Auburn, struggling to score, is trying to be patient with first-year offensive coordinator Tony Franklin. Building an offense that contributes to a successful team often takes a few games, or in Vanderbilt's case, seven years.
Coming off another poor game on offense, the 13th-ranked Tigers face the surprising 19th-ranked Vanderbilt in a Southeastern Conference matchup Saturday night.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Auburn –4.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 59% of bets for this game have been placed on Auburn –4.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
Auburn's hired Franklin - the former offensive coordinator at Troy - in the offseason to install his successful spread offense, but the Tigers (4-1, 2-1 SEC) rank in the bottom half of the conference in all the major statistical categories.
Vanderbilt (4-0, 2-0), meanwhile, has had Ted Cain running its offense for the past seven years under coach Bobby Johnson, posting a few productive seasons. But now that offense has led the Commodores to their first national ranking since 1984.
Averaging 29.8 points and 202.0 rushing yards, Vanderbilt has a chance to go 5-0 for the first time since 1943, when it played only five games due to World War II.
Those are the kind of numbers that the Tigers would love to be producing right now. They're averaging 19.8 points, but have been held under 15 twice.
Auburn was held to a season-low 226 yards in a 14-12 win over Tennessee last Saturday.
"I just don't think I've done a very good job of coaching it," Franklin said. "I mean, it's pretty obvious that these guys don't look well-coached. And that's me. I have not done a good job of coaching. The finger's pointing at me and it deserves to be."
The adjustment to Franklin's offense has been rocky. Auburn has scored three offensive touchdowns in three SEC games, ranks 112th nationally in third-down conversions and no better than 90th in six other offensive categories.
The Tigers' quarterback situation remains unsettled, with Chris Todd and Kodi Burns combining to throw for three touchdowns against four interceptions.
"We're 4-1 and played a very tough schedule to this point and we haven't seen hardly anything from this offense," Tigers coach Tommy Tuberville said. "Once we get going, it's going to be much better. There's no panic mode.
"One day we'll have the talent where we can say, 'We'll run 100 percent of what Tony likes to run.' Right now we don't have the talent in some areas. We have to take advantage of our offensive talent versus the defense that we play."
Other than Todd, most of Auburn's current players were recruited when the team was still running the West Coast offense. Todd remains the starter, but Burns, who brings more mobility to the position, is back in the mix after not playing for two games.
The Tigers will try to take advantage of a Commodores team that has given up a league-high 364 yards a game. Vanderbilt, though, has held its opponents to 17.0 points per contest, and its offense has held the ball for an average of 31:04 minutes.
Cain, Johnson's first hire upon arriving at Vanderbilt, has helped put the SEC's smallest school in position to play one of its most important games in decades. The Commodores rushed for two touchdowns in their last game, a 23-17 victory over Mississippi on Sept. 20.
Now, after a bye week, Vanderbilt expects to have receiver George Smith back from a stress fracture in his foot. The senior is a productive third receiver who has yet to play a game this season.
Quarterback Chris Nickson, who hurt his shoulder against Mississippi, threw Sunday for the first time and should have a chance to play Saturday. He has thrown three TDs with no interceptions, managing a ground-based offense that has the ranked Commodores confident entering this marquee matchup.
"We want to play important games," said Johnson, who won two games in each of his first three seasons after arriving at Vanderbilt in 2002. "This is exactly what we wanted. We want to compete in this great conference and win. We'll find out if we can continue to do that."
But Johnson has seen a fast start fall apart before, going 4-0 in 2005 before fizzling to a 5-6 finish.
"We've got plenty of work to do instead of worrying about polls and what people think about us," Johnson said. "It's very flattering, yes, but we've got a lot of work to do."
Auburn has won 13 straight games against Vanderbilt, dating back to the 1955 Gator Bowl that the Commodores won 25-13. This will be the first time the Tigers have played Vanderbilt with the Commodores ranked.
[WR] Philip Pierre-Louis is out for the season. - Knee - 09/02/08
[WR] John Douglas missed last game, ? - Knee - 09/21/08
[DB] Marcus Jemison is expected to miss entire season - Leg - 09/06/08
[RB] Tristan Davis left last game, upgraded to probable. - Head - 09/22/08
[WR] Chris Slaughter out indefinitely - Suspension - 09/07/08
[WR] Robert Dunn left last game, ? - Hand - 09/22/08
[CB] Zac Etheridge left last game, ? - Arm - 09/20/08
[CB] Aairon Savage expected to miss entire season - Knee - 08/07/08
[RB] Brad Lester upgraded to probable - Leg - 09/21/08
[RB] Jeff Jennings missed last game ? - Shoulder - 09/20/08
[WR] George Smith missed last game ? - Foot - 09/20/08
[WR] John Cole is expected to miss at least 8 weeks. - Knee - 09/02/08
[DT] Derrius Dowell expected to miss entire season - Knee - 08/15/08
[CB] Darlon Spead out indefinitely. - Fibula - 09/08/08
[RB] Jermaine Doster is suspended for 2008-2009 season. - Legal problems -
[WR] Alex Washington expected to miss entire season - Knee - 08/10/08
[WR] Chris Reinert out for season - Leg - 09/07/08
VANDERBILT is 8-21 ATS (-15.1 Units) in home games in October games since 1992.
Head-to-Head Series History
AUBURN is 1-0 against the spread versus VANDERBILT over the last 3 seasons
AUBURN is 1-0 straight up against VANDERBILT over the last 3 seasons
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
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