Tiger turnaround

The Auburn and Tennessee football programs who meet Saturday at Neyland Stadium continue to travel the same path. The Tigers are just making better time.

Both Auburn and Tennessee changed coaching staffs after averaging 17.3 points per game en route to 5-7 records last season. Both are doing better offensively this fall. One is modestly improved, however, whereas the other is massively improved.

Lane Kiffin's Vols rank No. 60 nationally in total offense at 368.5 yards per game and No. 42 in scoring at 31.25 points per game. But Gene Chizik's Tigers rank No. 3 nationally in both total offense (526.25 yards per game) and scoring (45.25 points per game).

Auburn has scored 181 points in 2009, nearly matching in four games the point total (208) it needed 12 games to produce in 2008. The Tigers are doing it with balance - averaging 261.25 rushing yards per game (No. 5 nationally) and 265.0 passing yards per game (No. 27 nationally).

Tennessee, conversely, has no such balance. The Vols rank a solid No. 31 nationally in rushing (197.25 yards per game) but No. 97 in passing (171.25 yards per game).

The difference in Auburn's and Tennessee's 2009 offenses is dramatically illustrated when you compare quarterback statistics:

The Tigers' Chris Todd has completed 62 of 106 passes this fall, virtually matching the numbers posted by the Vols' Jonathan Crompton (62 of 107). The similarities end there, however. Todd has thrown 11 touchdowns and 1 interception, Crompton 7 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Todd's 62 completions have netted 1,012 yards, an average of 16.3 yards each; Crompton's 62 completions have netted 641 yards, an average of 10.3 each. Todd's passer-efficiency rating of 171.05 ranks No. 6 nationally; Crompton's rating of 114.9 ranks No. 91.

Does that mean Auburn's offensive turnaround is because Todd is vastly superior to Crompton? No. But it does mean Auburn is getting much more production from its passing attack than Tennessee.

Whether the Vols' problem is the quarterback, a collection of injury-prone and inexperienced receivers, erratic protection or a combination of the three, this much is certain:

After fielding equally inept offenses in 2008, Auburn and Tennessee are traveling the road to recovery in 2009. The Tigers are just making better time.

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