Who: #9 Auburn Tigers (8-1) at Tennessee Volunteers (4-5) ..."/> Who: #9 Auburn Tigers (8-1) at Tennessee Volunteers (4-5) ..."/>

#9 Auburn at Tennessee Preview and Predictions


Who: #9 Auburn Tigers (8-1) at Tennessee Volunteers (4-5)

Where: Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee

When: 11:00 a.m. (ESPN)

All-Time Series Record: Auburn leads 27-21-3

Historically, Auburn and Tennessee aren’t all that different.

They both love the color orange. They both play in revered venues full of orange-clad fans. They both hate Alabama. They both have multiple national championships and SEC championships to their names. They both hate Alabama. They both fired their head coach after dismal 2012 campaigns, opting to hire a coach with a no-huddle, shotgun philosophy. They both hate Alabama.

However, at the moment, only one program comes into this year’s meeting as a relevant power under their first-year coach: Gus Malzahn’s Auburn Tigers.

Butch Jones is doing his best to right the ship in Knoxville. Inheriting one of the least-talented rosters in school history, his Vols have played hard in home games, beating #11 South Carolina and nearly beating a then-Top 10 Georgia team. He’s killing it on the recruiting trail and seems to have the program going in the right direction.

However, Gus has maximized his already-talented roster and churned out 8 wins in his first 9 games. Thanks to their own success and SEC carnage happening around them, the Tigers are still in play for the SEC Championship Game.

Considering Auburn was 3-9 last season, that’s pretty amazing.

However, going into Neyland Stadium could be tricky for the Tigers. Do the Volunteers have what it takes to get their second win at home over a ranked opponent this season?

Match-up to watch: Tennessee’s offensive line vs. Auburn’s defensive line. When you flip this script, it’s a mismatch. Auburn’s offensive line is the best in the SEC, as evidenced by the Tigers’ 306 rushing yards per game and 9 sacks allowed all season. Tennessee’s rush defense is the worst in the SEC, giving up over 200 yards per game. AU should run the ball at will. However, when you flip the script back to where we started, this is where Tennessee must have success to stay in the game. The Volunteers have an offensive line full of talented players.  Tennessee runs for a healthy 181.4 yards per game. Auburn’s defensive line has looked dominant at times this year (especially in wins over Ole Miss and Texas A&M), but other times, they seem to take a little while to wake up and get going. If Auburn’s defensive line plays well against UT’s offensive line, the Vols lose any upset shot that they might have had.

Key for Auburn: Tackle. Though the Tigers allowed only 17 points to Arkansas in a solid 35-17 win, tackling issues reared their ugly head. Jake Holland whiffs on a lot of tackles and misses reads, yes. But several other players struggled to tackle in Fayetteville. Jermaine Whitehead tried to shoulder-tackle multiple times and failed. Time and time again, the Hogs bounced off tackles and kept drives alive. Going up against some play-makers like Rajion Neal and Marquez North, the Tigers must wrap up better than they did a week ago in a somewhat uninspired performance.

Key for Tennessee: Ball-control offense. I know, I know, Butch wants to run a hurry-up offense. However, the fact remains that they don’t have the athletes to out-HUNH Auburn. If Tennessee’s offense can’t stay on the field, Auburn can play dial-a-score against the Vols’ often beleaguered defense. Arkansas held the ball for 21:30 in the first half last week to Auburn’s 8:30, but Tigers RB Tre Mason was already up to 93 yards and the offense had 14 points in just a few drives. By the end of the night, the Tigers had run just 55 plays but had well over 200 rushing yards and 35 points… and they weren’t even running anything mildly creative.  Tennessee’s offense must stay on the field and move the chains at a slower pace than Butch Jones would like.

Auburn Player to Watch: Tre Mason. Though Auburn seems to have a three-headed monster at RB, the fact remains that Corey Grant doesn’t have the durability to be an every-down back and Cameron Artis-Payne, for whatever reason, has usually been held out of the game in favor of Mason and Grant. Tre Mason is now THE running back for Running Back U. In the 55 plays ran by Auburn in Fayetteville, a whopping 32 of them were simple Tre Mason carries. Mason leads the SEC and is third in the nation with 13 touchdown runs this season. AU has depth and talent at running back, but it’s become more and more apparent that Tre Mason is the favored back in most situations.

Tennessee Player to Watch: Josh Dobbs. The Dobbs era in Tennessee has begun, as Butch Jones burned the freshman QB’s redshirt at halftime against Alabama. It seemed to provide a spark, as he led two scoring drives in the second half after the Vols were down 35-0 at halftime. However, last week at Mizzou, the true freshman made his first ever start against a top-10 team and the results were not good. Tennessee mustered only a field goal in a 31-3 loss and committed 3 turnovers. However, he is a dual-threat, as he has 64 rushing yards in the last 6 quarters. Also, this is his first start at home, so there’s somewhat of a comfort factor there. It’ll be interesting to see how this young guy performs against the SEC’s ultimate “bend-but-don’t-break” defense.

Interesting Facts: 

Auburn has won 5 in a row over the Tennessee Volunteers, the longest streak by either team in series history…. Auburn has not even trailed Tennessee during the 5-game win streak. The last time Auburn trailed Tennessee in a football game was during 1999’s 24-0 loss to the Vols in Neyland…. Tre Mason is 79 rushing yards away from his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. This would be the fifth straight season that the Tigers have at least one 1,000-yard rusher, breaking the all-time SEC record…. Tre Mason’s been more successful in road games this season than he has at home. Mason’s top 3 rushing performances of the season have come in the Tigers’ 3 road games: 132 in a loss at LSU, 178 in the win at Texas A&M and 168 in the win at Arkansas…. This is the second consecutive meeting between these teams in which they both feature a first-year head coach. In their last meeting in 2009, Auburn and Tennessee were under first-year men Gene Chizik and Lane Kiffin…. Auburn’s had tremendous first-half success against the Volunteers during their 5-game series winning streak, leading at halftime by an total score of 93-29 (average score of 19-6)….


I do believe that Tennessee is a slightly better team than Arkansas. Heck, just look how they fared against South Carolina for comparison. However, I also believe Auburn will show more of the playbook in this game. Not too much, obviously, but the gameplan will be a little more creative that it was in Fayetteville. Auburn has better athletes all across the board. I see the Tigers (once again) rushing for over 300 yards and the Tigers move to 9-1, just like we all expected a few months ago.

#9 Auburn Tigers 37, Tennessee Volunteers 17

Other SEC Games:

#1 Alabama 31, #13 LSU 20 (The Tigers will be competitive, but they don’t have the defense to knock off ‘Bama.)

#8 Missouri 45, Kentucky 7 (This Mizzou defense is legitimately one of the best in the whole SEC.)

#15 Texas A&M 49, Mississippi State 31 (Manziel’s likely final home game will see him score 5 TDs.)

Vanderbilt 17, Florida 13 (Florida is a team with no confidence right now. Vandy’s the better team.)

Georgia 56, Appalachian State 14 (With this loss, App State will be 2-8. Yes, you read that right.)

Ole Miss 38, Arkansas 20 (Ole Miss is on a tear right now. Arkansas is shedding tears right now.)

Other Notable Games:

#3 Oregon 35, #5 Stanford 27 (The biggest Thursday night game of all time? It could be.)

#6 Baylor 48, #10 Oklahoma 45 (The second-biggest Thursday night game of all time? It could be.)

#2 Florida State 49, Wake Forest 7 (This game will be NSFW halfway through the 1st quarter.)

#11 Miami 20, Virginia Tech 14 (Isn’t this the most Scot Loeffler score ever?)

#21 UCF 38, Houston 28 (This is one of Saturday’s most underrated games. This could be the AAC title game.)

#24 Wisconsin 35, BYU 32 (This is also one of Saturday’s most underrated games. Interesting non-conference game.)

Michigan 28, Nebraska 24 (Michigan has still not lost a home game under Brady Hoke.)

UPSET ALERT! Arizona 37, #19 UCLA 31 (If the Cats get this win, they would set themselves up to be 8-2 when hosting Oregon.)