Tuberville Knows Tough Test Awaits For AU

Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville talks about the challenge of facing LSU in Baton Rouge and how the rivalry has grown over the years.

Auburn, Ala.-–Last season Auburn's 10-9 victory over LSU set the stage for a run into the record books for the Tigers as they finished the season 13-0 and won their first SEC Championship in 15 years. This year the game has the chance to be just as influential and coach Tommy Tuberville says if it gets anywhere as big as last year's win it will be huge.

"That's one of the biggest ones of my coaching career, especially being a head coach, of the significance of putting us in the spotlight," Tuberville says. "It gave us an opportunity to build confidence with a team that we knew had a lot of talent. When you're as good as we were last year you're searching for something to happen to you to not only build confidence within your football team, but also within the framework of what you wanted to do nationally. We had that type of team."

This time around the names are a little different on both sides with many of the stars of both teams playing in the NFL this season. Also both teams come into the game with one loss while both were undefeated last season. The common denominator is the impact it will have on the SEC Western Division title. In three of the last four seasons the winner of the game has gone on to Atlanta, just one of the many reasons Tuberville says this game is special every year.

"We enjoy playing LSU whether it's here or down there, whether I was at Ole Miss or here," Tuberville says. "I think we've had good games. We've got a little bit of an edge in winning other than losing. LSU has always had good football teams. They take a lot of pride in how they play and their traditions, but again it's a football game.

"Once you tee it up, there's a lot of talk usually about this game and the past like the cigars, but once you start the game it's well played on both sides. It's hard fought and usually a very physical game. That's what we'll get over to our players this week. Don't worry about anything other than what is going to happen between the whistles. We just look forward to going down and seeing how we can play because last time we went down there we didn't play very well."

Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth is a preseason Lombardi and Outland Trophy Candidate.

Facing a team that would eventually win the national championship in 2003, Auburn fell to LSU 31-7 in Baton Rouge the last time playing in Tiger Stadium. Tuberville's Tigers also lost on the road in 2001, a game that was a Super Bowl of sorts for LSU fans after Auburn put an embarrassing 41-7 beating on LSU in 1999. That was Tuberville's first season at Auburn and following the game the Tigers smoked cigars on the turf at Tiger Stadium. Much has been made of that over the years and Tuberville says it's something he looks back on and wishes didn't happen.

"I think it was probably a mistake on our part in how we handled it," Tuberville says. "It was more of a birthday celebration than it was winning the game because I turned 45 during that game. It got a little bit out of control. We probably should have kept it in the dressing room. There has been a lot more said about it than there probably should. You look back on it and there has been earthquake games and cigar games, there has been a lot of different scenarios with this rivalry. It's usually hard fought and well played and both teams respect each other and rightly so."

The difference in 1999 and Auburn's last two trips to Baton Rouge are as different as night and day, literally. The first match-up was a day game and Auburn handled the crowd and atmosphere without much of a problem. Both 2001 and 2003 were at night and things turned out dramatically different. In fact that pretty much sums up the history of Tiger Stadium. Overall LSU has played just 42 games in its history during the day and have a record of just 17-22-3. When the game takes place under the lights its record is 191-59-3. Tuberville says there is no doubt that playing in Baton Rouge at night is one of the toughest things a team can do in the SEC.

"It's one of the most difficult because of the noise factor and how the stadium is configured," Tuberville says. "They all do in the SEC, but I would imagine if you polled most coaches this would be one of the tougher places to play because it's always full. They are always there early and stay late. The stadium gets louder each year, they keep adding seats to it, but once you get into the game that doesn't really make a lot of difference with your football team."

A physical football team year in and year out, LSU presents a big challenge for an Auburn team that continues to improve with each game. Last week Auburn got its first road game out of the way with an impressive 34-17 victory at Arkansas, but Tuberville says that this LSU team is a different animal altogether and it will be without a doubt the toughest test to date for his team.

"We know we're facing one of the teams that has been picked to win the SEC Championship at the beginning of the year. They are playing well. They've had a pretty rugged schedule to this point, but they've held their head above water. New coach Les Miles, obviously they were going to have some growing pains at the beginning of the year, but it looks like they're gelling as a football team. They've got tremendous talent, a lot of speed, a lot of quickness. That's something they have every year. It's not new to us. We're looking forward to the challenge."


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