Planning for success: Auburn ready for rare Thursday game in Kentucky

AUBURN, Ala. -- For us normal folks, today is Tuesday. We’re not quite to the midway point of the week. But for the Auburn coaches and players, it's already Thursday. Or at least that’s how they’re treating it as they prepare for a rare Thursday game in Kentucky this week.

Confused? You’re not alone. Fortunately, Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp did his best to explain it to reporters this past Sunday.

"I just try to maintain a routine," Muschamp said. "I told the kids today [Sunday], regardless of what anyone tells you, it’s Tuesday, and tomorrow is going to be Wednesday, and the next day is going to be Thursday. We’ll travel on Friday and we’ll play on Saturday. So whatever anybody tells you, they’re lying to you. That’s how you approach it."

How much has Muschamp bought into this new approach? Let’s just say he treated this past Saturday like it was a Monday.

"It was really weird because there were a bunch of college games on," Muschamp joked. "I didn’t understand that. Nobody told me that we changed the schedule."

But then again, Auburn’s season hasn’t exactly followed the script either. Once a top-10 team, the Tigers are 3-2 and reeling a bit after a tumultuous off week that included the dismissal of star wide receiver D'haquille Williams.

The time off allowed for them to get healthy and improve as a team, but there are still more question marks than answers on the Plains right now. Who is the starting quarterback? Who steps up at wide receiver with Williams gone? When will this defense finally turn the corner? And ultimately, what are now realistic expectations for this season?

Some believe Auburn might not make a bowl game. But the players remain confident and are out to prove those people wrong this Thursday night.

"We’re not as bad as people think we are," wide receiver Melvin Ray said. "We’re actually a pretty good team, and we know how good we are across the board. We know what we got talent-wise and ability-wise. So far we just haven’t proved it.

"A lot of people don’t think that we’re capable of doing the things we want to do in this league. We are and we know we are. We just have a lot to prove with this being an SEC game."

Maybe Auburn is capable of salvaging its season. Maybe it can even get back in the SEC race. But a loss to Kentucky would be hitting close to rock bottom for a program that played in the national championship game just two seasons ago. That’s not to take anything away from Kentucky, a talented football team that is clearly on the rise, but it's the perception.

The Tigers haven’t lost in Lexington since 1966. They have won each of their past eight trips there and hold a 25-6-1 advantage overall. As much as a win Thursday could benefit Kentucky, a loss would be devastating for Gus Malzahn and Auburn. This team was supposed to compete for a national championship, and it can’t even beat Kentucky?

"It's a big game and it's a game we need to win," Malzahn said. "And our guys understand that. We're playing a very good team, a team that's played two or three SEC games already and has won two of them. We've got to be ready, and we've got to play good football."

So enjoy your Tuesday. Auburn will be treating it like a Thursday and practicing one last time for a game that might very well define its season.