Following a 9-3 season that ended with the team getting physically whipped by Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando in January, the coaches made it a point to get the team tougher for this season.
"It has been extremely physical two-a-days--as physical as I've ever been involved in," says offensive coordinator Al Borges. "That was purposeful. After our last game last year we're going to make a statement and be a tougher football team. I think we've succeeded in doing so. Now once we play we'll have to prove that's true."
Starting with the off day on Saturday and another on Monday, the high-contact practices have backed off and the Tigers have spent most of their time on game plan and the kicking game getting ready for the Cougars.
"We're going to attack them like we attack everybody," Borges notes. "We're going to run the football, do what we do, run play-action pass, try to give them as many multiple looks as we possibly can and a certain degree of misdirection. What we do won't be earth-shattering to them simply because they play in a conference that does a lot of things that we do."
Even though it will be the first meeting between the Tigers and Cougars, Borges is very familiar with the defensive style of Washington State from his time at UCLA and California. Washington State head coach Bill Doba was defensive coordinator under then head coach Mike Price.
"Every time you come to play against Bill's defenses they were always very sound, made very few mistakes, the safeties are very aggressive and they force the issue in terms of making you throw the ball on their corners," Borges says.
The Auburn offensive coordinator is also familiar with and fond of Doba on a personal level.
"He's one of the finest people I've dealt with in this profession--never mind the profession--I've ever dealt with period," Borges says. "I just think he's a hell of a guy. He's a guy who deserved the opportunity to be a head coach. He had been an assistant for a long time and had done so well."
"I just have great respect for him," he adds.