Tigers Back To Work For BCS Title Game

Auburn got back to work in preparation for the BCS title game on Tuesday while rumors about offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn pick up again.

Auburn, Ala.--After taking five days off for Christmas break, the #1 Auburn Tigers (13-0) returned to the practice field on Tuesday with a two-hour workout in shells as coach Gene Chizik's team prepares to face Oregon in the BCS National Championship Game. With just under two weeks left before the kickoff Chizik said his team has made good strides towards the Jan. 10 contest.

"I do like the progress we've made," Chizik said. "37 days ago it seemed like it was so far out, which it was. I feel like we've made a lot of strides since that time. I think it's really important how you lay things out and how you practice and how long you practice. I think that matters. We're doing what we feel like is the most productive way. I do like how it's unfolded to this point and time."

Working on the game plan for Oregon in shoulder pads and sweats, Auburn had perhaps its best practice for the bowl game to date on Tuesday night according to several veteran players. Senior safety Zac Etheridge said that leading up to Christmas things were up and down but now with the game on their radar it was business as usual for the team.

"After finals it was a little sluggish and you could tell we haven't practiced in two weeks," Etheridge said. "The practice before we went home before Christmas break helped a lot and the guys came back moving fast."

Seniors Mike Blanc and Antoine Carter get in some conditioning work during practice.

A fifth-year senior, Mario Fannin has been through his share of bowl practices and he backed up the thoughts from Etheridge. With nothing left to do for the game but practice and watch film, the running back said you could sense a change in the atmosphere on Tuesday.

"Before Christmas break you are ready to go home and see your family and hang out with your cousins," Fannin said. "When you get back you understand it's work time. You have to make sure to get everything done before you get down there (Arizona). When you get there it's basically a polish up. We're making sure to do all the necessary things we need to do here as far as getting the plays down and the scheme down. When we get to Arizona we polish things up and come Jan. 10 we hope to play well."

On Tuesday a report from Comcast Sportsnet Washington said that Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is one of three coaches that had met with the school about the vacant coaching job for the Terrapins along with SMU coach June Jones and former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach. Malzahn didn't talk following the practice but Chizik said at the moment he's had no contact from Maryland.

"I have not talked to anybody from Maryland," Chizik said. "To the best of my knowledge there are possibilities of contact. I have not talked to anybody personally but there is the possibility of contact in there. Without me giving any details, because I don't have any, when I know more I'll let you know."

In addition to the Malzahn talk there has also been a lot of talk about academics and the possibility that a player or players could miss the championship game. Saying that there is still nothing concrete to discuss, Auburn's head coach said it's something that is still in the works.

"Academically there are still a couple of issues we're working through and we'll continue to do that," Chizik said. "If the roster changes at that point and time when we know there has definitely been a change then we'll let you know."

Auburn will return to practice on Wednesday and will practice through Saturday before heading to Arizona on Jan. 3.

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