With an off-week in advance of the championship game, Coach Tommy Tuberville gave his team the week off for Thanksgiving. Reporting on Friday to begin getting ready for the Vols, the Tigers were a rested team says senior running back Ronnie Brown.
"It was good," Brown says. "It gave everybody a chance to go home and relax and chill with their families and get their mind away from football for a week."
In doing so the Tigers got a chance to heal some of the bumps and bruises that have built up on a long 11-game season. The only possible drawback of taking a week off is losing the momentum built up this season by winning week after week. Brown says the advantages far outweigh the negatives in this situation for Auburn.
"We get a little bit more time after the Alabama game to look at more film and some of the things they've done lately," Brown says. "I know we were watching their last game versus Vanderbilt. It gives us the opportunity to watch a little more film as players and as coaches it gives you a little more time to implement a strategy. I think it's to our advantage."
Brown has been an advantage himself for Auburn this season. With good health, he has seen increased playing time. Along with fellow senior running back Carnell Williams, he has given the Tigers one of the most potent offensive backfields in the country. Add in quarterback Jason Campbell and you have an explosive trio of veteran offensive performers who have led Auburn to near the top of the SEC in every offensive statistic.
"It's been exciting," Brown says. "When I first came in we went to the SEC Championship in 2000. That was when we got to taste a little bit of success. Between then and now we've had a couple of seasons where we didn't do like we expected like last year. It has been up and down, but for the most part it has paid off this season."
One of the top games this season for Brown and the Tigers came in a 34-10 win over Tennessee in Knoxville. In that game Auburn jumped out to a quick 31-3 halftime lead and coasted the rest of the way for the win. Brown was outstanding against the Vols with 57 yards rushing on 13 carries and a touchdown while also adding 79 yards receiving on six catches. Brown says that it's tough to change what worked so well in the first go around against a team.
"They've seen some of the things we've done so we'll probably have to mix it up a little bit," Brown says. "They'll probably be expecting some of the stuff, like Alabama. We're going to have to mix it up, but pretty much keep the same game plan and outplay them.
"I think we're going to have to go and see how things are and then make adjustments during the game," Brown adds. "For the most part it's the same game plan. We may have to spread them out a little more and get some down the field plays to the receivers to get them softened up on the defensive side of the ball."
Against Alabama last week the Tigers couldn't get anything going early offensively because the Crimson Tide defense focused on eliminating Brown and Williams in the passing game. Brown says that Auburn is expecting the same kind of plan this week against the Vols and the Tigers are determined to play better this week.
I think it keeps everybody grounded, on our side of the ball at least," Brown says. "I know for a fact that against Georgia we went out and played pretty good and then the next week we had a little bit of a letdown in the first half. We know that we're going to have to come out and play each quarter. You really just can't go out there and show up and expect to play well on the offensive side of the ball. We've got to eliminate some of the mistakes and turnovers and penalties we had early in the Alabama game."
Following Auburn's impressive win at Tennessee several Vol players had some interesting comments about the game and the outcome. Linebacker Kevin Burnett said "the best team didn't win tonight" while safety Jason Allen later said "they're not God's gifts to football" about Brown and Williams. Brown says that comments like those have made Auburn excited to play in this game, but in the end you're excited because it's for a championship.
"I think we're a little bit more excited about this game for the simple fact that we've got an 11-0 season," Brown says. "All that will go down the drain though if we go out and lose the SEC Championship game. Everybody's mindset is good and we're all excited about this one.
"He'll get a chance to prove that this next week coming up," Brown says about Burnett. "For me that's just a motivation factor. Like I said, they'll get the opportunity to do it again. I'm excited about the opportunity, especially for Burnett and Allen."
One of 18 seniors on Auburn's team, including walk-ons, Brown has been around and been a part of both the good and bad times with the Tigers. He says that winning this game would be a big way to send off this senior class in its last SEC game.
"It would mean a lot," Brown says. "We've been here for a while, some of us seniors for five years like me and Jason (Jason Campbell) and Rosegreen (Junior Rosegreen). I think it just tops everything off that we've been through in our five years. We got to experience some of the ups and the downs. Everybody will be excited about that."