As the Tigers prepare to play the Capital One Bowl on Monday as a solid favorite vs. the Wisconsin Badgers, Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville says he won't be surprised if the trend of close finishes continues in Orlando.
"We have had two games here at the Capital One Bowl and both of them have come down to the last couple of minutes," Tuberville says of his team's loss to Michigan and victory over Penn State. "I would expect this one to do the same thing."
The Tigers dropped a 31-28 decision to Michigan of the Big 10 on Jan. 1, 2001 in the bowl that was then called the Florida Citrus Bowl. On Jan. 1, 2003 the Tigers won a defensive struggle 13-9 vs. Penn State. of the Big 10. Since that day, Auburn has played just one game vs. a Big 10 opponent as the Tigers defeated Wisconsin 28-14 the following season at the Music City Bowl in Nashville.
Tuberville says that the wins by underdogs this month haven't been a big surprise. "You see this a lot every year where there are upsets in bowl games and there should be because this is kind of like playing the first year of the game," he says. "You are not going to be at your best.
"Sometimes you are going to lose the attention of your players depending on how you address practice," he notes. "You might have an extra guy injured or another guy coming back who might help your team overcome some things you were not able to get done late in the season. That is what is great about bowl games. This is not a do-or-die situation for any teams other than the national championship game, USC vs. Texas."
The Tigers wrapped up their on the field preparations on New Year's Eve with a light workout tuning up the game plan for the 9-3 Badgers. Auburn, which is 9-2, can position itself for a potential top five national ranking in the final polls with a victory. AU is currently ranked seventh in both major polls while the Badgers are 21st and 22nd.
"We want to enjoy the bowl week," Tuberville says. "Obviously we want to win. We have worked hard. We think it is a jump-start to the next season. This is always an attractive bowl game here at the Capital One because it brings two very good teams together because when you come to this game you have had to overcome a lot of things and there are a lot of people who want to come to this one. This will be a very good football game."
Auburn's coach says the players have enjoyed their stay in Orlando. "It has been a great time here. The attractions, everybody knows those. Our players have taken full advantage.
"We have had good practices," he adds. "The weather has been cooperating. We had a little rain one day. We decided going into this bowl we were going to be very physical in our practices at home at Auburn and when we came here. The first three days were very physical. We had some guys get beat up, but we wanted to get back to the speed of the game.
"We have the philosophy that we go good vs. good. We don't just go against scout teams all of the time so our first team offense has done a lot of work against our first team defense and vice versa. It has been good to watch our guys work and concentrate.
"We still have quite a bit of time to sit around and think about our game plan, but it is all in, ready to go," Auburn's coach adds. "We feel good about what we have done."
The Tigers and Badgers will kick off at noon CST on Monday in a game that will be televised nationally by ABC. The game is not a sellout and tickets will be available at the stadium on Monday. The weather is expected to be excellent with a forecastof 79 degrees and a very slight chance of rain.
"We are getting ready to play a good Wisconsin team," Tuberville says. "They kind of remind me of us. They have had a few ups and downs, but have been consistent and found ways to win. It has been one of those years for Barry (Coach Barry Alvarez) to have to replace a lot of guys and build his football team back to try to compete with what they had last year. We are very comparable teams."
"Coaches can really lose this game to me," Tuberville adds. "I have been to bowl games like this where you can lose by over-coaching. You let players play bowl games and go out and do what they have done all year long, don't try to put too many fancy things in, don't get too much in where you do lose your consistency.
"We went back and looked at what we did against Wisconsin in the Music City Bowl a few years ago. I thought both teams were very similar to what they had done all year long. Our philosophies are the same. We try to very physical, we try to put as much speed on the field as we can. It should be a good ball game."
Tommy Tuberville (left) and Barry Alvarez laugh while they pose with the Capital One Bowl Trophy on Saturday.
The strength of the Wisconsin team is its offense and Tuberville says he is impressed. "I think this is one of the better offenses we will face this year," he says. "In the SEC we all had trouble on offense. Seems like there were a lot of young guys on that side of the ball, new coaches and I think it was a transition year. This is probably the most consistent offense we will face all year.
"Wisconsin has had some injuries on defense and had to replace players. Both teams are very similar. It's fitting these two teams are playing each other to end the season.
"In some ways, we probably overachieved. We were able to take advantage of some plays and get some wins…same way with Wisconsin. Against Georgia, we had a tough situation and found a way to win at the end. Same way with Wisconsin against Minnesota…they found a way to win. Similar teams, similar situations, similar finishes. It's fitting they are playing in this game."
Bowl Notes: The Tigers have a 12:30 a.m. curfew on New Year's Eve, but have to be at the hotel for a team snack from 11 p.m. to noon. Instead of their normal early morning workouts, the team will get to sleep in on New Year's Eve with nothing scheduled until an 11 a.m. meeting...Fielding a question at the Capital One Bowl press conference on New Year's Eve about who would win the Rose Bowl, Tuberville said he didn't know, but he noted that Texas defensive coordinator Gene Chizik did a good job of containing the Southern Cal offense when Chizik was defensive coordinator for the Tigers. "He has got his hands full--big time--but he knew that. He has coached against USC a couple of times and did a real good job both times...maybe held them to the least yards of any team since we played that game."...Parking spots at the stadium lots are already sold out so officials are urging fans to take free shuttle buses to the stadium from the TD Waterhouse Centre and from Downtown Orlando at 78 West Central Blvd. The shuttle service begins at 9 a.m.