"We appreciate that people look at it, but the most important thing right now for us is to play better," Jackson said. "If we don't play well then none of the other stuff will matter. You have to take things that are important at that point in time and take them in hand. Right now it's to play Kentucky and try to beat them. If we don't do that none of the other things matter."
Although the defense has been spectacular this season, fifth in the country in total defense (262.7 ypg) and second in scoring defense (9 ppg), the coaching staff and team hasn't been pleased with the second half performances this season. Saturday the Tigers gave up 13 second half points and two big plays against Arkansas. Jackson said the defense is focused on improving for 60 minutes this week.
"You can watch all of the film in the world and a team can be as good as they want to be, but if your team isn't focused then you're not ready for the task at hand," Jackson said. "We have to play four complete quarters of football is we want to put forth a great defensive effort. We weren't really happy with our performance last week, but we're going to get back together and try to have a complete performance."
Tommy Jackson is 15th among defensive lineman in tackles in the SEC with 24 in seven games.
Auburn's defense could catch a break this week with Wildcat starter Shane Boyd ailing with a sore shoulder. With the SEC's seventh-ranked player in total offense banged up, that might mean the first career start for redshirt freshman Andre Woodson. Last week Woodson played well against South Carolina in relief of Boyd and has completed 13 of 21 passes for 129 yards and one touchdown this season. Jackson said Auburn is preparing to play hard, no matter who the quarterback is this week
"The most important thing is that if we don't get a pass rush on him it won't matter," Jackson said. "That's why I'm telling you it's really important in practice this week that we work on getting to the quarterback and doing a lot of things we didn't do well last week."
Auburn's best defense this season might be an improved offense. The Tigers lead the SEC in total offense this season, averaging 447.8 yards per game. They are also third in scoring offense at 34.4 points per contest. Jackson said the offensive output this season has given the defense a chance to mature and improve from week to week.
"They're playing great," Jackson said. "It really helps us out a lot. The way they're playing they leave room for error. They're playing really good football right now. We're trying to play to the caliber that they're playing. We're trying to put it all together."
Despite ominous weather on the horizon, Auburn put the finishing touches on the gameplan for Kentucky with a practice in shorts and shoulder pads that lasted just under two hours. Coach Tommy Tuberville said the day was a good one and finished off a solid week of practice for his team as they prepare to face the Wildcats for the first time in nine years.
We had an excellent week of practice other than the weather," Tuberville said. "I though our guys really focused well all week with the rain and it getting a little bit darker. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but it is when you have preparation and guys have a little bit different attitude.
"It's been good. The guys are still strong and working hard. We worked real hard on special teams again this week as we did last week. We're still trying to improve in some areas. We've got a good gameplan."
Auburn's injury situation appears to be good with just true freshman Tony Bell (hamstring) and running back Tre Smith (shoulder) out for Saturday's game. Tuberville said that after seven straight weeks of play this team is in good shape for the remainder of the season both mentally and physically.
"The guys were very attentive all week," Tuberville said. "It's just amazing how they've been focused. As I told them, the best thing I've seen them do all year long is that they've continued their focus from Thursday's practice all the way to Saturday's game. That's usually the sign of a pretty mature football team.
"It's a little bit by design too by how the coaches are handling practice," Tuberville added about the team's freshness. "We're not drilling them as much as we have in the past knowing how tired you can get this time of the year. And, I think this new turf helps us. When it's wet we're not slopping around in the mud. It's kind of like running around in the sand when it's raining, but when you get on that turf it's a nice, clean surface. We've had some wet weather and that turf has been good for us."
Kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and there is no television for the contest. Auburn enters the game 7-0, 4-0 in the SEC, while the Wildcats are 1-5, 0-3 in the league.