The End Of The Ride Is Approaching For Tigers

New Orleans, La.–-The fun and games are now over with for Auburn and Virginia Tech in the Big Easy as the practices are in the books and the Nokia Sugar Bowl is just one day away. Coach Tommy Tuberville says that his team has prepared well and is ready to get the game going after almost a month between games.

Facing a team that has won eight straight games since falling to USC and North Carolina State early in the season, Auburn has its work cut out for it as the Hokies have one of the best defenses in the country combined with a potent offense.

"It has been a great and memorable week for our players and coaches," Tuberville says. "They give you a lot to do, which is a lot of fun, but as coaches we started worrying a little bit about their legs and being focused and mentally prepared for the game. Hopefully our players realize what they're about to get into. As I told them last night, we had a player meeting at about 11 p.m. before we put them to bed, the next 48 hours will be one of those moments they'll always remember. This is what they strive for and our conference champion normally plays here. They've been working real hard to get here and they're here. They have enjoyed the week and enjoyed the ride. Now it's time to finish it up."

Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer and Tuberville pose with the Sugar Bowl Trophy.

While much of the attention around the country is going to the game between USC and Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, the Sugar Bowl has basically been a non-issue for the national media. That is especially true for networks like ESPN, who devoted more time to the Rose Bowl than they've given the Sugar. Tuberville says that it doesn't really matter to his team because they're still focused on the big picture and that's an outside shot at the title.

"We talked a little bit about it," Tuberville said. "We're one of the last two games being played. No other games are being played. We'll have our own audience throughout the country. We feel like there's still one more vote. The coaches' vote automatically has to go to the Orange Bowl Champion, but there is another one or two national championship polls out there that we're going to be auditioning for tomorrow night. Our players understand that and they know it."

Monday night's 7 p.m. kickoff will be the final game for a group of Auburn seniors that have won 45 games in five seasons and 36 in the last four years. They have been a part of three SEC Western Division titles and won the first outright SEC Championship for the Tigers since 1989. Tuberville says he's anxious to see how his team responds in the final challenge of the year in a game that would give the Tigers their 13th win of the season.

"It's going to be a very emotional couple of days for our team, losing 18 seniors," Tuberville says. "They have been very instrumental in getting this football program back on its feet in the last few years and getting it to the championship level. There's a lot of emotion that will be in this game. This is a big game for us. We look forward to the challenge. It will be a major challenge and should be a great football game. Both teams have had real good years. Now it's time, after three weeks of preparation, it's time to see who's got the best team between the white lines."

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