The Vols travel to the Plains to take on Auburn on Saturday and our staff predicted the outcome of the game for your reading (and gambling) pleasure.
According to Las Vegas, Tennessee is currently a 15.5-point underdog. Let’s get to it…
Celina Summers (@CelinaSummers):
I have a weird feeling about this game. I was pleasantly surprised by the way the Vols responded during the UGA game. Felt like they’d turned an invisible corner to me. Now, well-rested coming off a bye week, the Vols are heading to Auburn for what, suddenly, doesn’t look like an insurmountable obstacle.
The Tigers are a week away from the embarrassment of their 23-9 loss to Mississippi State, and the fan base is reeling. What looked like a playoff contender in the off-season is already sitting at two losses in six games. Last week, Auburn failed to gain 100 yards on the ground and the offense was only on the field for 18:07 the whole game, thanks to an anemic offensive line. On top of that, uncomfortable whispers are starting to circulate around the Auburn locker room suggesting that Guz Malzahn has lost his players and quarterback Jarrett Stidham has lost the team. Usually what happens when a team that’s trending up meets a team that’s trending down?
If the Vols are going to keep any hopes of a bowl game alive, this game is necessary to get back on track. With an extra week to prepare, the time to strike is now. IF the Vols can put together a strong game plan…IF the Vols can execute cleanly…IF the Vols can penetrate the pocket and put heat on Stidham, this game might bounce Rocky Top’s way. But I know if I pick the Vols to win, they’ll lose. Therefore, succumbing to superstition (because no one has a clue what’s going to happen in this darn game), I’ll pick the other way and see what happens. (If this works, then it’s voodoo dolls for Bama week…)
John Monroe (@MinisterofD):
After a much-needed break, the Vols look to get the 2nd half of their season started off right. Tennessee heads to Auburn to play a Tigers team that has disappointed so far this year. Since their loss to LSU, they just haven’t seemed the same. While the defense is still very solid, the offense, much like Tennessee’s, has been pretty anemic. In this one, I’m expecting a low scoring contest, with the big question being, which offense will have a breakthrough. One thing many fans would like to avoid is a repeat of the Vols last trip to Jordan-Hare in 2008. In what may be the most painful football game to watch in recent memory. On that day, both teams combined for just a little over 400 yards each and 3 touchdowns.
The Vols haven’t beaten Auburn since the 1999 season, so if they’re wanting to reverse the nearly 20-year drought, they’re going to need to score early. Through 5 games this season, Tennessee has only put up 13 1st quarter points, a trend they’re going to need to change if they want a shot on Saturday. An opening drive touchdown would do wonders in putting the Tigers in a hole and making an offense that’s not made for it, play from behind early.
To win this game, Tennessee is going to need to catch a few breaks and make sure they’re around in the late stages. The Auburn defensive line will look to kill whatever rhythm the Vols’ offense can muster, and they are more than capable of doing so. I see the Vols hanging around late in this one, but falling to the Tigers, with an Auburn defensive touchdown being the difference maker.
Jordan Burns (@VolSportsTalkJB):
Tennessee has taken its fair share of lumps this season, but this last one wasn’t so miserable. The Vols went in between the hedges, and held their own against No. 2 Georgia, making it somewhat of a game in the 2nd half before UGA closed things out on a near-eight minute drive that ended with a back-breaking TD.
Jeremy Pruitt left Athens feeling like his team grew up some, as he was very emotional in his post-game presser. He stressed that he loved the fight that he saw, and that it excited him. Certainly, he knows this team is on the verge of taking the next step.
That next step just may happen this Saturday when the Vols travel to the Plains to take on a reeling Auburn team.
Though 4-2 on the season, the Tigers’ offense has looked unimpressive, to say the least. They’re 1-2 in conference play, dropping games to LSU and Mississippi State. Against LSU, they held a 21-10 lead late in the 3rd, before LSU went on a 12-0 run to escape Jordan-Hare with a win. This past weekend, Auburn failed to reach the end zone against Mississippi State in Starkville, falling 23-9. It’s also worth mentioning that the Tigers were in a dog fight with Southern Miss in the fourth quarter earlier this season. A 4-8 Tennessee team handled the Golden Eagles last season.
I mention all of this to say that the Vols are catching Auburn at the perfect time. No, literally, the perfect time. The game is slated for 11 a.m. local time kick. Do we honestly believe that a bunch of fed-up fans and fed-up and likely hungover students are going to show up to watch Auburn play Tennessee before the clock even strikes noon?
My money is on no.
By the time fans show up, it will probably be early 2nd quarter. If Tennessee can make some big plays early, the momentum could be well in the Vols’ hands by the time the Auburn faithful show up.
It may sound like I’m trying to sell you a win here, but trust me when I say Auburn is disoriented right now. They are looking for answers, and Tennessee is coming off of a bye-week.
Hopefully, during the bye, Tyson Helton took the leash off of Jarrett Guarantano, and let him sling it around. Because that’s what this team needs to do to be successful on offense. Quick passes and screen passes are this offense’s best chance of moving the ball and scoring. I understand what Pruitt is trying to build here, but this team simply does not have the personnel to run the ball down opponents’ throats. At the end of the day, your job as a head coach is to win games. So if you have to step a little out of your comfort zone to do so, then so be it. But I, for one, am not a fan of using this season for learning at the expense of losing.
This being said, I do expect to see Marquez Callaway, Jauan Jennings and Ty Chandler getting the ball out in space this Saturday. And if they don’t, I have to question the competence of Helton. While I do believe Tennessee has a legitimate chance of pulling this off, I have to err on the side of a loss until the Big Orange proves otherwise.
The Vols hold a narrow lead late in the 4th, but Auburn escapes in a nail-biting, defensive slugfest.
Matthew Dossett (@MatthewD9999):
The Tennessee Volunteers are now up to their neck in a murderer’s row stretch of games. Next on the docket is the Auburn Tigers in the confines of Jordan Hare Stadium. The Tigers are 1-2 in conference play while the Volunteers are 0-2.
The Tigers have been somewhat Jekyll and Hyde this season. They have shown flashes, defeating a then top ten team in the Washington Huskies, while also obliterating the Arkansas Razorbacks. There have been signs of deficiencies and vulnerabilities. First, they were lackadaisical against Southern Miss and then they were handled by the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
After an embarrassing loss to State, Auburn could come out guns blazing. Or, they could lay an egg. Who in the world knows? Auburn could blow the brakes off the Vols or they could find themselves sweating it out late in the fourth quarter.
Something tells me that this will be a sloppy, crazy contest. I predict a turnover fest. Despite being a heavy favorite, I believe that Auburn will indeed be pushed to the edge late in the game. I think that the Vols will battle, but Auburn’s signal-caller, Jarrett Stidham, makes enough plays for the Tigers to get the win.
Charlie Burris (@Charlie_Burris):
In many ways, this game could not set up better for Tennessee. Auburn is spinning out right now. They just got drubbed by Mississippi State and there have been reports that things aren’t going too well behind the scenes for Gus Malzahn’s squad.
Place on top of that the fact that the game is an 11 a.m. CT kickoff, fans are pissed off, and many students are away on fall break. It’s essentially a nightmare scenario for the Tigers. The Vols played perhaps their best game of the season against Georgia, despite the final score, and then they were able to rest during the bye week. This is a golden opportunity for the boys in orange.
But, none of that means that this is suddenly going to be an easy victory for UT.
Auburn still has an extremely talented defense and an offense that can get going if you let it. I foresee a contest that remains close late into the 2nd half. I think Tennessee will fight hard and leave it all out on the gridiron but I simply don’t think it will be enough.
When I look at this, the Vols still need better players at most positions before a win against a team like Auburn becomes a reality. Yes, I think Jeremy Pruitt and Co. will hang around for a good portion of the contest but ultimately, the Tigers run away with it.