Tennessee at Auburn Preview

Tennessee at Auburn Preview

Tennessee at Auburn
By Brian Edwards

With both teams in bounce-back mode, Auburn will play host to Tennessee on Saturday afternoon in a desperation game slated for 3:30 p.m. Eastern on CBS.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened Auburn (3-1 straight up, 1-3 against the spread) as a 6½-point favorite with a total of 40½. Neither number has seen much movement this week. The Volunteers are plus 210 to win outright (risk $100 to win $210).

Tommy Tuberville’s squad is coming off a gut-wrenching 26-21 home loss to LSU as a 2 ½-point underdog. The War Eagles led 14-3 at halftime and 21-20 at crunch time, but LSU’s Jarrett Lee threw the game-winning touchdown pass with 1:03 remaining.

Gabe McKenzie gave Auburn a 14-3 advantage in the second quarter when he picked off a Lee pass and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown. The War Eagles’ other first-half score came on a one-yard plunge from Ben Tate.

Trailing 17-14 with 6:40 left in the final stanza, Auburn quarterback Chris Todd hooked up with Robert Dunn for a 15-yard scoring strike, but the go-ahead score didn’t hold up. Todd threw for 250 yards, but he was intercepted twice.

Tennessee (1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS) got trounced 30-6 by Florida at Neyland Stadium last week. The Vols, who had covered the spread in four straight games as home underdogs dating back to 2004, never threatened to cover the spread as 7½-point ‘dogs.

They did everything wrong. Just like in a season-opening loss to UCLA, they fumbled in the red zone and gave up a touchdown on special teams. They inexplicably kicked the ball to UF’s Brandon James, who had a punt return for a TD and a long kickoff return that set up another score for the Gators.

UT has played resilient with its back against the wall in the past. For example, the Vols started 1-2 last season only to right the ship and go on to take the SEC East title. After going 5-6 in 2005, they bounced back to go 9-3 during the 2006 regular season.

Therefore, we’ve seen Phillip Fulmer’s teams respond in similar situations. But honestly, has Fulmer’s hot seat ever reached this temperature?

Even though UT’s coach of the last 17 years has the best winning percentage (148-47, 76%) of all active coaches in college football, the Rocky Top faithful are clearly sporting a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” attitude. And we’re not talking about a little sports-radio chatter, we’re referencing an extremely unhappy fan base whose criticism has reached a roar covering the entire state from Memphis to Johnson City.

Bottom line: Fulmer is in trouble.

He hasn’t won an SEC title since 1998. He’s lost four in a row to Florida. Attendance is starting to wane, as less than 100,000 were at the home opener against UAB (a 35-3 win). The Vols lost to UCLA in Week 1. Since then, the Bruins have lost 59-0 at BYU and 31-10 vs. Arizona.

Junior QB Jonathan Crompton has been awful. He has just 591 passing yards through four games. Most notably, Crompton has a 2/4 touchdown-interception ratio.

The running game has been solid, but UT hasn’t used it enough. Arian Foster is averaging 6.0 yards per carry, but he has only 39 totes to date.

Auburn’s offense hasn’t been much better, scoring just 24 points in a pair of SEC games, including a three-point “outburst” in a 3-2 win at Mississippi State. And seven of the Tigers’ points came on the aforementioned pick-six by McKenzie.

With that said, the unit showed a little life against an outstanding LSU defense last week. For the season, Todd has 722 passing yards with a 2/3 TD-INT ratio. Tate leads the team in rushing with 323 yards and a pair of TDs.

Auburn has failed to cover the number in three straight games since taking the cash in a 37-0 win over ULM back in Week 1. Also, the Tigers are 6-10 ATS in their last 16 games as home favorites.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--Quote of the Week: “We should’ve won the game, in my opinion.” – Crompton after UT took a 30-6 clubbing from Florida last week. Hmmm, what game was he watching?

--Tennessee is 1-3 ATS in its last four games as a road underdog.

--Va. Tech is 7-0 when QB Tyrod Taylor gets the starting nod.

--I have a pathetic 2-6 record on college football totals this year. The bright side to that is a 15-5-2 record (75%, +960) on sides. I have a 17-11-2 overall record for the year which is good for 61% and a plus 500 money total. Check out my blog page for more notes, tidbits and this week's fresh Top 30 (before USC was upset Thursday). Here's my pick pack for Saturday's card (and it's all sides!).

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