Crucial game for the Tiger turnaround today.
What was once an every year rivalry has turned into a once-in-awhile sort of affair. Auburn and Tennessee met every season from 1956-1991, with the Tigers taking more than their fair share against what many would have called the second best team in the SEC historically. Since the divisional split, Auburn has ruled as well. The 90s were unkind with Philip Fulmer in command in Knoxville, but since Auburn’s last loss to the Vols in 1999, the Tigers have won six straight in the series.
2003: Auburn comes off of a slow start and takes down a top ten Volunteer team at Jordan-Hare Stadium under the lights. Cadillac Williams rolls for nearly 200 yards and the Tigers hold the Vols to just four rushing yards.
2004: Charles Barkley tells Tennessee to get off the tracks, because there’s a train a-comin’. He’s right, Auburn blows out the Vols 34-10 in Knoxville, and Junior Rosegreen picks off four passes. Jason Allen gets run over a bunch.
2004: SEC Championship rematch. It’s tighter, but Auburn still prevails 38-28 to stay undefeated and win the conference title.
2008: Maybe a game that’s even uglier than the 3-2 affair in Starkville a few weeks prior. Auburn beats Tennessee 14-12 in the last game in the series for both Tommy Tuberville and Philip Fulmer.
2009: Chizik vs Kiffin. Ben Tate stiff-arms Eric Berry into oblivion and Auburn hangs on for a big win on the road.
2013: A laugher. Nick Marshall rolls for over 200 yards on the ground, Auburn returns a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown, and the Tigers roll 55-23 in the last meeting between these two.
Today it’s a little different. Most fans went into each of those games pretty confident in Auburn’s chances (save for 2003, which was a nice surprise). The Tigers and Gus Malzahn could have another laugher today (Tennessee’s losses have all come by exactly 26 points) if things hit the way we think they can. Auburn’s been close.
In the loss last week, we saw the run game finally break out a bit in limited glimpses. Boobee Whitlow had 88 yards on just eight carries, while Jarrett Stidham was allowed to throw the ball a little more. Two misses on what should’ve been easy touchdowns to Darius Slayton (one Stidham’s fault, one Slayton’s) and Auburn’s right there in the end. Add in the fumble from Whitlow going in, and there you have it. Kevin Steele got out-game-planned by Joe Moorhead, but that happens every now and then.
Today, it’s Jeremy Pruitt. The non-asparagus-knower has a team that’s 93rd in scoring offense and 63rd in scoring defense. When Auburn’s defense is matched up against the Volunteer offense, we should see very few points. This is not a team that can really move the ball with any regularity (although they did a good job at times against Georgia).
More importantly, however, we’ll be seeing a defense that could allow this Auburn offense a foothold. They haven’t been particularly good against the pass, so maybe this is the game where we see a watershed moment. A couple deep balls completed for touchdowns. A long run. Something that helps the offensive line grow. We need it.
This is a game that I wish we had at night, under the lights, with Ron Franklin counting off yardage on ESPN. It’s a name matchup that deserves that kind of billing. Instead, it’s going to be a beautiful day on the Plains. A beautiful day for a win.