Atlanta, Ga.--It's hard to imagine a better finish to his home football career than the one Josh Thompson had against archrival Alabama back on Nov. 24 in a 17-10 Auburn victory. Playing his usual defensive tackle/nose position the senior made a team-high 12 tackles in the win, his second double-digit tackle game in a very strong final year for the Tigers.
Now Thompson and his teammates are preparing for the final game of the season, and of a career, for a group of seniors looking to win its 50th game in five seasons at Auburn and 42nd win in the last four years, both of which would be the most in Auburn history. For that to happen Auburn's defense will have to play well against a Clemson offense that has been very good this season.
Featuring talented and efficient quarterback Cullen Harper, running backs James Davis and C.J. Spiller, as well as playmaking wide receivers Aaron Kelly and Tyler Grisham, the Clemson Tigers have been one of the more potent units in the country all season. Thompson says it's going to be a challenge for the defense.
"They've got a great offense and great running backs," Thompson says. "Their offense line is pretty big. The quarterback is really accurate."
The chance to go out a winner is something that Thompson and his teammates are looking forward to, but they are also looking for yet another bowl victory at Auburn. In his previous four years Thompson has been a part of three victories with the only loss coming to Wisconsin following the 2005 season in Orlando. Thompson says that game gave the team a renewed sense of just exactly what a bowl game is supposed to be about.
"I think we kind of did ourselves in while we were in Orlando," Thompson says. "We had a lot of activities planned and it was just go, go, go the whole time. When we got there we didn't feel rested and didn't feel good about the game. Any team you play in a bowl game is going to be tough. They prepare just like we do. It's a totally different game. That game we just weren't prepared. We've got a good record in bowl games and I think we'll do pretty good in this one."
For the second time in Thompson's career Auburn will play in a dome for a bowl game after playing in the Sugar Bowl following the 2004 season. While much of Auburn's team has never played in the Georgia Dome for a game even though the team was there just three years ago for the SEC Championship game, Thompson says he's had plenty of chances to suit up in that arena and is looking forward to one final game there.
"I played there in high school twice and then in the SEC Championship," Thompson says. "It's fun. I think they've changed the turf, thank goodness. That old turf was pretty bad. It's a fun time. It's a good environment. You don't have to deal with the actual environment because it's closed. It's a good time."
The Chick-fil-A Bowl game against Clemson is a chance at history for Thompson and his fellow seniors, but it's also a chance to glimpse the future of Auburn football as new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin's system will be on display for the first time with the Tigers. While Thompson says he's not sure how much of it to expect, he knows one thing and that is it's going to be exciting.
"It's going to be different," Thompson says. "We don't really know too much about what we're getting into, but as far as I hear from what he's ran in the past it's a get up and go offense. It's going to be a fun time."