StatTiger: Analyzing Auburn at Tennessee

In this week's column, StatTiger (Stuart Carter) breaks down the numbers to pick who will win as Auburn returns to SEC play vs. the Tennessee Vols.

Auburn 4-0 (1-0) at Tennessee 2-2 (0-1)

2009 National Rankings:

Rush Offense: 5th/Rush Offense: 31st
Pass Offense: 27th/Pass Offense: 97th
Total Offense: 3rd/Total Offense: 60th
Score Offense: 3rd/Score Offense: 42nd
Rush Defense: 82nd/Rush Defense: 15th
Pass Defense: 34th/Pass Defense: 11th
Total Defense: 41st/Total Defense: 8th
Score Defense: 69th/Score Defense: 33rd

About Tennessee

The Volunteers are coming off an uninspired 34-23 victory over Ohio, improving their overall record to 2-2 on the season. Like Auburn, the University of Tennessee is currently in a rebuilding phase under a new head coach, Lane Kiffin. The Volunteers' victories have come against Western Kentucky and Ohio, but their losses have come against two currently undefeated teams, UCLA and Florida. Defensively, Tennessee is one of the top teams in the country, but the Vols have struggled on offense, especially in their passing game.

Tennessee is averaging 197 yards rushing per game led by senior Montario Hardesty, who leads the SEC in rushing with 121 yards per game. Sharing the payload with Hardesty is true freshman, Bryce Brown, who has rushed for 215 yards through four games.

Jonathan Crompton has been under plenty of scrutiny the past two seasons as the starting quarterback and he comes into the Auburn game with 641 yards passing. He has seven touchdown passes, but he has also thrown interceptions. Quintin Hancock leads the receivers with 11 catches for 128 yards.

Jonathan Crompton is the starting QB for the Vols.

The Volunteer defense is the strength of the team and All-American Eric Berry leads the Big Orange in tackles with 31 stops this season. Tennessee took a big hit with the loss of injured linebacker Nick Reveiz, who was the team's third leading tackler.

Defensive end Chris Walker leads Tennessee in sacks and tackles for loss. Tennessee is 31st in the nation with 10 sacks and 19th in the nation with 30 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is one of the best in the business and he will certainly give Auburn multiple looks in an attempt to confuse Chris Todd.

Inside the Numbers...

Auburn currently holds a 25-21-3 record against Tennessee, but is 8-14-2 on the road in this series. Auburn currently has a four-game winning streak against Tennessee. Prior to Auburn's 2004 victory over Vols at Neyland Stadium, the last time Auburn defeated Tennessee in Knoxville was in 1983.

In the last 25 meetings between the two programs, Auburn holds a 13-10-1 record while averaging 369 yards and 22 points per game to Tennessee's 326 yards and 19 points per game.

In the last 25 meetings Auburn is 10-4-1 when it out- rushes the Volunteers and 11-2-2 when the Tigers score at least 20 points against Tennessee.

In the last four meetings Auburn has completed 68 percent of its passes for eight touchdowns and only three interceptions. Prior to Auburn's current winning streak the Tigers went 0-5-1 against Tennessee completing only 45 percent of their passes for seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Crompton has compiled a QB rating of 68.4 on third down, completing only 41 percent of his passes for three picks and one touchdown. Auburn's Todd has a rating of 165.2 on third down, completing 53 percent of his passes for four touchdowns and only one interception.

Against Western Kentucky, the Volunteer offense generated 14 impact plays or plays of 15-yards or more for 335 yards. In its last three games the Tennessee offense has compiled 13 impact plays for 280 yards, giving the team a total of 27 impact plays for 615 yards. The Auburn offense has compiled 41 impact plays for 1,188-yards.

Tennessee is currently averaging 5.45 yards per play on first down, running the football 62.1 percent of the time. Against UCLA and Florida, the Volunteer offense ran the football 78.7 percent of the time.

Against Western Kentucky, Tennessee attempted 20 passes on first down, completing 17 for 196 yards. Since the season opener, Tennessee has attempted 27 passes on first down, completing 12 for 114 yards. Auburn is averaging 5.80 yards per play on first down, running the football 76.2 percent of the time.

Why Tennessee should win…

The Vols are averaging 197 yards rushing per game while Auburn is allowing 173 yards rushing per game in its last three games. There is a high probability the Volunteers will have success running on the Auburn defense.

Auburn is 1-6 in its last seven road trips with an average scoring margin of 12-25. Auburn is 2-5-1 in its last eight trips to Knoxville.

Tennessee held Florida to 323 yards and the Gators are currently averaging 526 yards per game. Like the Gators, Auburn enters the game averaging 526 yards per game. Auburn is averaging 11.6 yards per point scored. If Tennessee holds Auburn to 323 yards, that could translate to 28 points. Auburn is currently allowing 24 points per game, which could translate to a close ball game.

Auburn must leave the confines of Jordan-Hare with a questionable defense and below average special teams. In a tight ball game, home field advantage can make a huge difference.

Why Auburn should win…

Tennessee might have the better defense, but Auburn's offense is far superior to the Volunteer offense. The Auburn offense has proven it can make plays consistently, even in the face of adversity.

Looking at Auburn's scoring averages compared to Tennessee's scoring margins, Auburn wins, 35-30. Matching up Tennessee's scoring averages against Auburn's scoring margins and Auburn wins 41-19. It should be noted, I did not include Tennessee's game against Western Kentucky simply because the Vols have not played to that level in any other game including the Ohio game.

In order for Tennessee to win the Volunteers must shut down the Auburn running game and limit the big plays in the passing game. In order for Auburn to win, the Tigers must shut down the Volunteer running game. Special teams are about even in comparison.

Tennessee will probably take away the perimeter running game (Onterio McCalebb), but the combination of Ben Tate and Todd will be enough to keep the Tennessee defense off balance.

Final Word…

The Auburn Tigers have gone undefeated through what probably will be the easiest third of their schedule. Traveling to Knoxville to play against the Volunteers has never been an easy task and it won't be any different this season. Though Auburn has been extremely successful on offense, this will be the best defense they have faced this season. West Virginia is 35th nationally in total defense and the Mountaineers managed to hold Auburn to 400 yards in total offense.

The combination of Tate and McCalebb totaled 536 yards on 6.9 yards per carry during the first two games, but their production has dropped to 241 yards on 5.0 yards per carry in the last two games. Auburn has struggled running the football in the last two games and will be facing a run-defense that has allowed 87-yards per game on the ground.

The Volunteers' offensive strength is found in a veteran offensive line and a great stable of running backs. As much potential and talent Tennessee possesses in its running game, the team only averaged 116.0 yards rushing against UCLA and Florida and 136.3 yards in the last three games. Part of the problem has been its passing game, which has failed at keeping opposing defenses honest. In its last three games the Tennessee offense has averaged only 3.1 yards per play on first down despite running the football 68 percent of the time on first down. If Auburn can contain the Tennessee running game on first down, the Volunteers will struggle sustaining drives. For this reason, Tennessee will more than likely pass often on first down this Saturday, especially if the Auburn corners are playing off the Tennessee receivers.

Look for Tennessee to utilize its running backs, especially Bryce Brown in the passing game. Crompton might be a liability to the offense, but having him pass more often on first down with high percentage throws to the backs and bootleg passes to the tight end could be enough to keep the running lanes open.

Tate needs to have a solid game to keep the play-action pass open for Todd. The chess match between Monte Kiffin and Gus Malzahn should be extremely entertaining, but the weight of the Auburn offense will fall on the shoulders of Todd to make the right reads on the Volunteer secondary. If Auburn wins the first down and turnover battle, Tigers should come out of Knoxville with their fifth consecutive victory over Tennessee. Auburn 31 Tennessee 23

Around the SEC:

Alabama over Kentucky by 17
Texas A&M over Arkansas by 6
Georgia over LSU by 3
Ole Miss over Vanderbilt by 13
Georgia Tech over Miss State by 10 Florida (bye week)
South Carolina over South Carolina State by 22

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