1. Stop the Tigers’ front seven
If you’ve watched the Vols at all during this season, then you know that this is way easier said than done.
The Tigers have one of the best front sevens in college football. They are sixth in the SEC with (15) sacks and 50th in the country in rush defense.
Don’t let their 50th-ranked rush defense fool you. Before the Bulldogs housed them for 349 yards on the ground, Auburn was giving up about 93 yards per game - good for second in the country.
Of course, Tennessee is no Mississippi State when it comes to running the ball. The Vols are nowhere near as talented up front as the Bulldogs and Jarrett Guarantano is not even close to an effective runner as Nick Fitzgerald.
The Vols will have to find a way to control this crew if they want any chance at a win on Saturday.
2. Continue to make Jarret Stidham uncomfortable
In Auburn’s two losses, Stidham has been the wink link. He’s completed just 53% of his passes while posting a 1:2 TD-INT ratio.
His recent play has prompted many outside the program to question whether or not he should be the starter or not at this point in the season. The offense has struggled all year long and Stidham has been the common denominator.
Tennessee has to continue their defensive play from the Georgia game and make Stidham’s life hell just like they did to Jake Fromm at times. Stidham is no Fromm, therefore the Vols should have a decent amount of success against him.
If Tennessee can force him into a couple of mistakes, then the Vols should be able to hang against the Tigers.
3. Shut down the running game
Other than the West Virginia game, Tennessee has actually played fairly well on defense. They are 65th in the country defending the run and 26th defending the pass, showing marked improvement from 2017.
Auburn’s running game, on the other hand, is not so great. Gus Malzahn’s offenses are predicated upon establishing the run, so it makes sense that the unit has been inconsistent this season as they average just 164 yards on the ground.
Put it this way, the Vols are actually better in the run game, averaging 178 yards per game.
Regardless of stature, if Tennessee shuts down the ground attack then that would force Stidham to become more involved and that’s a good thing for the Vols.
Tennessee does not want to be the team that Auburn finds its offensive groove against.
4. Give Ty Chandler double-digit touches
I feel like a broken record when it comes to Chandler, so I’ll make this simple and to-the-point.
Give. Ty. Chandler. The. Damn. Ball. Any. And. Every. Chance. You. Get.
He needs more than just nine touches in a game. This almost feels like Alvin Kamara all over again.
5. Win the turnover battle
The Vols can’t give a sputtering offense a short field to work with nor do they need to give a very good defense any more confidence than it already has.
The best way to do both is to avoid turnovers at all cost. Now this doesn’t mean play scared, but it does mean make smart, effective decisions that give your team the best shot to win.
Auburn’s confidence on defense has to be a little shaken after last week’s loss, but an early turnover would wipe out any remaining hangover and put them right back in business.
If Tennessee gives the Tigers’ offense a short field, then that could do wonders for their confidence as well if they can score. It’s a lose-lose situation that the Vols can’t put themselves in.