Auburn and Tennessee through the years have had some memorable matchups but recently these two programs meeting on the gridiron has been few and far between. This Saturday when the Tigers and Volunteers do battle at Jordan-Hare Stadium it will just be the third game between the programs in the last ten years. Auburn comes into the game on the positive winning their last two games and hold a 4-2 record. On the Tennessee side, the Volunteers are 2-4 and have lost their last four games.
Auburn And Tennessee Through The Years
Auburn holds the all-time lead in the series at 28-22-3. Prior to the SEC expanding in 1992, these programs played each other annually. It was one of the better rivalries in the conference. It is really one that the new generation of fans are not aware of. Since that expansion Auburn does hold the lead 6-3.
In 1997 Tennessee was the first team from the east not named the Florida Gators to represent the division in the SEC Championship Game. That was the final year for the legendary quarterback Peyton Manning. Auburn was also participating in their first title game as well. The Tigers did jump out to a 20-7 lead early, but Manning would rally the Volunteers to win 30-29. Tennessee would go on to win another SEC crown the following season on route to a national championship.
For Auburn, they would get some championship payback in the 2004 season. That of course was the Auburn team that went 13-0, but did not get a chance at the BCS National Championship. That group of Tigers were led by first round draft picks Jason Campbell, Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, Ronnie Brown, and Carlos Rogers. Auburn jumped out to an early lead and held on for a 38-28 victory. It was the second win over the Volunteers that season with Auburn winning 34-10 in dominating fashion.
The two teams last met during the 2018 season. That was the first season for current Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt who was looking for a program defining win. Auburn is going through a tough season. Despite being ranked 21st in the country they already had two losses on the season entering the late October game.
Tennessee would shock Auburn in the home stadium that day 30-24 behind a great performance from quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. It might still be the best game played by the signal caller. Guarantano was 21 of 32 for 328 yards and two touchdowns. Auburn was done in by two Jarrett Stidham interceptions, and failed with a late rally to come up short. This is a game that some pointed to that was a sign for things to come for the Tennessee program under Pruitt.
The 2020 Edition
As previous stated, this is a game between teams that seem to be going in opposite directions. The Volunteers opened the season strong with wins over South Carolina and Missouri. They looked to be living up to the preseason hype, being the third best team in the SEC East. They have looked nothing like the sort in their previous four games. Since holding a 21-17 lead at halftime against Georgia in game three, they have been outscored 133-37. The main issue has been the inconsistency at quarterback. Not necessarily the play of the position, but the lack of confidence to stick with one and ride it out. Guarantano has been the guy at the start for all the games. He has been pulled in games, but if the next guy in has not performed well the coaching staff has been quick to put Guarantano back in. That only causes problems.
For Auburn, the season has been a bit of a rollercoaster. This is par for the course though from a Gus Malzahn coached team. They traded wins and losses the first four weeks but seemed to have found or rediscovered their identity in the last two games against Ole Miss and LSU. Instead of being a pass-heavy offense that relies way too much on the arm of Bo Nix, they have leaned more on the rushing attack. That is where this team can be successful. Nix is just not capable of carrying a team on his shoulders like that and feeding the ball to Tank Bigsby only has made the offense so much better.
Both teams have had two weeks off due to bye weeks and games being postponed due to Covid-19 issues. That probably benefits the Volunteers more than it does Auburn. The layoff could potentially slow down that momentum the Tigers had after their 48-11 win over LSU. For Tennessee, it gives the coaching staff and players time to reflect and perhaps figure out some things for the remainder of the season.
With all that said though, the is a game Auburn should win at home. Bo Nix has been a good quarterback at Jordan-Hare Stadium and has yet to throw an interception there. Tennessee is giving up 160.5 yards per game on the ground, and it should be a big day for Bigsby rushing the ball. That will open some big plays down the field to Seth Williams, Anthony Schwartz, and Eli Stove for Nix. Add in the recent struggles from the Volunteers offense, Auburn wins 31-14. Auburn and Tennessee through the years has been a fun game, but this year will not be the case.