The Stakes Are Rising For Tuberville's Tigers

The Tigers are trying to stay grounded as they go into week seven as the only undefeated SEC team.

Auburn, Ala.--The 2004 Auburn football team continues to creep up in the polls week by week as the Tigers are ranked No. 4 in both the AP Poll and ESPN Coaches Poll released Sunday. The No. 4 ranking is Auburn's highest since reaching No. 3 prior to a tie game vs. Georgia in 1994.

The Tigers began the season ranked 17th in the AP and 18th in the coaches' poll after finishing 2003 unranked.

There are currently 14 undefeated Division I teams, nine from BCS conferences, but head coach Tommy Tuberville said he isn't concerned about how the BCS standings will shake out at the end of the season.

"I don't even know what the formula for the BCS is anymore," Tuberville said. "They change it so much. We haven't talked with our players about polls. We haven't worried about it and it doesn't make a lot of difference. All of that is out of our hands. The only thing in our hands is to try to play better each week and give our team an opportunity to win."

According to ESPN.com's recent BCS projections, Auburn is fourth behind Southern California, Oklahoma and Miami, the same order of the two major polls.

"It's encouraging that people have noticed what we've done," Tuberville said. "We've played a few pretty good games and made improvements as the season has gone on. We hope to continue to work our way up, but right now we're just worrying about Arkansas."

CBS.Sportsline.com and CollegeFootballNews.com have Auburn facing Miami in the Sugar Bowl in their bowl projections released Sunday. Auburn has not been to a BCS Bowl--Rose, Fiesta, Sugar and Orange--since the system was implemented in 1998.

Since then two SEC schools, Tennessee in 1998 and LSU in 2003, have won the BCS Championship Game, and Florida won the Bowl Alliance Championship Game in 1996.

Auburn beat Louisiana Tech 52-7 Saturday as the last non-conference opponent on the regular season schedule. The Tigers are 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the conference as they get ready to play the Arkansas Razorbacks (3-2, 1-1) Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be nationally televised on CBS.

"I haven't seen them much this year," Tuberville said. "(Quarterback) Matt Jones is very athletic. He gives his offense a chance to make big plays. He is all over the field and can really run. He'll be the fastest guy on the field Saturday on both teams. He's very strong, a smart player and a big competitor. All of the players around him play up to his potential. He makes everybody on the team much better.

"It's all built around him--same as last year," Tuberville added. "He's going to run the option, do some sprint out and play action. Their offense is the same as last year, just wide open and spread out. They throw the ball down field."

Arkansas had blowout wins against the Tigers in three of the first four years that Tuberville was head coach at Auburn, and the Razorbacks' offensive philosophy under head coach Houston Nutt hasn't changed. In 2004 the Auburn defense, which is built on quickness, will have its speed tested by the Arkansas quarterback. The linebackers are expected to be tested by Jones.

"All of our linebackers keep getting better and better," Tuberville said. "We're very athletic at linebacker, and when you're athletic you make a lot of plays. There's no secret to what we do, but we do a good job against the run at fitting blocks and getting off blocks using our hands.

"(Junior middle linebacker) Travis Williams is all over the field," he added. "All of our linebackers are like defensive backs--they can play run but they can play man coverage on inside receivers and running backs. Travis has been a leader for us. He works hard, the players really respect what he does, and he always comes to practice in the same frame of mind every day. He comes to get better."

Defensively, the Razorbacks will show a different scheme than what they have in the past. "They've gone to more of a 4-4, a lot like we used to run when we first got here," Tuberville said. "It's a 4-4-3. They still run some of the 3-5-3 but they've gone to more of a 4-4 without a noseguard, a little bit like Louisiana-Monroe ran.

"They play a lot of eight-man fronts with man coverage and force your hand. If you can throw it deep like Florida did (against Arkansas), you get one on one a lot. They're going to try to take the run away first."


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