AUBURN, Ala. – Wasn’t but a couple seasons back that Auburn and Gus Malzahn crept up out of nowhere to play for the last non-playoff national title.
The Tigers were unranked in the preseason Top 25 entering 2013, capitalized on four lifetimes’ worth of beneficial bounces, and ambushed their way to the championship game.
Here they are now, days away from opening the season inside the Georgia Dome against a legit opponent, Louisville, and they are covered up with expectations. There are no bushes anywhere from which to hide behind in wait. Ranked No. 6 preseason, the Tigers clearly seem set up for one of those bounce-back seasons that is such a specialty of theirs (after an ordinary 8-5 2014).
At his first game week press conference of the year Tuesday, Malzahn performed his duties as chief deflector and CEO in charge of expectation management with usual lack of inflection.
“There are a lot of question marks,” the coach reminded his audience. “Look at all the freshmen (eight listed on the two-deep offensive depth chart). That really sticks out to me.
“There are going to be some growing pains and we know that but we think those guys that are going to play are guys who are pretty talented. They need to grow up in a hurry and we’ll see what happens.”
Coaches are paid millions to worry, and this is what concerns Malzahn most about this first game: “Probably my biggest stress is the new guys being out there the first time, holding onto the ball, that’s always a big factor in first games.”
As for coming in hot as opposed to unnoticed, that’s just not something capable of twisting this coach into knots.
“From a team standpoint, every year whether people predict you to be good or not, it’s the same mindset,” Malzahn said. “We have the same approach. I like where our guys are at, they’re not reading the press, predicting all this stuff. They’re worried about Louisville.
“From a coach’s standpoint it’s a lot easier. You get tunnel vision; you lock in on your team. You’re just trying to prepare your team for the next game. Me, personally, big-picture-wise, I love being at Auburn because Auburn’s a place they expect to win championships and it has traditionally been shown you can do that.”
Enough chatter. ‘Tis time to put flimsy opinions of all shapes and sizes to a trail by football. Way past time, don’t you think?