Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said he expects to face a Kentucky team with its back to the wall trying to snap a two-game losing streak at the expense of his eighth-ranked Tigers. Chizik said how his team performs vs. the Wildcats will give him a good indication of how the Tigers will handle the second half of the schedule.
Kickoff time is set for shortly after 6:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN2. With a victory the Tigers would improve to 6-0 for the first time since the 2004 season.
Last year the Tigers won their first five games before going on a three-game losing streak that included a 21-14 home loss to Kentucky. It was the first loss for Auburn vs. Kentucky since falling 17-7 to the Wildcats at Lexington back in 1966.
Auburn has an 11-4 record in games played in Lexington and has a seven-game winning streak in games played at Kentucky as the Wildcats will try to defend their home turf at Commonwealth Stadium where they are 2-0 this season.
After opening with a 23-16 victory at Louisville, the Wildcats cruised to home victories over Western Kentucky (63-28) and Akron (47-10) before hitting the road for losses at Florida (48-14) and Ole Miss (42-35).
Wildcats dug themselves into a hole with three first half turnovers at Ole Miss last Saturday and couldn't overcome that issue against the opportunistic Rebels.
Auburn senior offensive tackle Lee Ziemba said that he believes the Tigers will arrive in Lexington on Saturday night a focused team eager to play better against the Wildcats than Auburn did last year at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"We know what can happen after being 5-0 if you let your guard down," he said. "Last year we went to 5-0 and fell off the face of the map. This year we are going to try to prevent that from happening by first acknowledging we aren't there yet. We need to keep working."
Ziemba said it will take a while to know if the 2010 Tigers are better than the 2009 team that dropped three straight after the 5-0 start. "Are we better than we were last year? We will find out in three or four weeks."
Ziemba pointed out that the coaching staff did a video of low points from the 2009 season to show the players what they need to avoid doing this year. "Quite a big number of those plays came from the (2009 Kentucky) game," he said.
Another Tiger, sophomore receiver Emory Blake, agrees with Ziemba about last year's loss to Kentucky. "Last year I remember us not being happy after the game because we felt like we didn't play to the best of our ability," he said. "We felt like we should have won."
"I remember our offense not being able to move the ball like we usually do," said Blake, who added that the Wildcats surprised Auburn last year. "You can't overlook anyone really, especially in the SEC, because everyone is good, everyone is talented and you always have to come with your ‘A' game."
When Auburn arrives in Lexington the defense will face its toughest challenge so far this season, according to AU secondary coach Phillip Lolley.
"I can honestly say they are the best group offensively that we have faced this year," Lolley said. "Everybody talks about the Randall Cobb kid with 25 catches and you have the running back Derrick Locke, who has 19 catches, and then you are sitting there having to defend Chris Matthews, a six-foot-five receiver with 19 catches. All of those guys are really good.
"We are going to have our hands full with this offense," Lolley said. "Our plan on defense has been to get a lot of eyeballs on the football in the secondary (playing zone) early in the game and concentrate on stopping the run to make the offense we are facing one dimensional," Lolley said. "We have managed to do that. Sometimes you will give up a little more yardage in the area that way playing zone trying to get guys swarming to the ball.
"When it comes down to time to try to shut things down we will tighten things up and fortunately that is what we have been able to do in the fourth quarter this year," Lolley said.
Commenting on the Wildcats, who opened with three wins before dropping their last two contests on the road, Lolley said, "They are very good on getting plays set up based on something else they are running. If you try to get in their face to press them, they have the height and speed to get over the top of your defense with some fade routes and other plays.
"They also have a great screen game to go with what they are running and they have a very quick tailback in Locke who gave us a lot of problems last year. That is why they are one of the top offenses in the league.
Coach Phillip Lolley
"They do a great job with their offense and they are going to challenge our cornerbacks in run support so that will be a challenge," Lolley said. "They have a great lead blocker at fullback to replace the one who went to the pros last year. This one is really good, too. We have our work cut out for us Saturday night."
In other news and notes:
*Lolley said he liked what he saw out of backup cornerback Anthony Morgan last Saturday, who had his most extensive playing time on defense vs. ULM. Morgan is also working on offense in practice and saw action at receiver last Saturday in addition to playing on special teams.
*Chizik said after Thursday's practice that backup quarterback Barrett Trotter, who injured a knee last Saturday, continues to make progress and will make the trip to Lexington.
*Chizik said that freshman fullback Ladarious Phillips is continuing to make progress rehabbing his ankle, but is a likely redshirt.
*The Auburn at Kentucky game will be carried on satellite radio on XM channel 201 and Sirius 218.
*Auburn leads the overall series 24-6-1.
*Kentucky's coaches say one of their big challenges offensively will be to block Auburn's defensive front led by junior tackle Nick Fairley, the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week who leads the conference in sacks (5) and tackles for lost yardage (11.5).
UK's defensive coaches noted that they are concerned about the abilities of quarterback Cameron Newton to take charge of a game as both a runner and a passer. The UK?coaches also said they are concerned about the athleticism of Auburn's receivers and running backs. Newton is averaging 94.8 rushing yards per game and is ranked No. 2 nationally in passing efficiency with a rating of 191.44.
*Kentucky has struggled to stop opponents from running the football. The Wildcats are giving up 189.8 yards rushing per game. Auburn leads the SEC in rushing with an average of 269 yards per contest.