The Vols are (-15) point underdogs as they travel to Auburn this week to take on the Tigers. They are still searching for their first SEC win of the season and since 2016.
Check out this week’s preview below.
Tennessee is coming off of their bye week and will face off against the Auburn Tigers in Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday. It’s the 50th meeting between these two teams. Auburn leads the all-time series with a 28-21 record and have won the last six in a row.
Auburn suffered a bad loss against the Mississippi State Bulldogs last week. The defense was gashed on the ground, giving up 349 yards to Nick Fitzgerald and others. They were only giving up around 92 rushing yards per game coming into the game.
The Tigers’ defensive front seven is no joke. They are tied for sixth in the SEC with 15 sacks on the season to go with their smothering run defense.
But things are different for them on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham is still trying to find his groove in 2018 and the rushing attack is not what it needs to be.
This is where the Vols can make the game competitive. They were able to harass Georgia’s Jake Fromm pretty much all day and showed major improvement from their previous performances. Can Tennessee put enough pressure on Stidham in order to force him to continue his errant ways?
It gets more difficult for Tennessee on the offensive side of the ball. As mentioned earlier, Auburn’s front seven is one of the best in the country and unfortunately for the Vols, their offensive line is one of the worst in the country.
This matchup will be crucial. If the Vols can find even a bit of success with their offensive line, then it will make the game very interesting. Tennessee’s defense could have a great day, but it won’t matter if the offense goes backward every other drive.
What to watch for
- Tennessee’s offensive line vs. Auburn’s defensive front: You can’t stress enough how important this matchup will be in this game. If the Vols want any shot at a win, it starts here.
- Auburn’s offense vs. Tennessee’s defense: This is where the Vols will make the game interesting if they can play like they did against Georgia.
- The coaches’ first bye week: Butch Jones won the first SEC game of his career after a bye week against South Carolina in 2013. Can Jeremy Pruitt do the same?
- The Vols’ receivers: This is probably their toughest test of the season. Can they make plays against the team with the second-most interceptions in the SEC?
- An early kickoff: It’s not uncommon for favorites to struggle in an early game. Maybe the Vols can catch the Tigers napping.
- QB Jarrett Guarantano: He is the leader of the offense and needs to have a smart, efficient game this week.
- RB Ty Chandler: Easily the Vols’ best offensive player. They have to find ways to get him the ball.
- OL Trey Smith: Smith is the best offensive lineman on the team and will be the anchor against Auburn’s front.
- LB Darrell Taylor: Can he keep it rolling after a three-sack performance against Georgia?
- DT Shy Tuttle: Auburn’s ground game is key to their offense. It’ll be up to Tuttle to help control it.
- DB Alontae Taylor: The freshman needs to continue to develop, but this week feels like a good week for him to finally break through.
- QB Jarrett Stidham: Even though he hasn’t played well, Stidham is still a major component to this offense.
- RB JaTarvious Whitlow: He has just two more carries than fellow back Kam Martin, but has almost double the yards and averages six yards per carry.
- WR Darius Slayton: He’s the Tigers’ most reliable receiver. The Vols will need to shut him down right away.
- EDGE Nick Coe: Coe is an absolute terror and has improved after garnering SEC All-Freshman honors in 2017.
- LB Deshaun Davis: The team’s leading tackler is the heartbeat of the defense.
- DB Jamel Dean: He’s not wowing anyone on the stat sheet, but Dean is the team’s best defensive back.
There’s no reason to think that Tennessee will be unable to keep this game competitive. How long they can do so, on the other hand, is the big question.
If they can somehow get off to a fast start, then all bets are off. That’s easier said than done considering how this team has started games throughout the 2018 season.
The Vols will cover the spread, but they will be hard-pressed to win the game.