The senior center says he and his teammates need to turn their full attention to Saturday's final game of the regular season, a road trip to play the scandal-plagued Alabama Crimson Tide. Since Nowland will be going against the Tide's team strength, the defensive front, he will be tested early and often in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.
"They are pretty good," he says of the Tide defensive linemen, many who the Tigers played against last year. "They look real good on film. They are strong, real aggressive kids who play hard the whole game."
Nowland and the Tigers just finished a physical battle with the now 10-1 Georgia Bulldogs, who clinched the SEC East title with a 24-21 comeback victory over the Tigers last Saturday. Auburn, which is 7-4 overall and 4-3 in the SEC West, is still alive in the race for the divisional crown as the Tigers prepare to play the Crimson Tide.
Alabama brings a 9-2 record into the contest, but will be home for the holidays as part of its penalties for major NCAA sanctions dished out for rules violations. Because of that probation, the Tide is ineligible for the SEC West title, the SEC Championship Game or a postseason bowl. Auburn is bowl-bound, although the particular locale is yet to be determined. However, no game on the 2002 schedule is any bigger for Nowland and the Tigers than the annual game nicknamed "The Iron Bowl," particularly after losing in embarrassing fashion to an underdog Bama team last year at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Ben Nowland snaps the football to quarterback Jason Campbell.
The Tigers and Tide will play at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday in a contest that will be televised nationally by CBS. "The game means a lot," Nowland says. "It is the last time I will ever get to suit up in the blue and orange and play the Crimson Tide so it is an important game, a big game."
Nowland adds that it is important for the Auburn offensive front to come out strong and stay strong for four quarters. "I think that is the key this week, really," he says. "We are the healthiest unit probably on the whole team. We need to go out and have our best game of the season against these guys if we want anything to happen."