When you lose a tough game on the road, you can’t wait to get back on the field.
When you lose two games in a row on the road, then you really just can’t wait to get home.
That’s exactly where the Tennessee Volunteers will be on Saturday at 12:00 pm ET when they take the field against the Auburn Tigers.
If you looked at the schedule in August, this was suppose to be where it got easy for the Vols.
Unfortunately for Tennessee, that is nowhere close to reality.
Gus Malzahn, the mastermind of Auburn’s 2010 offense that returned to the team as head coach this offseason, has done an amazing job of turning the Tigers around.
Auburn finished the 2012 season with a record of 3-9. This season, under Malzahn’s guidance, they’ve jumped out to a 8-1 record, including a win on the road against Texas A&M.
So it’s easy to see why this game isn’t exactly what Tennessee thought it would be back in the summer.
Auburn has scored less than 30 points only twice this season and they’ve scored more than 40 points on three occasions. They’re sixth in the nation in rushing yards per game (306.2) and 29th in the nation in scoring (36.8).
To put it bluntly — this is not a team Tennessee matches up with very well.
The Vols have struggled mightily against the run all season. They’ve given up 543 rushing yards in their past two games.
Butch Jones acknowledged on Monday that the Vols will have to be more physical against the run when they play Auburn.
Jones: We better get tough. We better get more physical in a hurry………football’s a game of quick second decisions. Football is a game that’s played off of instincts and trusting what you see with your eyes and your eye discipline. Those are the things that we have to get corrected: getting off blocks, maintaining our gaps, not being a gap short because you let a guard reach you as a three technique or the center reaching our one technique. That’s inexcusable.
If Tennessee is going to have a chance against Auburn, it will begin and end with their run defense.
It will be a monumental task for a beleaguered Vols defense.
Gus Malzahn is extremely committed to the run. Auburn threw the ball only nine times against Arkansas. Part of the reason is that the game didn’t require Auburn to air it out. The other part is that Auburn doesn’t necessarily need to throw the ball that often.
Again, if Tennessee wants to pull off the upset, they’ll have to give the Tigers a reason to throw the ball.
Tennessee’s offense will have to do it’s part as well. They’ll have to do a better job of establishing the run. Wide receivers will have to help out true freshman QB Josh Dobbs by making routine catches and not leaving yards on the field. The Vols will also have to continue to win the field position battle.
All of these things have to occur for the Vols to have a chance, but make no doubt about it — this game rests on the shoulders of Tennessee’s defense.
If the Vols play like they did against Georgia and South Carolina, they’ll have a chance to pull the upset.
Anything else and it’ll be another L in the win/loss column.