"It is amazing feeling that we are going to Atlanta to play for the SEC Championship," says Stevens, whose 11-0 team will play the South Carolina Gamecocks on Dec. 4th in the Georgia Dome at Atlanta in league's championship game.
Asked if the Tigers advancing to the championship game in just the second year under head coach Gene Chizik is a surprise, Stevens says, "Not at all. When they (the new coaching staff) came in they told us they were going to give their best for us and they expected the same thing out of us. I feel like with the coaching staff that was put together and the chemistry of this team, it was just a matter of time."
Auburn closed its home schedule with a 49-31 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs. Following that win the players were given three days off by Chizik to rest during their first off-week of the season followed by two days of full pads practices on Wednesday and Thursday. The Tigers will wrap up the regular season on Friday at Alabama.
The Tigers had a walk-through on Friday before having most of the day off on Friday as well as taking Saturday off, too.
"We needed a nice week of rest," Stevens says of Chizik's decision. "We had been going 11 weeks strong. It was about that time."
The fifth-year senior is a key player on a veteran team that rallied from a 21-7 first quarter deficit to defeat Georgia. The linebacker says the Tigers kept their composure despite the poor first quarter.
"We knew not to panic," he says. "They came out with some stuff we were not expecting and we just knew if we tightened down and played our defense we would be able to slow those guys down."
In the final three quarters the Tigers outscored Georgia 42-10 as the offense put up more than 300 rushing yards for the sixth time in seven SEC games. Quarterback Cameron Newton also had a good game passing the football despite being the focus of a variety of negative news stories during the week.
Asked if what has been going on with Newton has been a distraction to the Tigers, Stevens says, "Not at all. We just focused in like any other week. Nothing changed in practice or anything. It didn't affect us at all."
Craig Stevens is third on the team in tackles with 48 stops, 10 behind fellow senior linebacker Josh Bynes.
Auburn's defense has had problems throughout the season defending the pass, but has come through when the game is on the line week after week. The Tigers are 11th in the SEC in pass defense giving up 244.2 yards per game through the air and are second in rush defense allowing 111.5 yards per game.
Against Georgia the Tigers blanked the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter and held UGA star receiver A.J. Green to just one reception for seven yards in the fourth period when the game was on the line.
Asked about why the defense is playing better after halftime this season, Stevens says, "I think it is just the fact that we know games are won in the second half and it comes down to what you do in the fourth quarter."
Stevens adds that the Georgia game is the latest example of the defense stepping up in the second half. "We were able to make adjustments and slow them down," he says.
The linebacker and his teammates will return to the practice field on Sunday evening as they prepare for Friday's game at Alabama in Tuscaloosa, a place where the Tigers have won on six of their seven matchups vs. the Tide.