Auburn Poised for 10-Win Season, Biggest Turnaround in School History

Justin Lee@@byjustinleeContributor IOctober 27, 2013

Oct 26, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers reciever Sammie Coates (18) celebrates after scoring at touchdown over Florida Atlantic Owls safety Damian Parms (17) during the first half at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Gus Malzahn takes things one week at a time.

Even after Saturday night's convincing 45-10 win over Florida Atlantic, the Auburn head coach wasn't about to go looking too far ahead.

No one could blame him if he did. If the Tigers keep playing the way they are, they could realistically find themselves at 10-1 going into the season finale against No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 30.

Still, Malzahn isn't getting ahead of himself.

"I know it sounds like I'm saying the same thing every week (but) it's about Arkansas," Malzahn said, looking ahead only to next week's opponent. "It's about going on the road. It's about trying to play our best football, and we're not worried about all the underdogs or favorites. That's our mind-set."

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A seven-win improvement after last year's 3-9 finish would be the Tigers' best turnaround in school history between back-to-back seasons.

If the Tigers have their way, they'll reach that mark and go even further in 2013.

"We have an ultimate goal," junior corner Jermaine Whitehead said. "That ultimate goal is to win out. We're taking it one game at a time, one day at a time and one practice at a time."

Auburn's win over Florida Atlantic came in the Tigers' last nonconference game of the season. It was also their last home game before hosting both Georgia and Alabama to close the season in November.

Between now and then, Auburn will take to the road for a two-week stretch, playing at Arkansas next week and at Tennessee on Nov. 9.

"We have a four-game stretch coming on," senior defensive end Dee Ford said. "For the next four weeks, we need to remember what you do in November. We need to take everything we've been doing to the next four games."

The Tigers will be favored by many against Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia, and with wins in each of those games, Auburn would head into the Iron Bowl controlling its own destiny in the SEC West.

For now, Auburn fans will be excited with a 7-1 start to the season and a 3-1 mark in SEC play.

Oct 26, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Anthony Grant (20) celebrates with linemen Chad Slade (62) and Alex Kozan (63) after scoring a touchdown against the Florida Atlantic Owls during the first half at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Cr

"I'm very happy to get win No. 7," Malzahn said. "I really felt like our guys were ready to play. There was a lot of questions about how we would respond after a big win. I'd say our guys answered that by jumping on them early and taking care of business."

Auburn's starting quarterback, Nick Marshall, left the game early in the second quarter after a hard sack and did not return. But players didn't seem too concerned postgame about his status for the future.

In relief, backup QB Jeremy Johnson led the way for Auburn, finishing 10-of-16 for 192 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Sophomore receiver Sammie Coates finished with 113 yards and two scores on three receptions through the air.

Junior running back Cameron Artis-Payne paced the Tigers ground game with 93 yards and a score.

"We feel like we can beat anybody," Artis-Payne said. "We are just going to keep working, and we'll see where we are at when the smoke clears at the end of the season."


Justin Lee is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @byjustinlee. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.