Auburn (4-2) vs. Tennessee (2-4)
When: 6 p.m. CT, Saturday
Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn.
Line: Auburn -10.5
This game will determine…
If Auburn truly turned a corner with its win against LSU three weeks ago, or whether the prolonged time off negatively impacted Gus Malzahn’s program. With a win, Auburn would head into the Iron Bowl feeling good after a third straight win, while a loss would mark a second unexpected setback this season for the program.
Three things to look for…
1. How the extra time off affected the team. Auburn hasn’t played since Halloween. It took a few days off last week due to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases within the program before returning to practice last Friday. It’s the first time since 1983 that the Tigers will have 21 days between regular-season games, with this extended time off coming at an inopportune time for Auburn, which appeared to be hitting its stride after its blowout win against LSU. Can the Tigers pick up where they left off, or will there be more rust than expected when they take the field against the Vols.
2. Who’s in and who’s out? Auburn had 10 players test positive for COVID-19 since the bye week, with another 10 or so forced into mandatory 14-day quarantines due to contact-tracing protocols. The Tigers haven’t had a positive test since last Wednesday, and Gus Malzahn expects some of the affected players to be available against the Vols, though he won’t say how many will remain sidelined—or what position groups were most impacted—so it remains to be seen if Auburn will be without any of it key contributors this weekend.
3. Can Auburn avenge its 2018 loss to Tennessee? The last time these two teams met, Tennessee snapped an 11-game SEC losing streak by shocking Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Many of the players on this year’s team were involved in that game, and the loss still stings for Auburn. The Vols enter this game on a similar low note, having dropped four in a row since opening the season with back-to-back wins. The Tigers aren’t looking past them and toward next week’s Iron Bowl, and they’ve love nothing more than to avenge that inexplicable loss from two years ago.
Tennessee’s run game against Auburn’s run defense. Auburn is coming off its best performance against the run this season and its second-best against an SEC team in the last decade, holding LSU to 32 yards on the ground. Now the Tigers will have to slow Tennessee’s Eric Gray, who has three 100-yard performances this season, including 123 yards rushing in the Vols’ last game against Arkansas.
By the numbers
100 — The Tennessee game will mark Gus Malzahn’s 100th as Auburn’s head coach. He is 66-33 as the Tigers’ head coach, including a 1-1 mark against Tennessee. During his tenure as head coach, Auburn is 9-1 coming off an open date.
Auburn — LB K.J. Britt out (hand), OL Brandon Council out (knee), LB Chandler Wooten out (opt-out), DB Traivon Leonard out (opt-out), S Jamien Sherwood questionable (ankle), WR Shedrick Jackson questionable (undisclosed), TE Brandon Frazier probable (undisclosed).
Tennessee — Shawn Shamburger out (academics), DL Latrell Bumphus out (leg), WR Dee Beckwith out (ankle), LB J.J. Peterson out (personal), RB Carlin Fils-Aime out (personal), RB Len’Neth Whitehead out (foot), TE Austin Pope out (back), WR Deangelo Gibbs out (academics), QB Jarrett Guarantano questionable (head), .
Tennessee player to watch
Henry To’o To’o, linebacker — Fresh off a Freshman All-American season, the sophomore leads the Vols with 40 tackles this season and is tied with Auburn’s Colby Wooden for the SEC lead in tackles for loss this season, with seven.
Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.
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