooner than many expected.
“Auburn is a great place,” he said. “They expect championships, and I knew we would get back to it. I just didn't know when.”
C.J. Uzomah felt the same way. Though the 2012 season didn’t show it, he and others on the team felt Auburn was close to being a contender once more.
Even he had to admit, however, this season has far surpassed anything he ever could have imagined.
“I don't know if we thought instantly we would have this amount of success,” he said. “But there wasn't a doubt in our mind we would be able to get back up to this caliber in no time.”
If anything to the contrary crossed his mind, Uzomah didn’t need to look any further than his fellow Class of 2011 recruits to set him straight.
“The kids I came in with — Tre (Mason), Quan (Bray), Greg (Robinson) — we wanted to win a national championship and we wanted to have a repeat of the 2010 season,” Uzomah said. “And here we are, reliving it. So it's truly a blessing.”
Yet another junior — cornerback Jonathon Mincy — echoed that sentiment. Hard as it is to believe, Auburn is on the precipice of winning yet another BCS title. And try as he might, he said this season has been something “you can’t really describe.”
He just wants to enjoy this feeling while he can.
“You just go out there with your brothers and you show your talents to everybody,” he said. “We’re just embracing every moment of this, and we’re just happy we have an opportunity to show the world that we can be the best team in college football.”