LSU A Heavyweight Opponent For AU's Defense

Linebacker Travis Williams discusses Auburn's defense and the challenge of facing LSU.

Auburn, Ala.–-The schedule takes a huge upswing for the 14th-ranked Auburn Tigers this Saturday when they are expected to take on fifth-ranked LSU Tigers at 2:30 p.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

After lightly-regarded Louisiana-Monroe in the opener and an outmanned Mississippi State team last week, LSU brings a different level of play to the table on both offense and defense.

While the defense gets the buzz for the LSU Tigers, the offense for LSU features one of, if not the best, lines in the league. A physical offensive team led by running backs Justin Vincent and Joseph Addai and a strong offensive line, the Bengal Tigers are going to be a huge challenge for Auburn said junior linebacker Travis Williams.

"It's big," Williams says. "I really don't look at a particular game. Any game I play I come ready to play. An SEC team is an SEC team. I just come out ready to play. It's a little different because they handed it to us last year. We've been thinking about this for a whole year. It's our time on Saturday.

"They've probably got the best offensive line in the SEC," Williams adds. "They have an All-American center (Ben Wilkerson) and an All-American tackle (Andrew Whitworth). They're going to come ready to play. We have to be ready to fight for four quarters. It's going to be a 15-rounder and we have to be ready."

Williams hits Omar Conner during Saturday's win against MSU.

As with any week, the focus of Auburn's defense is going to be stopping the running game of LSU. In two games LSU has rushed for 362 yards, but were held in check by Oregon State in the opener. That allowed the Beavers to stay close and make a game of it all the way until the end. Williams said despite Auburn's solid numbers against the run against Mississippi State, they still have a lot to prove against a team like LSU.

"As a whole we played okay," Williams says. "We made a lot of mistakes that we have to fix in practice. When we're playing a good team we can't make mistakes like that. We have to limit the mistakes, but we feel okay. We knew they were going to try to run the ball so we stopped it early and the offense helped us out by jumping up. They couldn't really run the ball because we were so far ahead. We'll see this week. They have some pretty good tailbacks so we have to be ready."

While LSU's running game is a key for Auburn's defense, the deep passing game will be something to watch for out of the Bengal Tigers this Saturday, assuming the game is not postponed due to Hurricane Ivan. With a talented, but young, group of receivers both Randall and Russell have the targets to get the ball downfield in a hurry. Williams said there are some things they can do to help the pass defense, but he's not the one making the decisions this week.

"That's going to be left up to Coach Chizik and his game plan," Williams says. "They have a lot of speed and a lot of talent that could take us vertical. We have to be ready for that, but we just can't get beat by the big play. If they can drive it and score they'll earn it, but just don't give them anything cheap."

A big help to Williams and fellow linebackers Antarrious Williams and Kevin Sears has been the play of nose tackles Josh Thompson and Tommy Jackson. Two players who can plug the hole in the middle and use their quickness to make plays in the backfield, the duo have combined for eight tackles and three tackles for loss in the first two contests. Williams said that the play of both have been a big part of Auburn's defensive performance so far.

"Josh has been doing it since the spring," Williams says. "I talk to Josh and T.J. a lot because they make my job a lot easier. They keep the linemen off me and let me use my speed and quickness. They're doing a great job."

A first-year starter in the middle after playing outside as a starter last season, Williams has come a long way since first making the move in spring practice. Despite being just under 215 pounds, the Columbia, S.C., native makes the move work because of his knowledge of the game and his leadership on the field. He said that he's feeling more comfortable every day at mike and is looking forward to getting more experience this season.

"I'm getting there," Williams says. "It's about poise and confidence. I'm already confident in myself, but I have to get more game reps in. I feel I did okay, but this game could be a real confidence builder for me. I just have to come out and be ready."

Revenge has been a word asked of the Tigers since the final horn sounded Saturday in Starkville. Losing last October 31-7 in Baton Rouge in a game that was never close after the opening score by LSU, Auburn has all the reasons in the world to be ready for this game, but Williams said you can't let emotion guide you until you step between the lines on Saturday.

"We're not playing the game until 2:30 on Saturday," Williams says. "We can't be pumped today or tomorrow. We just have to prepare all week and then Saturday it's showtime."

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