It's A Serious Business Trip To Tuscaloosa For LB

<!--Default For Auburn is to ignore-->Auburn, Ala.--Junior middle linebacker <!--Default NodeId For Travis Williams is 1427186,2004--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:1427186]>Travis Williams</A> grew up in Columbia, S.C., but it didn't take him long for him to soak up the Auburn-<!--Default NodeId For Alabama is 745,2004--><A HREF=>Alabama</A> cross-state rivalry.

"As soon as I signed," Williams says when asked when it became a serious issue in his mind. "Once you sign, it doesn't matter if you're from Auburn or Alabama or where you're from. Once you sign for the orange and blue, that crimson--they don't like you. That's the way it is. They don't like us. We don't like them and there's no way to sugarcoat it."

Williams says his Tigers will be ready to play when they take the field in Tuscaloosa on Saturday afternoon. "They're going to come play their best game. We're going to come play our best game. It's going to be one of those smash-mouth games. Families get divided around this time."

Alabama leads the all-time series 38-29-1, but the Tigers are heavy favorites to cut into that lead and make it three wins in a row. The last time Auburn lost to Alabama was during Williams' redshirt year in 2001--a 31-7 Alabama victory in Jordan-Hare.

"I don't think I've ever felt a feeling like that as far as a whole (team) from the coaching staff to the players," Williams says. "Even though we lost pretty big to LSU last year, that game, when Alabama came in, it was like we couldn't do anything right. They really took it to us and we always keep that in the back of our heads."

Not only is the feeling of that game still lingering in the back of Williams' mind, he and his teammates are reminded of it every day. Outside of the locker room at the football complex hangs a sign that says "Remember the Feeling." One column reads 9-0, 17-7, 28-23. The other column: 31-7.

While 6-4 Alabama has pride and bragging rights on the line, Auburn will travel to Bryant-Denny Stadium with much more to lose. The 10-0 Tigers have an undefeated season and national championship hopes on the line, as well as the pride and bragging rights always associated with the intense rivalry.

"It's big," Williams says about the prospect of finishing the regular season 11-0. "Coming into the season there was a lot of talk about the defense losing so many guys, that we're small, having a new offensive coordinator coming in and having guys in different positions. So it's big to Auburn and it's big to Coach Tuberville for all the stuff he's been through. There's a lot of reward and there's a lot of things that have happened for a reason so hopefully we can go to Tuscaloosa and come out with a W."

Travis Williams is in his second season as a starter. He played outside linebacker as a sophomore and is playing middle linebacker this season.

Williams admits that through the learning process of last year's 8-5 season he and some of his teammates always thought that 2004 might turn into a special season on the Plains.

"One time we were in the locker room and we always thought this year would be better than last year," he says. "I forgot who I was talking to, but it was a handful of us. We were like, ‘Man, maybe the voters picked us a year too soon as far as being number one.' We knew we had talent, but we knew that the following year we'd have a lot more talent."

For Auburn, the road to number one runs through Tuscaloosa on Saturday, and the Tigers must be ready to face the league's leading ground attack.

"By far they are the best rushing team (on the schedule)," Williams says. "They've got one of the best tailbacks (Kenneth Darby) and they probably have the best offensive line we'll have faced so we have to be up and ready for the challenge.

"It's a lot easier knowing that they mostly run," Williams says. "The thing that might be tough is that it might be third and 10 and they'll still run. In the past we've played teams that it'll be third and seven or eight and we'll be looking for the pass."

For some fans in the state of Alabama, a victory in the Iron Bowl and a year of trash talking is just as rewarding as a national championship. And that's how Williams and the Tigers will be taking this year's game.

"From the coaches to the players, everybody--it's Alabama," Williams says. "We're not even thinking about the games after this. It's Alabama-Auburn. This is the biggest game there is. This right here, this is the championship."

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