Tennessee Pass-Offense vs. Auburn Pass-Defense
The Volunteer receiver-by-committee experiment is actually
being led by somebody who's used to serving 'em rather than
catching 'em. Reserve QB James Banks leads the way with 16
catches, 223 yards and a team-high four touchdowns.
like senior QB Casey Clausen has been around forever. He is
well on his way to setting career marks in passing yardage
and touchdowns by season's end. He hasn't lit up the scoreboard
yet against any single opponent, but he has been consistent
and has spread the wealth around quite a bit. He'll have to
continue to do so if the Vols have any shot of maintaining
their perfect record.
Clausen to continue this season's controlled consistency while
trying to spread Auburn's secondary, and eventually going
for a few long balls to some of his lesser-knowns.
DB Kevin Hobbs has the only two INTs for Auburn. As a unit,
the defense gives up less than 200 passing yards per game.
People still tend to remember the 23-0 loss to USC to open.
But even on that day, Matt Leinart , Carson's replacement,
only went off for 192 yards and one touchdown. Still, the
Tigers have nine freshmen in the secondary, some of whom play
regularly. It's highly unlikely that a veteran QB like Clausen
will think twice about the secondary. At least at the outset,
I'd expect the Tigers to play a bit tentative against an experienced
veteran like Clausen, perhaps even showing some nickel and
dime sets in the secondary. Perhaps, if they can keep the
game close, look for the Auburn secondary to gamble a bit
and start blitzing some, something that previous opponents
have not done much of this season.
Auburn Pass-Offense vs. Tennessee Pass-Defense
QB Jason Campbell is coming off of one of his best outings
as the signal-caller for Auburn. On Saturday, the junior completed
12-of-13 passes for 172 yards and one touchdown as the Tigers
defeated Western Kentucky. Just as Tennessee does, inversely
Auburn does not have one main threat at the receiver spot.
Senior Jeris McIntyre leads the way with 205 yards receiving
and two touchdowns. If Auburn wants a chance to make things
happen, Campbell is going to have to find somebody other than
McIntyre. Expect the playbook to be opened up a bit more,
or else the Tigers could be in trouble.
defense has allowed just four passing touchdowns, three of
which came from pass-happy Marshall. Coach Philip Fulmer's
teams have been known to play the opposing team's receivers
very tightly, thus not often allowing the deep ball. Being
that Auburn has an experienced QB in Campbell, look for Auburn
to exploit the Volunteers relative inexperience in the secondary
(senior Rashad Baker has the most experience, but there is
a big dropoff after that). Baker is going to need some help
from his younger teammates, and if Campbell is able to connect
on some long balls early, look for Baker and company to blitz.
Tennessee Run-Offense vs. Auburn Run-Defense
Slight Edge: Tennessee
The tradition of strong Tennessee running attacks continues
with fellow juniors Cedric Houston and Jabari Davis. After
starting red hot against non-conference foes Fresno State
and Marshall, Houston has come back down to earth with consecutive
games of 25 and 86 rushing yards. But since he is averaging
over 100 yards per game, he needs to be considered the definite
threat he can be. While Houston leads in yards, Davis is in
the lead in touchdowns (5). Like his ally Houston, Davis started
out very well in his first few games but will now be coming
off of a season-low effort (12 rushing yards). Look for Davis
to get his redemption against the defensive line of Auburn.
giving up over 200 yards of rushing in its first two games
against USC and Georgia Tech, the defense has only given up
double digits in its last two, including just 48 yards against
Western Kentucky. But that was Western Kentucky. More significantly,
they've allowed a mere two rushing TDs all season. Still,
the two-headed monster of Houston and Davis should prove to
be too much for the Tigers defense to handle. Expect Auburn
to continue its staunch play on the D-line and crowd eight
(and even nine) men in the box to thwart effectively, especially
in the red zone.
Auburn Run-Offense vs. Tennessee Run-Defense
Auburn RBs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown have combined
for nearly 500 yards and four TDs. Brown's numbers have gotten
better with each game. Williams, having come back from season
ending surgery midway through last season, came through with
a season-high 70 rushing yards last week. If both men can
continue to improve their play, especially against a tougher
opponent like Tennessee, they make the difference on Saturday
night. Realistically, look for both men to play more of a
supporting role early, but as the game wears on, they will
be called upon to wear down the front four of Tennessee.
defense has been anything but porous in the red zone, letting
up just two rushing TDs. That's about the only thing they've
done right, though. Twice, they have given up over 200 yards
rushing, including a whopping 294 yards against Marshall,
a team known more for its passing savvy. Overall, the run-defense
has given up many long gains, especially in the middle. It's
almost as if UTenn wake up when the opponent gets within striking
distance, but otherwise they are not real focused. If the
Vols have any chance of winning the war in the trenches, they
are going to have to be at their best. Being that the aforementioned
secondary is weak, look for the experienced Tennessee front-seven
to blitz aplenty.
Volunteer freshman James Wilhoit has been a bit spotty on
his FGAs (5-for-9), but he is a perfect 12-for-12 on PATs.
Teammate Dustin Colquitt is one of the top punters in the
nation thus far, averaging 49.2, including a 67-yarder against
Florida. Something that stands out on Tennessee's special
teams units is the play of Rashad Baker. It's not his stats,
but the fact that he is one of the best, period. An injury
would not only hurt the defense, but the special teams unit
as well, something that the Vols can ill-afford to suffer,
especially now that the conference schedule is well underway.
It's not often you can say this, but the punter could be the
most dangerous weapon.
two losses that produced a combined three points, Auburn has
not had much of a chance to show prowess on the special teams.
But when they have had an opportunity, they have not shown
very much, as evidenced by the mere 37.9 yards per punt average
of freshman Kody Bliss. The lone bright spot on special teams
has been the play of punt returner Tre Smith, who is averaging
10.9 yards. Even if the Tigers have ample occasions to show
their stuff, you have to give major props to Colquitt, who
is a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, annually given to the
nation's top punter
a team picked by many to make it as far as the Sugar Bowl,
the Auburn Tigers had as bad of a start as a team could possibly
have. Getting out of the gate at 0-2 made many fear a season
similar to the 1998 campaign, when hopes were high following
a 10-3 record, and then the team only managed to go 3-8 (in
the process, Terry Bowden was out as head coach). Now, though,
the ship seems to be righted as the team has won its last
two games convincingly, albeit against far inferior opponents
Vanderbilt (a perennial SEC doormat) and I-AA Western Kentucky.
Having the game at Jordan-Hare Stadium should help.
Tennessee is a perfect 4-0 and is having a great bounce back
year, they have not defeated foes convincingly. The Vols only
won by ten against Marshall, a team that is DEFINITELY in
the midst of a very down season - they lost to Troy State
and Toledo, but somehow took Kansas State in Manhattan (somebody,
please explain these kids and their inconsistency to me).
They also needed overtime to take out South Carolina.
In the end, this game could come down to which running back
tandem succeeds most. As we've already seen, both teams have
backs that can get the job done. But I think that Tennessee
has so much more riding on this game (SEC supremacy, a shot
at the Sugar Bowl, amongst other things). The Vols have beaten
the Tigers in their last three meetings. There's just something
about tradition that I like so much.
Tennessee 28, Auburn 13