BY JOSH PATE
It’s the definition of Southeastern Conference football. Auburn and Tennessee often mirror each other. The two teams dominated the 1980s, winning a combined six conference championships. Neither has been consistent enough as of late to contend nationally, but both are always dangerous on Saturdays – no matter the records.
And that brings us to this Saturday.
Auburn comes to Knoxville for the first time since 2004 to take on the Vols and is riding high on the War Eagle bandwagon. Both teams have first-year head coaches. The Vols are back on the winning side, having beaten Ohio 34-23 on Saturday to improve to 2-2 (0-1 SEC) in Lane Kiffin’s first season. The Tigers, however, are on a different track. They are 4-0 (1-0 SEC) under first-year head coach Gene Chizik and are eyeing 5-0 for the third time in the last six years. If they are to do so, their high-octane offense will likely receive the credit.
What to Watch: The scoreboard is tops on the list. Auburn ranks third in the country in scoring offense with 45.3 points per game, and the Tigers are putting up 526.3 yards per game. They’ve scored in every quarter they’ve played, and their ground attack ranks sixth in the nation.
Did You Know? Auburn and Tennessee played once before on Oct. 3, with Tennessee winning 17-9 in 1998. The Vols went on to win the national championship. The Tigers, however, are 10-3-1 on Oct. 3.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Strengths: Auburn has won four in a row against Tennessee, scoring 28.5 points per game during that span. The Vols have averaged 17.8 in those games. Interestingly, nine of the last 12 in the series have been 10-point margins or less. … Tennessee has just three touchdown passes in the last six games against Auburn. The AU secondary has given up just four touchdown passes this season. … The Tigers have 14 scoring drives this season that have lasted two minutes or less.
Weaknesses: Auburn has come from behind to win all four of its games this season. The Tigers trailed Louisiana Tech 7-3 before coming back to win 37-13. They trailed Mississippi State 17-14 before winning 49-24. West Virginia was the eye-opener, as Auburn fell behind 21-10 after a quarter, then fought back to win 41-30. Last week Auburn trailed Ball State 7-0 but zoomed ahead to win 54-30. … Auburn’s opponents thus far have a combined 5-9 record this season.