Another reason is Auburn's recent history of starting out seasons slowly. Games against USC in 2002 and 2003 and against Georgia Tech in 2003 and 2005 put the Tigers behind the eight ball early. Those are things that have been hammered home to the players and senior Karibi Dede says this team is determined not to let history repeat itself.
"Coach Tubs said it the best," Dede notes. "It has been the hardest camp since he's been here. I know it has been hard. It has been tough on me, tough on the older guys, tough on the younger guys.
"I think it's going to make a big difference. Out of the four seasons I have been eligible to play after being redshirted we have only won one of the games not counting this year. One year I think we were ranked in the top five and USC beat us. Another year we came back here with a decent ranking and Georgia Tech beat us."
Ranked fourth in the Associate Press poll, Auburn comes into Saturday night's contest as a heavy favorite and picked by some publications and individuals in the media to be playing for the national championship at the end of the year. While that has gotten the attention of fans from both Auburn and Washington State, Dede says he doesn't think this game rivals the USC game from a hype perspective.
"I don't think this one has quite the hype," Dede says. "From my standpoint and my experience I know they're not going to fly all the way out from way out there in Washington to Jordan-Hare and not come out here to go to war. From my perspective I think the attitude this year is that we're not really concerned about preseason rankings. They base it off of who returns, the recruiting class and the coaching staff. You know and I know that in the first week there is always a big upset where one of the top teams falls. We're just taking it as Auburn versus Washington State. We're going to go in between the lines and settle it there."
Dede was seventh on the team last year with 42 tackles and he also added four and a half tackles for losses.
One thing that is different this season than last year when facing Georgia Tech is the unknown that comes with facing a team like Washington State. While players watch football from all over the country, the Cougars are a team they are mostly unfamiliar with in terms of personnel. Dede says that might have been a problem once the game started, but as soon as they watched film they knew right away this was a team to be taken very seriously.
"Also in terms of not knowing an opponent that you don't see week in and week out, I see Georgia play on TV because when I'm getting ready for games I see Georgia play South Carolina or whoever," Dede says. "When we get those teams like Washington State and Wisconsin you don't really know those guys quite as well. They're coming in here and it's deceptive if you look at last year's record. Their record wasn't that good, but in reality they're returning a good corps of guys. Their quarterback is back. Number 83 is a big-time receiver. They have a new running back. Their line is overall very good. I think it will be important for us to start strong."
As one of the veterans on a defense that will have four players starting their first game on Saturday, Dede says that it has been important for he and players such as Will Herring, Marquies Gunn and Quentin Groves to teach the young players how to practice now that the Tigers are into a game week.
"When you first break up and the scouts go and some of the young guys come with us it's hard for guys to know what tempo is expected," Dede says. "It's really on the older guys to show them how we practice and what the season is going to be like and what is expected and how to focus during those time periods. The scout team has come on and gotten better as well. They've picked it up each day and I think they'll continue to be better."
The hardest part of two-a-days for the defense hasn't been the physicality of things or even the injuries that have hit the linebackers hard at times, it has been the learning of Coach Will Muschamp's defense that has been the toughest thing for many of the players to handle. A blitzkrieg of a defense that comes at you from all angles with all sorts of personnel, Dede says that once they got a game plan things have started to come together very well and he's certain that things will come together just in time for the Cougars.
"We'll be ready," Dede says. "We're getting there. We're not there yet, but right now with the game plan we're starting to get a lot more confident. During camp they were moving guys around a lot and you have a lot of young guys. Without that consistency in the guys you're playing with, if you look to your right or left and the guys keep changing it's hard to get that consistency and gel as a unit.
"We've been working together more and everybody is starting to have that confidence in each other. I know Aairon Savage is going to be there for me in this situation and I know Sen'Derrick Marks is going to be there and Pat Sims. It just helps to have that consistency."