One of the SEC’s forgotten rivalries will get reignited this weekend when the no. 21 Auburn Tigers play host to the Tennessee Volunteers. Game time is scheduled for noon EST on Saturday, October 13, at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama. The game will be available on the SEC Network.
According to this week’s college football betting odds, the Tigers are 16.5-point favorites at home. However, that line has come down some after Auburn began the week favored by 17 points. The over/under for the game is set at 47.5 points.
The Tigers enter this week in dire straights after suffering their second loss of the season last week against Mississippi State. Auburn’s offense has struggled to get it going despite big expectations heading into the season. Those problems came to a head last week when the Tigers only scored three field goals in a 23-9 loss.
That loss leaves Auburn 4-2 overall but only 1-2 in SEC play. The Tigers now have a narrow path back into the SEC West race. The only thing that gives them hope is that they have a chance to beat both Georgia and Alabama in head-to-head games, although both games are on the road. If there’s any hope for the Tigers, they can’t lose another game this season. Needless to say, this week is a must-win game for them as they look to get their offense back on track.
Tennessee is experiencing similar problems, although most expected the Vols to struggle in Jeremy Pruitt’s first season at the helm. The Volunteers are 2-3 overall and 0-2 in SEC play after losing back-to-back games to Florida and Georgia. Tennessee now has the misfortune of having to play Auburn and Alabama in consecutive weeks.
If the Vols have any hope of getting things turned around and sneaking into a bowl game, they’re going to have to win a game or two that they’re not expected to win. This week’s game against Auburn could be the perfect opportunity for Tennessee to take advantage of a vulnerable opponent, especially with an extra week to prepare.
Of course, the Vols will also be fighting history, as they haven’t beaten Auburn since 1999. To be fair, these two teams have only met six times since that Tennessee win in 1999. In fact, these teams haven’t seen each other since 2013, making this one of the more dormant rivalries in the SEC.
For Tennessee, this is a great opportunity to pounce on a team that’s lacking confidence right now. However, I don’t think the Volunteers are ready to take such an opportunity and run with it. I think an angry Auburn team will show up at home eager to fix some of the problems that have plagued them and trample an out-manned Volunteer team. I like the Tigers to win comfortably and cover the 16.5-point spread.
Despite all of the problems with Auburn’s offense this season, the Tigers still have a top-10 defense. Auburn is giving up 14 points per game over their first six games. If you can forgive how effective Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald was at running the ball last week, opposing teams have struggled to find consistent success against the Auburn defense this year. I don’t see that changing after last week’s loss.
Considering the state of Tennessee’s offense, it’s not hard to foresee Auburn’s defense dominating this game. The Volunteers are scoring less than 18 points per game in their four games against FBS opponents this year. When they had some success moving the ball against Florida, it came at the expense of six turnovers. Against Georgia a couple weeks ago, the Vols managed 209 total yards. That doesn’t sound like an offense that will do much against the Tigers.
Sophomore quarterback Jarrett Guarantano is yet to throw for over 200 yards in a game this season. Moreover, the Vols don’t have the playmakers on the outside who are likely to challenge Auburn down the field. Meanwhile, the Tennessee rushing attack is functional but nothing special. The Volunteers were mostly held in check against both Florida and Georgia, making it hard to believe they’ll have consistent success running the ball against Auburn’s tenacious front-7.
As long as the Auburn defense plays well, there won’t be too much pressure on the offense. There are clearly issues with the running game, as well as quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who has taken a big step backward from what he produced last season. I do believe the Tennessee defense will make some plays early in the game to keep things close. But I still think Auburn has enough talent to eventually find a breakthrough against a young Vols defense.
To be honest, this pick hinges on the Auburn defense continuing to play at a high level. If the Tigers are anywhere near their best, the Tennessee offense won’t put too many points on the board. Even if the Auburn offense isn’t clicking on all cylinders, they won’t have to score that many points for the Tigers to cover the spread. I’ll swallow the 16.5 points and lean toward Auburn having a bounce-back performance.