"We're just glad we won," defensive lineman Tommy Jackson said. "It was a hard fought football game. We're the SEC Champions and 12-0. No one in Auburn history had ever won 12 games and a SEC Championship. Another record is we beat Alabama, LSU, Tennessee and Georgia in the same year. That's another record there. It's just really exciting."
Unlike many of Auburn's games this season, Saturday the Tigers had to fight and claw for everything they got against a very hungry Tennessee team they had defeated 34-10 earlier in the year. Giving up an uncharacteristic big play in the running game to Gerald Riggs and a load of rushing yards in the second half, the defense was bailed out by a strong game from quarterback Jason Campbell and the Auburn offense. Jackson said that's what has made this team so strong all season, a team effort every week out.
Travis Williams shows what he thinks the Tigers should be doing in early January.
"We talked all year about fighting hard and sticking with each other," Jackson says. "That's when you do it. It's easy to say it, but when it comes hard times you have to do it. That's when a team steps up. We're "Hard Fighting Soldiers". That's the song we sing and we're going to stick by that. Anyone that ever won a championship never did it easy. No championship is easy. We were playing a Tennessee team we had beaten earlier in the year. It's hard to beat a team twice in one year. They came ready to play and so did we."
While Auburn was busy battling a scrappy Vol team that had won nine games on the season, halfway across the country the Oklahoma Sooners were manhandling an average Colorado team on the way to the Big 12 Championship. Jackson said that he felt like Auburn has done enough all season to earn a shot at the title, but winning the SEC is glory enough for the moment.
"That's not my decision, but I'm biased," Jackson says. "All you can do is go out every week, play hard and hope for the best. That's what happened. Whatever happens from that we'll just have to deal with it. We're playing as a team and a coaching staff and we won a championship. That's what we wanted."
Auburn earned the SEC title on the field, something they likely won't get to do for the BCS championship. Ironically the Tigers find themselves in nearly the same situation as USC was in last year, although the Trojans were in first in the polls. Linebacker Travis Williams said that all the love shown to the Tigers by the fans from schools all over the country has given him a new name for the Tigers as they head into bowl season.
"We really look at ourselves as "The People's Champion" because if you gave a poll everybody wants to see Auburn play," Williams says. "It's up to the BCS, but deep down we know we're champions.
"Last year, personally, I thought USC was the champion. Everybody wanted to see USC there. This year I think the Auburn Tigers, we're America's Team. We just have to wait on the BCS. We're probably the best team that has come through Auburn. The commissioner said we may be the best team in the SEC ever. We carry ourselves with class on and off the field. That's something you don't see in a lot of teams."
With or without a visit to Miami, the Tigers will hold their heads high as they prepare to likely face Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, La. Jackson said that no matter what happen the rest of the way it can't take away a perfect 12-0 season and winning a SEC Championship.
"I love my teammates," Jackson says. "Everybody has an important role on this team and that's what we have, we have role players. I love it. This is the best moment of my life, a lot of our lives. I'm just excited."
"We were just playing football and hooking up," Williams added. "We call this thing "Hook Up" where you connect with one another and you never break that chain. We don't have any weak links. It's just one of those teams. We were destined to go 12-0 and now 13-0. We've got one more game."