McNeill, Tigers Wrap Up Preparations for Bulldogs

Big Marcus McNeill explains why Auburn vs. Georgia is a big deal to him and his teammates.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn wrapped up on-the-field preparations for Georgia with a longer than usual Thursday practice as the offense and defense rehearsed their game plans for Saturday's showdown vs. their football oldest rival.

The Tigers worked for an hour and half at the football complex before the most important game of the Tommy Tuberville Era as the Tigers try to move to 10-0 and stay in the hunt for a national title. Georgia brings an 8-1 record into the contest.

Marcus McNeill has started since his true freshman season.

The players didn't show any signs of big-game nerves at Thursday's practice. Although head coach Tommy Tuberville tried to down-play the significance of the contest, one of his biggest players, junior offensive tackle Marcus McNeill says the Tigers vs. Bulldogs matchup is a special one.

"Playing Georgia is a real big game for me," McNeill says. "It is a real big rivalry game for other guys on our team from Georgia. We have been playing them for more than 100 years so everybody really respects the game. With both teams ranked so high this year, it is going to really add to the atmosphere around this weekend."

Auburn is ranked third in both major polls and must win to stay in the hunt for a berth in the Orange Bowl, home of the BCS national championship game. Georgia is trying to get into the BCS mix with rankings of five and eight in the major polls.

"You want to win every game, but when you go against a team like Georgia from your home state, that adds even more to it," McNeill says. "I went home during the off-week and a lot of people were talking junk to me saying Georgia is going to beat up on us. You just smile and walk on because you don't want to start anything. We just want to play our best game of the season. If we do that, I feel like we will come out pretty good."

McNeill will likely have one of the toughest assignments of any Auburn player. He is expected to be matched up against Georgia All-American defensive end David Pollack. "Me and Troy Reddick are going to get a chance to go at him," McNeill says. "He is a spectacular player. We are going to have to out there and be fundamentally sound."

McNeill says there is no down-playing what this game means to the Tigers. "We want to go out there and play this game like it is the national championship game," he says. "It's the biggest game of our life."

Tuberville says having two weeks off really helped his team get some much needed rest, a point that McNeill agrees on with his coach. "A couple of days off really helped us," McNeill says.

Tuberville says the Tigers look like a fresher team on the practice field all week. "Everybody looks a 100 percent healthy and fired up," the head coach says. "It was a great two weeks (since the Ole Miss game) and we need to play a game."

McNeill says that to be successful the Tigers need to play the way they have all year. "Everybody on the team is real hungry," he notes. "We are going to use that to our advantage. We started off at the bottom and we are scratching and fighting our way up to the top."

Personally, the season has been a good one for McNeill, who has overcome back problems that plagued him last year. His coaches say he is having an All-SEC caliber fall.

"I am very pleased with the overall season, but if I don't continue that I am not going to be happy with myself," McNeill says. "I just want to go out every game and play to the level I played before."

He says the whole offensive line is trying to take the same approach. "We are trying to stay humble as a group and keep working to get better each week," he says.

The Tigers will leave for LaGrange, Ga., on Friday and return to campus on Saturday for their traditional Tiger Walk to the stadium, which is scheduled for two hours and 20 minutes before kickoff this week. AU officials are asking fans who attend the Tiger Walk to give the players plenty of room to make the walk up Donahue Drive because a huge crowd of people is expected there on Saturday prior to the 2:30 p.m. kickoff.

Tickets to the game are extremely tough to find even though it is being televised nationally on CBS.


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