Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Auburn game may make or break Tennessee's season

Heading into the Auburn game, the Tennessee Volunteers are banged up and searching to find consistency. The conventional wisdom regarding last week's game against Ohio was that it would provide a tune up to prepare for the teeth of the conference schedule.

However, that did not happen. The Bobcats pushed the Vols deep into the fourth quarter before Tennessee pulled it out 34-23. Several key injuries occurred and the most important one was the knee injury suffered by middle linebacker Nick Reveiz. In the second half, the Vols were missing five starters from their defense.

Tennessee needs to get healthy in a hurry as unbeaten Auburn brings its powerful spread offense to Knoxville on Saturday. The Tigers are 4-0 and new offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has revived their attack. Auburn was as bad as Tennessee on offense last year, but this year, they have already put 54, 49 and 41 points on opponents.

Quarterback Chris Todd looks born again as the starter. Last year, he appeared lost, but this year he has passed for 1012 yards and 11 touchdowns. Last week, he passed for a personal best 287 yards and five touchdowns against Ball State.

Tennessee, on the other hand, is still looking for offensive consistency. Running back Montario Hardesty has been the bright spot averaging more than 100 yards a game, including 140 last week. Quarterback Jonathan Crompton still remains a mystery, and the Vols need him to avoid making critical turnovers. This year, he has seven touchdown passes, but eight interceptions.

The Volunteers really need this game. With a loss, they will fall to 2-3 and with the next two games against Georgia and Alabama, they could be staring 2-5 in the face. A win over Auburn might generate enough momentum to beat the Bulldogs or Bama.

Though Auburn is 4-0, this is their first road game, which is a big challenge for any team. However, the Tigers should be able to put enough points on the board to win. As long as Tennessee's offense remains unreliable, it will be tough to pick them in big games. Shootouts are not the Vols specialty.

The pick: Auburn 27 Tennessee 17

Other SEC picks: Georgia over LSU, Alabama over Kentucky, Ole Miss over Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech over Mississippi State, South Carolina over South Carolina State, Arkansas over Texas A&M

Last week: 7-1 (.875), Overall: 30-3 (.909)

1 comment:

Chris said...

Auburn 26 Tennessee 22. New opponent, same problem. I was at the game and the offense was bad again. Our quarterback problems have been well chronicled. However, one problem that deserves more scrutiny is our wide receiver play. Our wide receiver play was awful for the first three quarters. Dropped passes and an inability to separate from defenders doomed this aspect of the game.