Devil's Advocate (UT)

Auburn is likely to pile up a bunch of yards this weekend at Neyland Stadium. It's what the Tigers do: They average 526.25 yards of total offense per game, ranking third nationally.

But yards don't win football games ... points do. So, Tennessee's task Saturday night is not to keep the Tigers from moving the first-down chains (which is virtually impossible) but to keep the Tigers from lighting up the scoreboard (which is a lot more manageable).

The fact is, Tennessee has been very good at keeping opponents out of the end zone this season. Vol opponents penetrated the red zone (20-yard line) 15 times through the first four games but managed just five touchdowns. That means foes are crossing the goal line on just 33 percent of their forays into the red zone. Auburn, by comparison, has allowed eight touchdowns on 15 opposing red-zone penetrations, a 53-percent success rate.

Even as badly as Tennessee played in last Saturday's 34-23 defeat of Ohio, the Vols allowed just one scrimmage touchdown. The Bobcats' other points came on a kickoff return and three field goals.

"The one thing that got lost in that game is that we gave up one defensive touchdown," head coach Lane Kiffin noted. "I think people have forgotten that. I have to remind myself of that because we know we didn't play that well. But we did play well in the red zone for most of the game, even though they were getting some yards."

That will be Tennessee's task again this weekend against Auburn: Don't sweat the yards ... just limit the points once the opponent advances into the red zone. As the stats cited above suggest, the Vols have done a good job of that all season.

"We're not a bad red-zone defense," Kiffin noted. "We're a good red-zone defense."

Another factor that favors Tennessee this weekend is Auburn's reliance on a spread-option offense. Vol defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin already faced spread-option attacks in Game 1 vs. Western Kentucky, Game 3 vs. Florida and Game 4 vs. Ohio. He should be pretty familiar with them by now.

Yet another situation that favors the Big Orange is the fact Auburn won its first four games with relative ease. As Lane Kiffin noted: "They haven't played a game that's been within 10 points."

Because the Tigers haven't had to make a clutch play near the end of a close game, they may tighten up if Saturday's game enters the final minutes with the outcome in doubt.

Finally, this weekend's contest is at Neyland Stadium. With good weather expected, there will be 100,000 people in the stands ... and almost all of them will be cheering for the Vols. Auburn may struggle with that, especially since this is the Tigers' first road test after four home games.


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