UNC’s Peppers feels ACC gets no respect

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 30, 2001

Sports Editor

Auburn’s offensive line has had its trouble with one All-American defensive end already this season.

Syracuse’s Dwight Freeny had his way with the Tigers’ front five in an earlier 31-14 Orangemen win.

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Now they’ll have to deal with Lombardi Trophy winner Julius Peppers and North Carolina.

Auburn (7-4 overall, 5-3 SEC) and the Tar Heels (7-5, 5-3 ACC) square off on Monday night in the Peach Bowl. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Although North Carolina had its share of big wins this year, (after an 0-3 start UNC came back to bomb both Florida State, 41-9, and Clemson, 38-3), Peppers still feels the ACC is the "Rodney Dangerfield" of college football.

He looks to change that against Auburn with a win.

"I think it will get us a little bit of respect we’re trying to get," Peppers told the Mobile Register, "beating a team from the almighty SEC."

But Auburn, after starting the year with a 6-1 record, which included a 23-20 shocker of then-ranked No. 1 Florida, may not be one of the SEC’s best.

The Tigers won just one ball game in their last four outings. The losses were all routs, to Arkansas, SEC champ LSU, and a stinging 31-7 home defeat at the hands of nemesis Alabama.

AU coach Tommy Tuberville hopes to build some momentum for next year with a win on Monday.

"Our seniors, as well as everybody, are excited about a new one-game season," he said. "We’re playing against a talented North Carolina team. We’re really looking forward to playing the game in front of a large crowd of our fans in the Georgia Dome."

Offensively, both teams are similar in one respect: they both use a two-headed quarterback system.

However, Auburn’s duo is shaky at best. Redshirt freshman Jason Campbell doesn’t know the offense as well as offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone would like. Senior Daniel Cobb knows the offense but sometimes has a hard time deciding which team he’s throwing the ball to.

In contrast, North Carolina’s Darian Durant and Ronald Curry have been efficient this season. Durant has thrown for 1,843 yards and 17 touchdowns, while Curry has added 1,258 total yards, both running and passing the ball.

Tuberville is known as the "Riverboat Gambler" because of his penchant for fake punts, onside kicks and fourth and short conversion attempts, but his biggest gamble on Monday may be trying to play freshman Carnell Williams. Williams rushed for 383 yards and three touchdowns in his last three games, but suffered a broken clavicle early in the Alabama game. If given a doctor’s go-ahead, Williams will play, but another solid hit by Peppers or any other Tar Heel defender may sideline Auburn’s "Cadillac" for the offseason.