Campbell: "One You Want To Play In"

Auburn fifth-year senior quarterback Jason Campbell talks about the Georgia series and this year's game.

Auburn, Ala.--What could be the toughest challenge of the 2004 season awaits on Saturday as the Auburn Tigers prepare for a visit from their oldest rival, the Georgia Bulldogs, who have won the last two meetings with quarterback Jason Campbell and the Tigers.

This year, the stakes are even bigger for the Tigers as they must win to keep alive their chance of competing for the national championship.

"Everyone senses it," Campbell says. "They know what's at stake for us. We had our senior meeting with Coach Tuberville (Tommy Tuberville) and then we called a team meeting with just players only. We talked about staying focused and being ready to play and getting back on track."

Campbell throws a pass against LSU earlier this year.

Two years ago Auburn was in a similar situation, entering the Georgia game needing only a victory to wrap up a berth in the SEC Championship game. Leading for much of the contest, Auburn gave up a touchdown pass on fourth and 15 from David Greene to Michael Johnson that snatched away a win and Auburn's hopes of winning in Atlanta.

"I think that game hurt us the most out of all the close ones we have lost because it would have given us the opportunity to go to Atlanta two years ago and play for the SEC Championship," Campbell says. "The reason it hurts is because it was a fourth down play. They caught it in the back of the endzone. The guys played so hard that game on offense, defense and special teams. That was probably one of the hardest hitting games I've been in since I've been here. That one kind of hurt."

Last season didn't come down to the wire in Athens. Instead Georgia took the game over early and kept a foot on the Tigers the rest of the way, winning 26-7. Auburn had just 259 yards of total offense, with only 81 coming on the ground. Campbell says that while the team remembers last year, it has nothing to do with this year's game.

"It was a disaster, totally," Campbell says. "Getting beat the way we did last year wasn't Auburn football. It wasn't us. I think it had a lot to do with how we had gotten beat by Ole Miss the week before.

"There is a tremendous difference this year," Campbell adds. "Georgia is a great team and we're a great team. I think last year both of us were struggling at the same time. We were probably struggling worse than they were at this time last year, but I think both teams have had very successful seasons to this point. It's going to be a game where we're going to be two heavyweights going head to head. They're a top five team and we're a top five team. It's just another one of those top matchups."

The game usually brings out the best in Auburn when both teams are highly ranked. In 1983 third-ranked Auburn took a 13-7 victory over fourth-ranked Georgia in Athens. This will be the 13th time that both schools are ranked in the Top 25 coming into the game with Auburn holding a 10-2 advantage in those games. Campbell says he can already sense a difference this week.

"I can feel it," Campbell says. "I could tell at practice (Sunday). We came out with a lot of enthusiasm. The whole practice was great. I think the guys had the right mentality. It was probably the best I've seen us practice in the last seven weeks."

A good week is needed on both offense and defense as Georgia comes in riding high following an impressive 62-17 victory over Kentucky on the road Saturday. The Bulldogs are averaging 432.1 yards per game and giving up just 293.2 and Campbell says that defensively Georgia is as good as the Tigers will face this season.

"They are a good team," Campbell says. "They've got some guys that can make some plays. They are a hard hitting defense. They play a good, sound defense. Basically you just have to play hard because that's the way they play on defense. It's a hard-nosed type style."

There is little doubt that either Campbell or Greene is going to be the SEC's top quarterback this season. Campbell has completed 114-173 for 1,724 yards and 14 touchdowns with just three interceptions this season. Last week Greene won for the 40th time in his career as a starting quarterback and is 135-227 for 2,005 yards with 16 touchdowns and just one interception this season. Campbell says that quarterback battle isn't something he's concerned with, just winning the game.

"It's something I haven't thought about," Campbell says. "I just feel like if I go out there and play my game and be myself and just have fun, I think everything will take care of itself. It's just one of those games where two good quarterbacks will be playing against each other and two great teams. As a quarterback in college this is one you want to play in."

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