An underdog for the fifth time this season, including double-digits to Alabama, Auburn has responded with big wins up and down the schedule. Winning in dramatic fashion against both Georgia and the Crimson Tide as well has meant an exciting season for the Tigers. While that might make it tough for some teams to respond week after week, Malzahn said that is what makes this Auburn team special.
"The unique thing about our team and about our coaches is no matter how big the win is nobody has changed," Malzahn said. "We have gone about the business as normal. When we got here you could tell the players and coaches were excited, but once we got to the hotel they flipped the switch. I expect them to approach it like any other game.
"I'll just say this about these guys, they found a way to stay focused and get prepared each week no matter who we were playing," Malzahn added. "Whether we were playing Alabama or a I-AA school this group has been extremely focused. They have worked hard. They have acted exactly the same way in practice. There is no doubt in my mind, we're not going to be distracted."
But it's not just another game.
Facing the Seminoles in the final BCS game before switching to a playoff system, Auburn has a chance to win its second national title in the last four seasons. While most bowl games are filled with amusement park visits and fun times, when you play for the crystal football it's a work trip. A no-nonsense coach who is known as a grinder, Malzahn said having a veteran coaching staff and players should help his team through what can be a long week of prep and waiting for Jan. 6.
"They have been important all year, especially as the games have gotten bigger," Malzahn said. "They have been through some big games. Any time you've got older guys that can talk to the younger guys, this is a unique experience. Everything that goes with a championship bowl game is different than your normal bowl game. The fact that we have some experience, I've got to believe that will help us.
"The fact that I have gone through it as a coordinator, I kind of know what to expect as far as that goes," he added. "We're very blessed to have a veteran staff that has won a lot of games and won championships. We feel pretty experienced."
A creature of habit, Malzahn said the biggest thing about this week is to keep it the same as the Tigers have done all season long. Treating it like a game week with a Tuesday practice on Wednesday and moving forward on that schedule, Auburn wants to keep it as familiar as possible this week while practicing at UC-Irvine.
That will also mean being physical in practice. Getting after it while on campus, Malzahn said it's a fine line between being cautious and losing your edge. That is something he looked at before practices began and decided they wanted to do keep getting after it.
"You don't want to lose what got you here," Malzahn said. "That physical part of the game. Any time you have a 30-day layoff you're concerned about it, but our guys have practiced extremely hard. There are some guys we've had to heal up."
When the work is complete Auburn will have one more chance to improve. That has been the goal from spring practice until now and it's something the Tigers have achieved for the most part. Now with the national championship in their sights Malzahn said his team has one more opportunity to be better.
"This group has really, each game, improved," Malzahn said. "It's really hard to improve each game, especially in college football, but our guys have done it. It's a tribute to them."
Auburn will practice Wednesday-Sunday at UC-Irvine before Monday's BCS title game.