Ahead of No. 21 Auburn's home showdown with Tennessee, The Plainsman posed questions for Will Backus, assistant sports editor for The Daily Beacon. Here's how he sees the action playing out Saturday inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The vibe around the Vols program this year seems to be "hungry." Is Tennessee going to get up for Saturday's game, having not beaten a team in the SEC West since 2007?
1. I don't think the past matters too much to this team. Despite the rough season so far, I’d expect Tennessee to come out ready to play. Tennessee’s players seem to enjoy the tough schedule, so that might be some motivation to get fired up and ready for the game.
What do Auburn fans need to know about what a Jeremy Pruitt-led team looks like?
2. Pruitt prides himself on teaching toughness to his teams. He likes to see his teams “thump” on game day, and he preaches smash-mouth football. Auburn can expect a Tennessee team that will try to establish themselves along the line of scrimmage early. And, as we’ve seen in the Georgia game, if Tennessee gets down big early, then I’d expect the team to keep playing hard and motivated.
Who are some key Vols to look out for?
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3. On the offensive side, a guy to watch may be wide receiver Josh Palmer. Auburn has a pretty good pass defense, allowing just 189 yards per game, but Palmer is a constant deep threat and has caught quite a few passes of 25-yards plus. He averages 25 yards a catch and has a single touchdown. On the defensive side, it will be interesting to see if outside linebacker Darrell Taylor can build off of his impressive three-sack performance he had against Georgia, which included two strip sacks.
What are the keys to the game? Where do you see UT matching up well?
4. Tennessee has to get off to a better start on offense. Georgia was able to get 24 points on the board before Tennessee was able to score, which took three quarters. When their offense got going, they were able to put together a couple of drives that ended in touchdowns, scoring two straight to make the game interesting for a short time. If they can get rolling early then it could make the game interesting. In terms of matchups, I’m interested to see how Tennessee’s defensive front will do against an Auburn offensive line that, last I checked, allows 2.5 sacks a game. Tennessee’s pass rush has been getting consistently better as the season progresses, and they’ll have another good chance to improve against the Tigers.
5. As a disclaimer, my score predictions have been pretty inaccurate this year. That being said, I think Auburn as a 17 point favorite may be slightly generous, and neither offense is particularly explosive. Still, I’d say the Tigers get it done comfortably at home, 27-14.
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