UT can't get in a shootout

He clearly doesn't have the SEC's sharpest passing attack, but he may well have the league's sharpest wit.

Asked this week if a shootout with high-scoring Auburn would be "the last thing you'd want" this Saturday, Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin paused thoughtfully before responding.

"I wouldn't say it's the LAST thing I'd want to see," he deadpanned. "The last thing I'd want to see is them score a bunch of points and us NOT (faint smile). If they're scoring a bunch of points, I hope WE'RE scoring a bunch of points."

That's a comforting thought but not a realistic one. Although Kiffin's Vols are averaging 31.25 points per game, they scored more of those in Game 1 against hapless Western Kentucky (63) than they did in Games 2, 3 and 4 combined (62). If you throw out the Hilltopper beat-down, Tennessee is averaging less than 21 points per game. Auburn, meanwhile, is averaging 45.5 points and 526.25 yards per game, ranking No. 3 nationally in each category.

This suggests Tennessee must score a lot of points just to keep the game competitive. Kiffin isn't buying that scenario, however, although he acknowledges that the Tigers have an imposing arsenal of weapons.

"They have a bunch of firepower but who knows?" he said. "You go to one game and think there are two great offenses, and they play to a 10-7 game. Then you go to another game and think nobody's going to score because of great defenses, and it ends up being a shootout. You never know what's going to happen."

Maybe not, but you have a good idea that Tennessee's 21-point scoring average over the past three games will not be enough to prevail against Auburn's high-octane spread-option attack.

"I think Florida's the most similar in what they do," Kiffin said. "Their quarterback (Chris Todd) doesn't throw the ball as much as Tim (Tebow) but he's throwing the ball extremely well. That's why he's in the top 10 nationally in passer efficiency and why they're so explosive; he's throwing the ball extremely well and they're making big plays for him."

Todd ranks No. 6 nationally in passer efficiency with a 171.05 rating, one spot ahead of Tebow, who checks in at 170.31.

Auburn lacks the mobility at quarterback and speed at tailback Florida has but the Tigers have more bells and whistles in their attack.

"It's a wilder offense than Florida's because there's so much stuff going on," Lane Kiffin said.

Monte Kiffin, Lane's father and Tennessee's defensive coordinator, has noticed.

"My dad said the other night that it's like trying to read a book when someone's waving their hand in front of the book," Lane noted. "You're trying to look at what's going on but you can't really see it in focus because there's so much misdirection, so much shifting and motion."

Although Florida's passing attack averages 218.7 yards per game, Auburn's is nearly 50 yards better at 265.0 per game.

"Statistically, this is a better passing offense," Kiffin said. "They're explosive. Florida was explosive, too, but statistically these guys are much better in the passing game than Florida is at this point. I think it's a tough offense to prepare for."

Auburn is a tough offense to prepare for because of Gus Malzahn, the Tigers' imaginative coordinator. He had great success at Arkansas and Tulsa before taking over the Auburn attack last spring.

"It's not a deal where all of a sudden a guy's just doing it," Kiffin said. "Success is doing something for a long period of time. Anybody can do something for one year. The ball bounces your way and you throw up a bunch of points. This guy's done it year in and year out for three different universities

"It's a tough matchup."

Indeed. Auburn may be scoring a bunch of points Saturday night ... and Kiffin may be wishing he had a passing attack as sharp as his wit.

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