AUBURN — Auburn’s football team is well into preparations for its Jan. 10 BCS national championship showdown with Oregon, and even though the stakes are higher than ever, the approach is business as usual.
It’s almost as if, even two weeks after clinching a spot in college football’s most important game, the Tigers are still slowly digesting the ramifications.
“It’s probably the biggest game of everybody’s career right now,” Auburn quarterback Cam Newton said Monday, “but we can’t look at it as if it’s something with that great magnitude. We just have to go out and play Auburn football like we’ve been playing every week in the past.”
That relentless, single-minded approach has served the Tigers well en route to their 13-0 record and favorites’ role against 12-0 Oregon.
“I just simply don’t believe that our team really pays a lot of attention to all the outside opinions,” said Auburn coach Gene Chizik. “They know that (Oregon) is a great football team. We’re going to go there and we’re going to execute well and have a chance to win the game or we’re not. It’s that simple. We have to practice and we have to coach them and we have to do everything we can to get to that game and be the best football team we can be on January 10.
“That’s what makes college football fun, everybody has an opinion, but our team knows that the bottom line is the preparation we do right now, film work, walk-throughs and practice, and the importance of execution in the game, are the only things that matter for us to go out there and win.”
With the university out on Christmas break, the hours spent on film study are likely at an all-time high.
Chizik said the extra preparation time will be critical to the Tigers’ chances.
“Meetings and walk-throughs, along with practice, and the film study and the time they put in is huge,” he said. “You can’t watch enough of it. It’s a big part of what we do, but again, the balance with practice and all of that is very important.
“We’re going to practice all we can practice to get ready for this game, but we’re going to be smart about it.”
Plans call for the Tigers to practice again today and on Wednesday morning before breaking for Christmas.
The team will resume practice on Dec. 28, take a break on Jan. 2, and leave for Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 3.
Construction work for the Tigers’ new indoor practice facility has caused the Tigers to shift their practices to the Auburn soccer field.
But changes in “when and where” have not really disrupted preparations.
“That’s the thing: our routine is normal,” Chizik said. “We haven’t really changed anything practice schedule-wise, meeting scheduling-wise. We’ve done everything exactly as we’ve done previously. I’m not sure it’ll have any bearing. If we have to practice in the parking lot, we’ll practice out there.”
And the Tigers apparently aren’t going to sleep with dreams of sugar plums, or even crystal footballs dancing in their heads.
“Naw, it hasn’t really clicked,” said Auburn senior linebacker Josh Bynes. “We knew we’re playing for the national championship, but everybody’s taking it like, either we’ve never been there before, or we’re taking it like it’s just any other game. We’re going against another tough opponent and we’re going to have to play to the best of our ability. We’re not letting the magnitude of the game, being the national championship, get to us. It’s not like, ‘Oh dang. The national championship. Oh, wow!’ We’re more like, it’s the next game, it’s the next team on the map that we know we’re going to have to defeat. We’re 60 minutes away from being crowned national champions. But we have to play ball first.”
Charles Bennett covers Auburn University sports for The Star.