Auburn, Ala.--On Wednesday the Chick-fil-A Bowl officially extended its invitation to the Auburn Tigers with Coach Tommy Tuberville accepting for the university. Just back from the National Football Foundation festivities in New York, Tuberville took time to thank the bowl selection committee and also talked about the match up with Clemson coming up on New Year's Eve at 6:30 p.m. CST in the Georgia Dome.
"On behalf of Dr. (Jay) Gogue, the president of our university, Gary (Stokan) and Steve (Robinson) we accept this invitation with a lot of enthusiasm. We had a great time in 2001 and we're looking forward to coming back. It is one of the better games you'll go attend and be a part of as a player, a coach and a fan. It's always fun to spend time around the city with a lot of things to do for our players. It should be a great time. Our players will be excited. It's also an opportunity to play a game against another conference that is well known and will be represented by Clemson, who we watch quite often. We watch the films and see what they do and how they do it. We recruit against them quite a bit. They are well coached. It will be a great match."
Facing off against a Clemson team that finished the year 9-3 overall, including wins over Florida State, Maryland, Wake Forest and South Carolina, Clemson is a solid football team on both sides of the ball. Tuberville says his team is in for a big challenge coming up in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
"They had a good year," Tuberville says. "They had some games they would love to have back, as well as us. We didn't have the year that obviously we would have hoped to of getting to Atlanta. We finished off strong. I thought our team got much as the year went on. Our players competed, played, and practiced hard. Whenever you finish up your season and beat your state rival it really means a lot.
"They are very similar to what we do," Tuberville adds on Clemson. "They run the football. I know they have two very good running backs. I have kept up with them in their careers over the last couple of years and how they've played. They do a lot of things offensively. They spread the field with multiple formations. They do throw the ball, but they also live on the run, very similar philosophy to our team. Defensively they are very aggressive. They recruit speed on defense. They are well coached. This staff that they've had there, starting with Tommy, they've kept their philosophy. They haven't changed a whole lot."
The bowl game in Atlanta makes it eight straight for the Auburn program under Tuberville and 34th overall bowl appearance for the Auburn program. Since the 1974 Gator Bowl, Auburn is 13-6-1 in bowl games. Under Tuberville the Tigers have won four of their last five bowl games and for this year's senior class it's a chance to reach a milestone few classes in the country accomplish.
"We had 15 or 16 seniors that have done a great job for us," he adds. "This game will represent a milestone for them. If they have the opportunity to win this game they will have won 50 games in their five years at Auburn, which is very, very hard to do in this conference."
Playing against Clemson in a bowl game is big for a number of different reasons, but the biggest of which may be recruiting. Not only are there several players that both teams are fighting for this year, such as running back Eric Smith from Seffner, Fla., but there are also players on both teams that were recruited by each school Tuberville says that makes for a fun game for everyone involved because of the familiarity between the players and coaches.
"This is a true rival game," Tuberville says. "I think we start playing them home and home a couple of years from now. On the other side of that in recruiting we played Nebraska last year and there was no carry over in terms of players they had on their team. We didn't recruit very few if any. The same thing with Wisconsin a couple of years before that. There's not a lot of carry over with a lot of Big 10 teams you play when you go South and play in Florida.
"There is some carry over here," he adds. "There are several players on their team that we looked at and recruited. We've looked at probably most of their players on film at one time or another in their high school careers. Some of our guys have probably played with or against some of the players from Clemson's team. I think that makes it fun. It makes it a little more intriguing for your players."
Playing in the Georgia Dome and just a short drive from Auburn is also a good experience Tuberville notes. In addition to it being a great atmosphere with the game already a hard sellout, he adds that it's a chance for his team and especially the young players to get a feel for playing in a place that is their goal to reach every year at Auburn.
"It will give some of our younger players some insight on the stadium there, the dome," Tuberville says. "It's an opportunity to play there. Hopefully after this opportunity we look forward to working very hard and getting back to playing in the SEC Championship game, which is played in this dome."