"Obviously, we are very excited about the chance to be here," Fulmer explained. "No one expected this from us. It has been a fun team to be around and a fun team to coach--a lot of drama in the season--even going back to the decision early in the year to play those freshman quarterbacks. Some of the injuries that we have had to fight through, a couple of tough losses that we have had to fight through and this team has been very resilient to get to this point."
Along with the excitement he expressed about his team having the chance to compete for the SEC title, Fulmer added that the Auburn team is an impressive one.
"I certainly compliment what Tommy (Tuberville), his staff and his football team have done this year," Fulmer said. "They have been really exceptional as you watch them develop through the year.
"They have become, and they were before, a very multiple football team," The coach adds. "But, as the season has gone on the multiplicity has increased considerably. They use the same personnel packages in most cases, and as Jason Campbell has become more comfortable, and you can just watch it happen. And in a week's time you can't practice all of the things that they do so hopefully we are going to be fundamentally sound enough to make the adjustments as to how they approach us."
Tommy Tuberville and Fulmer pose with the SEC Championship trophy.
Fulmer added that he has been especially impressed by the way the Tigers have played on the defensive side of the ball. "Their defensive team and what they have done defensively has been incredible with the five players that they lost to the NFL," he noted. "The defensive coaches are to be commended, and Tommy (Tuberville)."
The coach said, however, that despite the serious challenge that the undefeated Tigers will present the Vols he and his team know that the season is now only 60 minutes of playing time long. "I think anybody in this conference, if you play them as a one game tournament, is a dangerous team," Fulmer explained. "Everybody knows that we are going to have to play really well to win the game and I believe that we will. It is a matter of if we can play well enough to beat a great Auburn football team."
He added that his team's biggest challenge in those 60 minutes will be to take away the quick strike ability from the Tigers' offense. "The truth of it is schemes are great and we will do everything we can to try and stop them," Fulmer said. "When those two guys (Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams) get loose you can have guys in the right place and, as I have said before, they are going to break tackles and make things happen.
"What we can't do is allow big plays, huge plays, chunks of yards and scores," the Vols coach said. "That is going to be our biggest challenge defensively, to hang in there with them and make them work for what they get."
The most tenured head football coach in the SEC said that he has really focused on the emotions of this game with his young team this week. "I have talked to them twice this past week about the incredible setting that is here at the dome for the Southeastern Conference Championship," said Fulmer, who has coached in four of the last eight SEC Championship games. "To me there is not a better setting in all of college football except for the one where we played for it all in Tempe.
"The excitement, the emotion that goes with this game and basically that we are playing a one game tournament," Fulmer added about what he had stressed to his players. "We are going in as the underdog, which we in this game haven't done that. But, we have been able to reach some of the challenges we have had in the past when we were the underdog and certainly we hope we can in this case."
The Vols' coach also said he hopes the stakes of the game and his teams' underdog status will focus his team into playing at a level he has not seen from them in a few weeks.
"There is an intensity, there is a passion that you play with--the old saying is that luck follows speed," Fulmer noted. "It also follows intensity and passion and good things happen to you when you play with speed, passion and intensity. I know we are a better football team defensively than what we played the last two ball games. I am expecting us, to the very best of our abilities, to play at a championship level because that is the kind of game that we are in."