What To Watch: Auburn at Tennessee

We take a look at some of the top stories to keep an eye on in Saturday's game between the Auburn Tigers and Tennessee Volunteers.

Pressing The Issue

The numbers are definitely in Auburn's favor when you look at the offensive side of the ball. Averaging 306.1 yards per game on the ground this season and 245.4 yards in SEC games only, the Tigers face off against a Tennessee defense giving up a league-worst 201.7 rushing yards per game and 242.8 in league games.

Because of that you can expect the Vols to stack the line of scrimmage and try to force Auburn to throw the football. That is something teams have tried so far this season without much success. Texas A&M put seven and eight men in the box late in the game against the Tigers, but it didn't work. The same is true of Arkansas last week.

Tennessee will have to try to slow Auburn's running game by putting more guys at the line of scrimmage. In turn that should open up passing lanes for Nick Marshall and the Auburn wide receivers and could set up a big day throwing the football because Tennessee's defense struggles equally as much against the pass.

Allowing 227.7 yards through the air per game, the Vols have done a good job of creating turnovers when you look at things on the surface, but when digging a little deeper the truth comes out. With 12 total interceptions in nine games, Tennessee's defense has been solid in that department. However, 10 of those interceptions came in wins over Austin Peay, Western Kentucky and South Alabama with the Vols allowing just one touchdown pass. In the remaining six games the opposition completed 94-165 passes for 1,438 yards and 14 touchdowns with only two interceptions.

Ricardo Louis is one of the players the Tigers will be looking to help out in the passing game on Saturday

Getting To Dobbs

Make no mistake about it, Tennessee true freshman quarterback Joshua Dobbs is an impressive kid and player for the Vols. A top recruit out of Alpharetta (Ga.) High, he was committed first to Arizona State before deciding to stay closer to home. A very good student and athlete, Dobbs gives the Tennessee offense an extra dimension because of his ability to make something happen out of the zone read and when plays break down.

Even with all those positives he's still a player that will be making just his second college start. Completing 31-54 passes for 315 yards and two interceptions this season in his role taking over for injured starter Justin Worley, Dobbs will make his share of plays Saturday. if Auburn can put the pressure on and put the game in his hands by taking away the run then it should be good news for the Tigers. If the Vols get the running game going early with tailback Rajion Neal it will open up the passing game and make for an interesting Saturday in Neyland Stadium.

Taking The Crowd Out Of The Game

This season Auburn is outscoring its opponents 105-50 in the first quarter and 191-101 in the first half of games. On the flip side Tennessee has been outscored 162-134 in the first 30 minutes of games so far in 2013. That could be an important piece of the puzzle for an Auburn victory on Saturday because of the large and vocal Tennessee crowd.

Keeping the 100,000+ fans off their feet and out of the game would go a long way towards Auburn's third road win of the season. Tennessee has already shown this season that this is a different team at home and allowing the Vols to hang around could mean a 60-minute game.

Taken For Grant-ed

While there is no question that Tre Mason and Nick Marshall have stepped forward as the key cogs in the Auburn running game, lately junior Corey Grant hasn't been called on to provide as much of a spark as he did early in the season. With 46 carries for 456 yards and four touchdowns this season, Grant has just 22 carries in the last six Auburn games for a total of 216 yards and two touchdowns. With teams focusing more on Mason following yet another big game for the junior last week against Arkansas, it could be time to once again unleash Grant on the perimeter and make Tennessee pay on the edge.

Johnson and Company

Tied for second in the SEC with 76 total tackles overall and averaging 10.2 tackles per game in league play, talented junior linebacker A.J. Johnson will be one of the best defensive players the Tigers see all year long. As a sophomore he was one of the most productive players in the league with 138 tackles in 12 games while also adding four touchdowns as a short yardage specialist on offense.

Throw in his 80 tackles as a freshman and the Gainesville, Ga. native already has 294 career tackles. With Auburn's running game always an important part of the plan for the Tigers, how they deal with Johnson will be worth watching on Saturday.

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