Chizik Says Tigers Look Ready for Title Test

Comments from Auburn head football coach Gene Chizik and South Carolina's Steve Spurrier are featured in this report from the Georgia Dome.

Atlanta, Ga.--Gene Chizik likes to use the poker term "all in" to describe his team's commitment to success this season. On Friday at the SEC's coaches' press conference prior to the league championship game the Auburn head coach stayed in character by holding his cards close to the chest.

There was no hint of bulletin board material. In fact, Chizik continued a theme started earlier in the week of building up the 9-3 Gamecocks his 12-0 Tigers will face on Saturday afternoon at the Georgia Dome.

A win for the Tigers will propel Auburn into its first BCS Championship Game. A win for South Carolina will give the Gamecocks their first SEC Football Championship.

Chizik said the Gamecocks appear to be playing their best football of the year and noted that the offensive line in particular has improved significantly since the Tigers won the regular season matchup 35-27 in September.

Gene Chizik and Steve Spurrier pose with the SEC Championship Trophy.

The Auburn coach said it looks like his team will be ready to play well on Saturday. "We have had some good practices this week,"nhe said. "I think our team has really been focused. I think our energy level is really high. They have been really good about week in and week out on focusing at the task at hand, which I am really proud of our team for."

Kickoff for the game from the Georgia Dome is set for approximately 3:17 p.m. CST. Television coverage is on CBS.

In other news and notes:

*Asked about the development of All-American defensive tackle Nick Fairley, Chizik said last year that Fairley had to make a big adjustment going from junior college to Auburn. Chizik said by the Georgia game that Fairley had made a lot of progress and he finished with a strong performance in the bowl victory over Northwestern. "We could see there were definitely strides being made," the coach said.

Chizik said after Fairley got off to a good start this season he gained confidence and began to believe he could become a dominant player in the SEC. The coach also said that Fairley is a "gifted" athlete.

*Chizik wouldn't say the Tigers will have an advantage over South Carolina if the game is close on Saturday, but didn't discount the possibility based on how his team has performed in the clutch this year. "I know that when we get to those situations our football team believes we can win," he said.

*Chizik said the Tigers are "nicked up, we are beat up a little bit, nothing that is going to keep anybody in our opinion from not doing their job."

Chizik talks to the team before their walk-through on Friday at the Georgia Dome.

*The Auburn coach defended his often maligned secondary noting that some of the big plays given up weren't always that group's fault. At times, he noted, it could have been a linebacker not making a play or a pass rusher missing a sack and giving the opposing quarterback too much time to throw the football.

*Chizik had high praise for South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, but added the game isn't Gene Chizik vs. Steve Spurrier. "His record speaks for itself and again I have always admired what Steve has done. It is never personal for me. It is always about the team, it's about the university, it is about another challenge for us as a group so that is really more of the way we approach it. The dynamic is simple: Auburn has a chance tomorrow to win an SEC Championship and that is all we look at."

*Chizik said after Auburn defeated Mississippi State, Clemson and South Carolina in the first month of the season that is when he and the AU coaching staff realized the Tigers had a chance to be a strong team. "What we did know at that time our team would fight and play for 60 minutes," he said.

*Spurrier, a former Heisman Trophy winner, said at the press conference that Auburn's Newton is much improved as a passer compared to when he was a backup at Florida. He noted that Newton's passing ability was the key to Auburn beating Alabama last week.

*A Heisman Trophy winner as a quarterback at Florida, Spurrier said he plans to vote for Newton to win the 2010 Heisman Trophy. The winner will be announced a week from Saturday and the coach said he believes Newton is deserving of winning the award.


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