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Malzahn happy to be ranked No. 11, focused on improving

Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn and his team take the field before a game earlier this season against Mississippi. The Tigers are 6-1, ranked 11th in the nation and one of the biggest surprises this year in all of college football. (Reuters)

Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn and his team take the field before a game earlier this season against Mississippi. The Tigers are 6-1, ranked 11th in the nation and one of the biggest surprises this year in all of college football. (Reuters)

AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn is not letting Auburn’s high ranking — the Tigers are No. 11 in the first BCS Standings — go to anyone’s head.

“We’re happy that people think that highly of us. But we’re onto next week. That’s our only focus,” he said. “Just being real honest with (the players) that, ‘Hey, we’re not changing anything that got us to where we’re at.’”

The first road win over a top-10 team since the Oct. 1, 2011, win at No. 10 South Carolina sent Auburn flying up the polls, landing at No. 11 in the AP and in the BCS. Auburn (6-1, 3-1 SEC) has posted the biggest turnaround in the nation thus far; the Tigers were 1-6 through seven games last year.

Defensive end Dee Ford said there’s no reason Auburn can’t “win it all” following Saturday’s 45-41 road upset of Texas A&M.

“You go on the road in a hostile environment like that, and you come out with a win, I think that’s the big thing out of that,” center Reese Dismukes said. “You take the confidence you gain from doing something like that and take it from week to week. We win football games, and everything will fall in line.”

The Tigers returned to the Plains to a champion’s welcome after one of the biggest road wins in program history. Auburn fans met the team at the Columbus airport and hundreds more greeted them outside the athletic complex late Saturday night.

“That was a special thing when we got to the airport, there was a crowd, and then when we got back here, there was a huge crowd,” Malzahn said. “That was a special deal. Saturday, we enjoyed it. I told our players and coaches they worked hard, let’s enjoy it. Once Sunday got here, that’s behind us.

“We’ve got to get back to doing what got us here: working hard. Taking it one day at a time, one game, one practice at a time. We really haven’t gotten too much into that after Saturday night.”

Malzahn’s repeatedly said “we’ve not arrived yet,” even since Saturday, looking at numerous areas for improvement. This week’s game with Florida Atlantic (2-5, 1-4 C-USA) should allow for another step forward.

“We need to keep improving. You look across college football, the teams that don’t keep improving throughout the year, it’s relevant. “There’s a lot of ups and downs and that’s our challenge. We got to keep rolling, take it one game at a time and stay focused.”

QUICK HITS: Malzahn said “Star” safety Mackenro Alexander, who left Saturday’s game wearing a neck brace after suffering a stinger, is “doing better” and it’s “possible” he may return this week. — Cornerback Kamryn Melton, who defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said would be out several weeks, remains day-to-day.