Tiger Defender Can't Wait For Saturday's Kickoff

Atlanta, Ga.--Despite a relatively easy win over Tennessee two months ago in Knoxville, Auburn noseguard Tommy Jackson says he is expecting a serious battle on Saturday in the Georgia Dome when his 11-0 Tigers and the 9-2 Vols square off for the title of SEC champion.

In the first meeting, the Tigers intercepted five Tennessee passes as the Auburn defense confused freshman quarterbacks Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer. Both have been sidelined with injuries and junior Rick Clausen is scheduled to start on Saturday for UT.

"You still have to respect the quarterback's play-making ability," Jackson says. "You have seen what he has been able to do. The past several weeks he has come up big for them. If you give any quarterback too much time he will make plays. It is really important for us to get back there and try to shake him up a bit."

Jackson says he can't wait for the kickoff to arrive. "It is an honor to play in the championship game," he says. "We are very excited about it. People had written us off and now we are playing for the SEC Championship, which is one of the biggest things that has happened to any of us. We are glad to have a chance to play on the big stage."

The Auburn noseguard predicts the Vols will be excited about the game, too. "They will have a different sense of urgency," he predicts. "That is where we have to come in and make sure we execute our defense the right way from top to bottom. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win the game."

Jackson says he believes the Auburn defensive front has improved since the first Tennessee game on Oct. 2nd. "I think we have found ourselves now," he says. "I think we are more comfortable out there than we were early in the season."

Tommy Jackson is having a strong season in his first year as a starter.

He says the young ends are playing significantly better than they did in early October. "They have done a good job," he notes. "The young guys have really contributed as first year players. Being so young, it is good to see them come in and play an important role. We feel pride in what they are doing like a big brother and a little brother. That is the way it is around here."

Jackson, who is known as "T.J." to his teammates and coaches, says he is well aware that some of the Tennessee players have predicted a victory in the championship game despite being smacked 34-10 by the Tigers in the first meeting.

"We are very motivated, but we don't get into mud-slinging and trash-talking," Jackson says. "That doesn't win ball games. We know that. The big thing for us is to go out and get the opportunity to play them again. We can't wait to play.

"As far as why we won or why they didn't, talking is not going to solve or prove anything about that. We are just going to try our best to win this ball game against a Tennessee team that is going to come ready to play some football. They are going to have a lot of revenge on their mind so we are going to have to weather the storm."

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