For Auburn and Gene Chizik it's a huge step for a program that has felt jilted several times over the years including six years ago when the Tigers went undefeated and were left out of the title game. Chizik said it's a little redemption for he and the Auburn family to have a shot this year.
"There are so many people involved in this," Chizik said. "Our fans have been waiting so long for this opportunity. Our players and coaches, a year ago when we started on this adventure was our goal. This is everybody's goal. Four months ago when we started over 120 teams, their goal was to play in this game. I think it's huge for our university, for our players and coaches, and it's huge for the Auburn family. We couldn't be more excited about it."
Auburn advanced after going through the tough Southeastern Conference unscathed while playing one of the nation's toughest schedules. The Tigers capped things off in style on Saturday in Atlanta with a 56-17 thrashing of South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game. The Tigers are number one in the Harris Poll and also tops in the Computer ranking while coming in second to Oregon in the USA Today Coaches Poll, just 13 points behind the Ducks.
Oregon vaulted to the top of the rankings early in the year after starting out in the Top 10 of several polls and haven't looked back since then. Averaging 49.33 points and 573.50 per game, the Ducks have played just one game decided by less than 11 points. That was a two-point win at California. Auburn senior defensive tackle Zach Clayton said the opportunity to play such as dynamic offense is something they're looking forward to. He added that seeing his own offense every day in practice should do nothing but help as they get ready for the showdown in the desert.
"Going against our offense will help," Clayton said. "We're definitely going to have to do some things during practice to get used to that type of tempo on a regular basis. It's one of those things we'll have to address in practice."
For Auburn it's an opportunity to continue its run to a national title while silencing doubters from across the country. Two years and one day after the resignation of coach Tommy Tuberville, the Tigers won their first SEC title in six years and will now have a chance to play for it all in Glendale. Clayton said it's a special season and a special group of guys that make up this Tiger team and he's proud of all they've done.
"It's one of those things that is really special for the senior class," Clayton said. "I'm just very proud of the group we have as a team and the group of seniors we have, just based on the leadership role we've taken this season."
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