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December 28, 2013
NOTEBOOK: Searching for answers
AUBURN | Florida State trailed Boston College 17-3 early in the second quarter on Sept. 28 - game four of the Seminoles season.
Florida State rallied to lead 24-17 at halftime and hasn't trailed since that time - not for one second.
That presents an interesting dilemma for Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. The Tigers' coaching staff has spent hours upon hours in the film room looking for weaknesses and information on the undefeated ACC champions. But when you are outscoring your opponents 53-11 on average and backups are playing considerable minutes all season, evaluating Florida State is a different challenge.
"It's very unique that they haven't had any close, big games," Malzahn said on Saturday. "Their backups are in there as much as their starters are, that's very unusual. They get a lot of turnovers - they lead the nation in interceptions. We're watching all the games.
"You're always looking for information. That's the challenge, they're a good team in all areas and they beat everybody very soundly."
Auburn players returned to campus on Thursday and will practice through Monday before traveling to California on Dec. 31. Auburn will practice at the University of California Irvine for the duration of bowl practice leading into the BCS National Championship on Jan. 6.
The goal for Malzahn is to build the foundation of the BCS National Championship game plan before heading west. Malzahn will lean on his experience as offensive coordinator prior to the 2011 BCS National Championship game.
"We're excited about getting better. The game is nine days away and overall, I'm real pleased with our guys and where we're at right now," Malzahn said.
"There's a fine line. We've done this before and that gives us good perspective. The positive thing is our players are excited about practicing. They're buying into what the coaches are asking them to do. We feel good about where we're at, but we have to finish the last nine days."
Malzahn confirmed on Saturday that all players are expected to be eligible for the national title game, adding injured players like Joshua Holsey, Jeffrey Whitaker, Justin Garrett, JaViere Mitchell - among others - will travel with team.
Following a winless conference record in 2012, Malzahn's focus for the new-look Auburn program has been improving each day. Success can breed complacency, something Malzahn is watching extremely closely.
"I think it helps a lot," Malzahn said. "You always have your guard up to see if there's any changes, if we're acting differently than we have to get to this point. They're going about their business, still working hard."
NEWS AND NOTES:
Malzahn said the time off has helped quarterback Nick Marshall develop his passing game: "I've said this before, Nick can flat out throw it, he just needs to get more comfortable doing it. This off period has helped. He's more and more comfortable each practice. It's been the first time we've been able to slow down and work on base fundamentals. You can see him more and more comfortable each practice, that's a good thing."
Florida State linebacker Christian Jones said Auburn's offense was about "trickery". Malzahn notes there is a physical element, believe it or not: "It starts up front with our offensive line and Jay Prosch, the physical part of that. You have to get movement up front, you have to be physical and so far we've done that."
The SEC has won seven BCS titles straight, but Malzahn isn't worried about the league's legacy as they prepare for No. 1 Florida State: "Each year is different. As a team, you don't get caught up in that. We're playing a big-time team. We have our hands full and we understand that. We're focused on the game no matter who we're playing."