Tigers On Target For SEC Showdown

Cornerback Carlos Rogers and Coach Tommy Tuberville talk about the SEC Championship Game and preparations for Tennessee.

Auburn, Ala.—-When the Auburn Tigers met the Tennessee Vols earlier this season in Knoxville, Coach Gene Chizik's unit put on a clinic as it forced five turnovers on the way to a 34-10 victory. Senior cornerback Carlos Rogers said that playing against two true freshmen quarterbacks that day gave Auburn the chance to do some different things and it really got the job done.

"We moved around a lot," Rogers said. "They weren't used to us moving around so much and throwing different coverages and blitzes at them. I think they were kind of rattled. Ainge (Erik Ainge) was throwing balls right to Rosegreen (safety Junior Rosegreen) and things like that. I'm pretty sure he had to be real rattled."

One cog of the defense that won't be present this time around is junior linebacker Antarrious Williams. Out for this weekend's game with a hand injury, Williams will be replaced by senior Derrick Graves in the starting lineup for the second straight game. Rogers said that the Tigers have plenty of players to take up the slack for the loss of Williams and it's just the nature of this defense to plug in another player.

"It has been the same thing throughout the year," Rogers said. "If one person goes down then the next person has been stepping up. We don't have that weak link in the defense where if this person is down we have to worry about finding someone else. People have been up for the challenge. There has been competition out there throughout the season on both sides of the ball. Derrick, Karibi (Karibi Dede), or whoever is in his place, they get just as many reps in practice so they know what to do and what's expected of them."

Currently third in the BCS standings and in need of a surprising loss by USC to UCLA or by Oklahoma to Colorado, Auburn is directly focused on winning the one title that has no dispute, that of SEC Champions. Rogers said all this team can do is continue to take care of business and let the chips fall where they may.

"It doesn't take anything off of it," Rogers said. "We've known since early in the season, with the way thing were going, that they might screw us up. I was thinking about that over the break. I don't know any SEC team that has been undefeated and not gone, but if it happens another team would be left out. If we go some other team that went undefeated the rest of the year would be left out and that's not right. We're in the championship mode playing this game. We know we have to win in order to get a chance to get there."

Quarterback Jason Campbell huddles the Tigers during Wednesday's practice.

Continuing to polish the game plan in preparation for Saturday's contest, the Tigers practiced for two hours Wednesday in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Working on all phases of the game, including special teams, Coach Tommy Tuberville said his team appears on track for Saturday's game.

"We went to the stadium to get a little game like atmosphere," Tuberville said. "We worked on all of our kicking game. We spent about 50 minutes on the game plan on both offense and defense. Everybody is ready to go. We're going to have to pull back tomorrow because we don't want to over prepare for this game. We've had a lot of time to work for it and we don't want to get stale. We just want to be able to keep our focus until Saturday. Our guys really understand what they're getting ready to get into. Everybody has fresh legs so it has been a good week."

Tennessee is coming off two lackluster victories over Vanderbilt and Kentucky the last two weeks when the Vols held on for two wins by playing well on offense and not much defense. Despite a 9-2 record, 7-1 in the SEC, the Volunteers are being looked over by much of the country in this game. That's a mistake said Tuberville.

"You can't look at any games on either side, this is the SEC Championship," he said. "You're going to get the most out of both teams and they're going to play hard. Guys that have been beat up are going to play for as long as they can go. This is the reason you practice and do all the weight lifting and running, this is it.

"They knew that they were going to win those last two games and you could tell they were working on a lot of new things," he added. "I'm sure their focus wasn't on Vanderbilt or Kentucky, their focus was on us. We will get their best game and hopefully they will get ours."

Unlike the week leading up to the Alabama game when the players were more uptight than usual, this week's practice has been more to form for the Tigers as smiles have been the order of the day for the players. Tuberville said that's something he wants to see out of his team as they prepare to play for the championship of the SEC.

"This week we're back to normal," Tuberville said. "That game is not normal when it comes to playing your rival game because you get too hyped up. I've never seen our team (like that), they were way too enthusiastic on the bus to the game and in the dressing room in pregame. If you get too enthusiastic sometimes you lose the focus of what you're there for. We've come back down to earth, that's over with. Now we've had time to prepare for this one. They're going to be fired up, but that's my job between now and Saturday, to make sure we don't peak between today and Friday and make sure we're ready to play on Saturday."

Despite rumors reported on a cable TV network that he is possibly on his way to Florida to be the next head coach, Tuberville was at Wednesday's practice and he said he's where he plans to be a for a long time. He said that his main concern is making sure his assistants are well taken care of to ensure the staff stays together as long as possible.

"That's just speculation," Tuberville said about the rumors circulating on ESPN. "I hope they let me come back here. I want to be here and my family loves it here."

A positive from Wednesday's practice was the news that Antarrious Williams may be available for Auburn's bowl game in early January. Williams said that he's hopeful he'll be able to play with a cast on his hand similar to the one he wore last season.

Auburn will practice on campus Thursday before heading to Atlanta on Friday for a walk-through in the Georgia Dome. Kickoff for Saturday's title game is scheduled for 5 p.m. CST and can be seen nationally on CBS.


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