While it's imperative that Auburn's defense plays well on Saturday, the offense will also have to improve on its performance against Arkansas last weekend if the Tigers expect to come away with a victory.
Improving means getting better at all phases of the game, particularly the passing game. This season the Tigers have thrown for over 200 yards just twice in six games, one each against Vanderbilt and Western Kentucky. While the passing game hasn't been counted on lately to carry much of the offense (just 18 attempts in each of the last two games), this weekend could be different. Junior receiver Silas Daniels said that this weekend is an important one for the offense to come up with some plays because Mississippi State is coming into town ready to pull off the upset.
"We're going to have to score some points because they're going to score some points as well," Daniels said. "They like to play a lot of man so we're going to have to take advantage of it. We always want to have a challenge in front of us. It's going to be a good opportunity for us to make plays.
"We're coming off two big wins, but we know we can't relax in the SEC," Daniels added. "We know any team at any time can come out and beat us. We just have to let all the young guys know that we can't relax. We have to keep playing like we're playing now. We just have to focus every game. Once you let down that's when the upset comes."
Silas Daniels takes part in Wednesday's practice.
Auburn's offense has come light years since opening the season with just three points and 394 yards of total offense in the first two games of the season. Since then the Tigers have gotten better up front and it has shown with four straight wins overall. Daniels said the passing game has to keep getting better to take the pressure of a running game that is doing all it can to keep the offense afloat.
" "We've come a long ways," Daniels said. "We're out there executing. The quarterbacks have confidence in us to throw us the ball and let us get downfield and make plays. We know we have to be patient because the opportunities are going to come. When they come we have to make the most of them. Carnell is running the ball well, but on that big third and 13 we have to make a play, we have to get open."
One positive for Daniels and his teammates this weekend is playing in Jordan-Hare Stadium in front of the home crowd. Following two emotional weeks, he's looking forward to having a rowdy crowd there to help the team to victory.
"It's good to be at home and have the home crowd behind us," Daniels said. "We have a Mississippi State team coming in that's very tough. We know they're going to play their best game. It keeps us motivated to play in front of our crowd."
Practicing in full pads for just over two hours, the Tigers spent much of their time continuing to work on the game plan for the Bulldogs and sharpening up the special teams. Coach Tommy Tuberville said the Wednesday practice was a good one for his team and he said they're back in pretty good health heading into this weekend.
"We had a good practice today," Tuberville said. "We're still a little beat up, but it looks like most everybody will have a chance to play. Jay Ratliff is moving around good and went through all the contact drills. Ronnie (Ronnie Brown) got some snaps and did good. He's not 100 percent, but he's right there at it. Marcus McNeill is moving around better than he did at this time last week.
"He didn't have any contact," he added. "We won't have much contact with him the rest of the year. He'll have a little bit on Thursday's. Other than that we looked pretty good and sharp and got our game plan in. Cooler weather has set it and you can tell, especially with the linemen, they can go a lot better in practice when you have cooler weather."
In addition to Ratliff and Brown, fullback Brandon Johnson practiced and looked to be having no problems with his bruised shoulder. Wrapped for protection, the shoulder will continue to get treatment leading up to Saturday's kickoff. Cornerback Carlos Rogers also continues to practice and will be in the starting lineup against the Bulldogs. Defensive end Doug Langenfeld has a slightly sprained ankle, but he practiced and will play Saturday.
Kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 1:30 and can be seen on a pay-per-view basis only. Auburn leads the series with Mississippi State 52-22-3 and has won 23 of 28 in Auburn.