In his 22 years as a coach, his teams have played for a championship 13 times, including Monday’s BCS title game.
“I've been blessed to have a lot of really good players and a lot of really good coaches, just like this year, to get to that point,” he said. “Any time you play for championships, if you have experience before, it's got to help. Hopefully, we'll be able to lean on some of that.”
Not that it should come as any surprise given the stakes, but Malzahn was pleased to note how “excited” his team looked from the moment it stepped on the plane Tuesday to head westward. More importantly, after having a couple weeks to practice in Auburn, Malzahn felt confident the Tigers were as sharp as they could be.
“They had two really good weeks of practice (and) I thought was very important,” he said. “I feel good about where we're at right now. We just need to have another good week of practice before we play.”
If Auburn can beat top-ranked Florida State, the Tigers can win as an underdog for the fifth time this season.
According to Covers.com, Auburn was an underdog before beating Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Alabama and Missouri. Florida State is favored by 8 to 9 points.
Auburn defensive end Dee Ford said that in player meetings, he and his fellow seniors ask teammates what they want. Each time, they reply with the same answer: The Tigers want to prove the world wrong.
“We want to fight to the end. That's just what we do — we just come in and we fight,” Ford said. “We're going to play every play just like the Bama game. We're going to play every play like it's our last. We really mean that. It's really helped us get to where we are now.”
Fisher’s AU days
In his first year as an assistant at the Division I level, Jimbo Fisher went undefeated. Twenty years later, he has the chance to complete another unbeaten campaign if his Florida State squad can top Auburn.
Even with so much riding on Monday night’s BCS title game, Fisher said he still thinks back to that 1993 season spent on Terry Bowden’s Auburn staff.
“It's kind of ironic that I cut my teeth at Auburn in true Division I football,” he said. “The first year we go undefeated. That '93 team came in and went undefeated wire-to-wire and played some great games that year.”
It was a far cry from his previous stop, where he served in as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Bowden at Samford.
“We had great success at Samford, but when you went Division I at that level in the SEC, Division I football is a different deal,” he said. “We all just put our nose down and worked, and it's amazing the success we had. Great times, great friends, an as I say, it's where I really cut my teeth. … In that state of Alabama, you'd better know how to recruit and know how to handle your business, because it is a great football state.”