Auburn vs. Tennessee: No. 21 Auburn will host Tennessee on Saturday afternoon in a battle between two reeling teams searching to get back on track. The Tigers got steamrolled last weekend at Mississippi State 23-9 — their third straight hapless offensive performance. Tennessee had some time to rest last week after back-to-back losses to Georgia and Florida.
It’s a wildly important game for both coaches. Auburn’s Gus Malzahn was the recipient of a massive seven-year, $49 million extension during the offseason. So far, Auburn hasn’t seen any return on its investment. First-year Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt would love to notch his first signature win, and doing it inside the house of the defending SEC West champion would be a good spot to get it.
Let’s preview and pick the matchup between the Volunteers and Tigers.
Date: Saturday, Oct. 13 | Time: Noon ET
Location: Jordan-Hare Stadium — Auburn, Alabama
TV: SEC Network | Live stream: WatchESPN
Tennessee: Things haven’t gone well for Pruitt through the first month of the season. His only two wins are over East Tennessee State and UTEP, the offense is next-to-last in the SEC in yards per game (360) and outside a few small glimmers of hope, his Vols haven’t really threatened in any of their three losses. If there is a bright side — and this is a stretch — it’s the defense. Florida didn’t exactly light up the Vols in their rivalry game three weeks ago, and Georgia had to work a little bit more than anticipated to pull away. The bottom line, though, is that if quarterback Jarrett Guarantano doesn’t become a difference-maker, it’s hard to see Tennessee posing a real threat during the final month-and-a-half of the regular season.
Auburn: Words can’t describe how abysmal the Tigers offensive line has been in 2018. They have given up 13 sacks — tied for 11th in the SEC. Ten of those sacks have come over the last three games. But the numbers don’t do it justice. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham has been running for his life, rarely gets time to even have plays that call for deep routes and when receivers do get deep, Stidham has struggled to even see the wide open passes. The defense has kept Auburn in a lot of games, but if the offense doesn’t get cranked up, the defense won’t be able to hold up every week.
Game prediction, picks
This game won’t be pretty. Not even a little bit. Two stagnant offenses will square off in what will resemble more of a pillow fight than an actual college football game. Auburn’s offense will struggle to get going against a defense that will relentlessly attack the Tigers offensive line. But that’s Auburn’s defensive M.O. too. Which quarterback will make the least devastating mistake? That will tell the tale of this game. My hunch is that Guarantano will buckle under Auburn’s pressure and allow the Tigers to sneak out of there with a win. The Vols will stay within the number, though. Pick: Tennessee (+16.5)