"We've got some young players at some positions but overall we're a pretty veteran team," Gibbs said. "We've got enough leaders that these young guys follow them. The progression of the season is on course as far as us maturing as a defense. Going on the road, we played good in spurts, but we didn't play great. It does give you a little confidence knowing that you can go on the road and play good without the home crowd behind you and making it loud on the other team.
"This thing here (the LSU game), going down to this place, it totally different than going to Arkansas. We know that. Everybody who has ever been down there knows it's going to be a wild, wild atmosphere. We have to weather the storm because it's going to be crazy. We're the defending SEC Champs and we've got nothing to hold our heads about. We realize we're probably overmatched, but we'll go down there and fight and see what happens."
Auburn is a pretty healthy team heading into the game this weekend with running back Brad Lester (groin) the only player out of the game. He and defensive end Chris Browder both missed Tuesday's practice and Browder is questionable for the LSU game.
Center Steven Ross practiced on Tuesday and looked to be moving around fine. Also cornerback Patrick Lee practiced after sitting out of the Arkansas game with a sprained knee. Gibbs said that Lee should be ready to go and they're going to need all of the cornerbacks to play well going up against a talented receiving corps from LSU.
"He looked pretty good today," Gibbs said of Lee. "I'm going to go watch the film. I asked him after practice how he felt and he said ‘good'. I'll go watch the film and after two hours of practice if he was limping I'll know it. I anticipate them all being healthy and ready to go. We're going to need them all because LSU has about six wideouts that are big, fast, and can jump out of the gym. We're going to need all the corners we can get.
"These guys look like NFL wide receivers to me," he added. "I see NFL wide receivers, a NFL running back and a NFL quarterback. I see a talented, talented offense. Obviously Jimbo Fisher (LSU offensive coordinator) could be with the Miami Dolphins if he wanted to be there. We've got our work cut out for us from top to bottom and we'll have to play great to have a chance."
Getting the ball to the receivers is the job of big quarterback JaMarcus Russell. Listed at 6-6, 252 but likely closer to 270 pounds, Russell has the strongest arm of any quarterback in the SEC and maybe the country. This season he has thrown for 1,117 yards and seven touchdowns with four interceptions, but has shown flashes of brilliance that make for a long night for a defensive coordinator.
"He's about 6-10 and 300 pounds and can throw the ball 500 yards," Gibbs said of Russell. "You can't sack him because he's so big and strong. He can run and he can throw. He's Daunte Culpepper. He's one of those guys, a freak of nature. I'm telling you, talent wise, these guys are something else. You just try to hold on."
Holding on will be what Auburn plans to do on Saturday night. That was the case last Saturday against Arkansas as the defense gave up just 10 points in the first half despite two turnovers on Auburn's side of the field. Gibbs said that watching the game again made him realize that the unit is getting closer to becoming the one he envisioned heading into the season.
"We played well in spurts," Gibbs said. "Stopping them after the first turnover and making them kick a field goal, I thought was big. We had them stopped the second time they were down in there. We had them on third down and stopped them, but got called for holding which was a good call. We can't put ourselves in that position because the guy threw the ball out of the back of the endzone.
"If we could have held them to two field goals I would have felt pretty good about it right up to the end where we got a big lead and our guys relaxed a little bit. We're not good enough to do that. Our guys have to learn to finish. The kids played hard and played pretty fast...we've still got room for improvement, but I like the progress we're making."
Kickoff for Saturday night's game in Tiger Stadium is set for 6:45 and will be shown live on ESPN. The Tigers will practice Wednesday and Thursday in Auburn and have a short walk-through on Friday before traveling to Montgomery to spend the night. Saturday the team will fly directly to Baton Rouge for the game and return home following the contest because of a lack of availability for hotel rooms in the area due to Hurricane Katrina.