Game Preview: Tennessee vs. Auburn

Tennessee vs Auburn | 3 Oct 2009 | Neyland Stadium

7:45 pm | ESPN

It’s October, and the future is now.

The daylight is noticeably shorter. The sun is a bit lower in the afternoon sky. Yes, it’s October. Football season proper. September is too hot. November is too depressing. But, October. Aye, this month was made for college football. And October 2009 is a real test for this rebuilding Vol football program. Auburn, Georgia, bye week, Alabama, South Carolina. This is SEC football. I love it. And, I dread it.

We’re 2-2. After this upcoming stretch of games, it is conceivable that we could be 2-6. But, the Auburn and Georgia games are winnable, frankly. We’re at home, and Auburn, like us, is rebuilding. Georgia is underwhelming. Alabama smells like invincibility is in the works. South Carolina is too far off to predict.

We all knew about this stretch of the schedule. We knew that this would either make us into a bowl team or break us into a losing team for consecutive seasons.

If we can achieve 2-2 during this upcoming stretch, then we have a better than 50-50 shot at a winning season, which I think would be a major achievement for this new coaching staff. But without a win Saturday, that may be too much to ask.

I’ll be watching the Auburn game, to be played under an almost full moon under the lights within the magnificent orange hue of Neyland Stadium on an early Autumn evening, with half an ounce of excitement and half an ounce of trepidation.

Like I said, this is SEC football. I love it. And, I dread it.

I wasn’t a history major, but I love SEC football history.

Auburn vs Tennessee 1972 Game Program

Auburn used to be the Vols' traditional SEC opener with away games being played at Birmingham's Legion Field.

Auburn is one of Tennessee’s great rivals. The younger fans (those that only know SEC football since the division of the conference into East and West beginning in 1992 which impacted schedules and rivalries) may not see it this way, but if you remember Auburn as Tennessee’s traditional SEC opener as I do, then you see the Tigers as a major rival. And if you do, you remember playing away games against Auburn not down on the plains but in Birmingham at Legion Field.

Another reason that Auburn is/should be viewed as one of our great rivals is that they are one of only two SEC schools (the other being Auburn’s biggest rival, Alabama) with an all-time winning record against the Vols. Auburn leads the series 21-26-3 that began in 1900. That’s enough for me, Brother.

And, once Georgia Tech left the SEC way back in the 60’s, it was Auburn vs. Tennessee as the best engineering school of the conference’s universities.

Anyway, Auburn and Tennessee used to play every year. That happened from 1956 to 1991. Since, the schools have only faced each other 6 times in league play and once in the SEC championship game (2004).

As I mentioned, all away Auburn games were played at Birmingham until 1974 when the Vols travelled to the prettiest town on the plain for the very first time, and lost 21-0.

But my favorite moment in Vol-Auburn history was 27 September 1980. Another game played in Auburn, Alabama. The Vols were a big underdog. Tennessee had been dubbed “The Best 0-2 Team in the Nation” after dropping their first two games: to Georgia 16-15 in the famous debut of freshman Hershel Walker; and to Southern Cal 20-17. After finally getting a win against Washington State 35-23, they played their first away game of the season at Auburn.

But the Auburn fans didn’t give us any respect – I remember hearing stories of our players being pelted with oranges thrown from the Tiger faithful before the game. Included was Vol great Reggie White who received an orange that stuck in his face mask.

Auburn Tennessee 1980 ticket stub

A glorious afternoon on the Plains: Tenn 42 Auburn 0.

I was living in Norman, Oklahoma at the time and on that Auburn-game-day I went to see OU play Stanford University and their well-publicized QB, John Elway. It was a wet, slippery afternoon, but that didn’t affect the Stanford offense as they carved up the Oklahoma defense with a 31-14 upset win. One of the best performances I can remember seeing live. Going back to my car after the game, I remember dreading the scoreboard show on the OU network’s post-game show (kids, that’s back in the day when you were totally at the mercy of the media to give you what you wanted – before today’s instant gratification of the internet). Knowing we were 1-2, I knew 1-3 was likely.

Then the announcer read the score: “Tennessee 42 Auburn 0”.

I couldn’t believe my ears. I started yelling inside my little Mazda 626 as if someone in Norman, Oklahoma would really care.

Jeff Olszewski was our quarterback. Remember him? James Berry (Eric’s dad), Bill Bates, Mike Cofer (E. and L.), Val Barksdale, Terry Daniels, Alan Duncan, Willie Gault, Anthony Hancock, Reggie White…

Nobody cared but me. I was wishing I was back in Knoxville – one of many reasons at that time. But the joy didn’t last long, for that season, after winning the next game against Georgia Tech to go 3-2, we ripped off several losses in a row before winning our last two against Kentucky and Vandy to “salvage” a 5-6 season.

But that afternoon in Norman when I heard that score from Auburn was a moment of Volunteer joy I still remember.

Auburn have a new coach, too.

Lane Kiffin has a brother of sorts. Gene Chizik is also in his first year as an SEC head coach. The 47-year old former Florida Gator (played LB in 1981) was not exactly the most popular choice for Tommy Tubberville’s replacement, but now that his troops are 4-0, those sentiments are starting to fade a little bit.

Gene Chizik, Auburn's new head coach. Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.

Gene Chizik, Auburn's new head coach. Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.

Mr. Chizik is a native of Tarpon Springs, FL. He began his coaching career as head coach of Seminole High School (1986-88) and then became a graduate assistant at Clemson (1988-89) where he earned his Masters Degree. He then began his long road to Auburn. He toiled in the ranks of assistant coach and coordinator at Middle Tennessee State (1990-91), Stephen F. Austin (1992-97), Central Florida (1998-01), Auburn (2002-04), and Texas (2005-06). While at Central Florida (and here is the it’s-a-small-world part), he used to visit the practices of the Tampa Bay Bucs where he learned from the magnificent staff of Tony Dungy/Monte Kiffin/Lovie Smith.

And what happened after that makes you believe those visits were worth the time. Chizik led Auburn’s defense in 2004 to a 13-0 season and won the 2004 Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach in college football. And after that, he led the Texas Longhorn defense to a national championship in the Rose Bowl with a victory over USC (and Lane Kiffin).

But his first stint as a head coach wasn’t a happy one. Chizik’s Iowa State Cyclones went 3-9 and 2-10 in 2007 and 2008, and he left long before his contract was up to either (1) take a much better job at Auburn and/or (3) leave before he got fired. Both, I figure.

Well, he has the Plainsmen believing in themselves once again. They certainly are playing better than what they showed in their listless win over Tennessee last year in Auburn. But, so are we. However that isn’t much of an accomplishment. I can’t think of a worse game (and it was close) than that snoozer from last season. Absolutely dreadful stuff.

Bits and bytes for your pre-game meal.

Auburn is 4-0. Tennessee is 2-2.

Auburn has played Louisiana Tech and Ball State. Tennessee has played Western Kentucky and Ohio University.

Auburn has also played West Virginia and Mississippi State. Tennessee has also played UCLA and Florida.

Auburn has scored 37, 49, 41, and 54 points in their first four games.

Auburn has also given up 13, 24, 30, and 30 points in those games.

Auburn’s placekicker, Wes Byron, is a perfect 6 for 6 in field goals.

The Tigers’ special teams are dreadful otherwise. They are 102nd in the nation in net punting. They consistently give up 30 to 40 yards on kickoffs, and 15 to 25 yards on punts.

The Vols’ strength is their defense. Auburn’s strength is their offense.

Auburn is ranked 3rd in the nation in total offense, 5th in rushing, 3rd in scoring, and is in the top 10 in red-zone scoring.

The Tigers have allowed only 2 sacks all season.

Auburn RB Ben Tate.

Auburn RB Ben Tate.

Auburn has 2 of the 3 top rushers in the SEC: Ben Tate and Onterio McCalebb. Tennessee has the SEC’s top rusher in Montario hardesty.

Auburn has 2 of the top 3 receivers in the SEC: Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery. Tennessee’s top receiver, Quintin hancock, is 23rd in the conference.

Other Auburn players to watch are sophomore Neiko Thorpe (DB) and Zac Etheridge, a leading tackler.

Tiger QB Chris Todd has gone from the doghouse of last year to the penthouse so far this year. I haven’t mentioned Jonathan Crompton in this blog post until now.

I don’t like what is happening to our boy.

Smokey is abducted by War Eagle Special Forces.

Smokey is abducted by War Eagle Special Forces.

Reports have surfaced that our boy, Smokey, is being brainwashed by Special Forces of the War Eagle military. The reports are nothing short of disturbing. The smokemaster was apparently abducted and then mentally reprogrammed. Physical abuse of a dog is one thing, but mental abuse is morally offensive.

Reports of this operation can be read at the War Eagle Reader, one of the fine Auburn blogs. In particular, read the posts titled: Hey Vols, We Have Yr Smokey, Part I: Houndnapping!; and Part II: The Re-education of Smokey.

And I thought Michael Vick was bad!

Who’s gonna win?

The Vols are a slight favorite. I’d rather be an underdog, because that’s what I feel like.

The Vols are “doing it” with their defense, and Auburn is “getting it done” with their offense. [I read sh*t like this all the time and it makes me laugh out loud.] I expect a close game, not a high scoring affair no matter the gaudy stats that the Tigers are bringing into our fair town. This is a game that things like turnovers, especially scores as a direct result, will decide.

My game predictions, as awful as they almost always are, never factor in the likelihood of KO’s / punts / intercepted passes returned for a TD. Therefore, keep that in mind when viewing the score, which I hope to godalmitey is dead wrong.

But if E.B. or Oku or somebody else do the honors with an unexpected return of something unintended, then my prognostication may just be dead wrong.

Let’s hope so. I sure would like to look at 3-2 in Sunday’s paper.

Auburn 23  Tennessee 20

Go Vols!

Go Vols! Please!

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14 responses to “Game Preview: Tennessee vs. Auburn”

  1. DW says :

    Fred – I share most of your feelings and logical conclusions, except for one — I think the Vols will get this (lucky) win on Sat night. Like you, I had guessed them at a 6-6 season, and I guessed they would get one win against either Auburn or Georgia. Now it’s feeling like this might be their best chance. Even though Auburn has 2 of the 3 leading backs in the conference, I think they’ll air it out quite a bit and challenge the backfield after the d-line causes them to studder a bit. That’s where I hope we get a little lucky with some tips/fumbles/poor choices. And surely the crowd will be back in full volume for this night game, and since most of them are as old as we are, mabye they also remember that those Tigers/WarEagles/Plainsmen (they have a hard time picking one name) used to be our rivals.
    Alright then, with some crossed fingers wrapped around a cold beer, I’ll say UT 30 – Auburn 28.
    TK-where’s your numbers?

  2. T K says :

    HELLO AGAIN
    YOU BROUGHT BACK SOME MEMORIES FREDDY. YOUR FAVORITE AUBURN GAME IN 1980 AT THE PLAINS. BELIEVE IT OR NOT I WAS IN ATTENDENCE THAT DAY. MY TWO MOST VIVID MEMORIES ARE CHECKING OUT THE HUGE “CAGE” THAT THE WAR EAGLE WAS KEPT IN. IT WAS AS BIG AS MOST PEOPLES YARD AND COMPLETED ENCLOSED WITH CHICKEN…ER… EAGLE WIRE ON TELEPHONE POLES. THE OTHER MEMORY WAS THAT SWEET FINAL SCORE. WE JUST KEPT SCORING AND SCORING. I WAS IN AWE AND HOLLERING LIKE A TRUE ORANGE 25 YEAR OLD WOULD.
    BUT MY FAVORITE AUBURN GAME IS ONE THAT OLE DW REMEMBERS AS WELL. 1973 WHEN THE SECOND HALF WAS A TORRENTIAL DOWNPOUR. THE RAIN CREPT ACROSS THE STADIUM FROM WEST TO EAST SUPER SLOW. I REMEMBER UMBRELLAS UP ON THE WEST SIDE AND THE EAST SIDE FANS IN THE DRY LAUGHING. BUT NOT FOR LONG. WETTEST I EVER WAS!!! TENNESSE DID QUICK KICKS AND EVEN PUNTED ON FIRST DOWN. THEY DIDNT WANT TO TRY TO EVEN HANDLE THE WET PIG. STEVE CHANCEY IF MY MEMORY IS CORRECT WAS A FULLBACK AND I BELIEVE RIPPED OFF AN 80 YARD PUNT……IM SURE YOU WILL RESEARCH THAT AND GET BACK TO US FRED. AND IF IM NOT MISTAKEN HIS DAD WAS RALPH CHANCEY WHOM HAD ALSO PLAYED FOR THE ORANGE. BEAUTIFUL GAME , BEAUTIFUL STRATEGY , 65,000 DROWNED VOLS AND A 21-0 VICTORY.
    AND NOW ITS TIME FOR OCTOBER 3 2009…..NO ONE LEAVES THE STANDS EARLY EVEN THOUGH WE STARTED THE GAME WAY TOO LATE IN MY OPINION ANYWAY……..THE EAGLE GRABS SMOKEYS TAIL……29-28

  3. NorCalVol says :

    Sadly not to much online about the 1973 UT-Auburn game.
    However, Here is a bit of a post at Sectalk
    http://www.sectalk.com/boards/auburn-sports/60210-auburn-vs-tennessee-game-notes.html

    1973-74– Tennessee defeated Auburn 21-0 in Knoxville in a driving rainstorm. Tennessee punted on first down throughout the fourth quarter, infuriating Auburn coaches. At the end of the game, Auburn coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan refused to shake hands with Vol coach Bill Battle saying Battle refused to shake hands with him before the game. In 1974, Tennessee, reluctantly, made its first trip to Auburn. Auburn won, ironically by the same 21-0 score. Throughout the first quarter, Auburn fans chanted “Punt…Punt…Punt” whenever Auburn had a first down.

  4. NorCalVol says :

    Steve Chancey is President of Chancey & Reynolds, Inc. in Knoxville, a heating and air conditioning company.
    The Reynolds name is Art Reynolds, a Vol teammate.
    Here is a page from his website.
    http://chanceyreynolds.com/history.shtml

    Here is a death notice for Ralph Chancey back in 2002
    http://tennessee.scout.com/2/78114.html
    Here is some information about him…

    Chancey entered UT in 1942 and lettered as a fullback from 1946-49 after service in World War II from 1943-46 interrupted his career on the Hill. Chancey also played basketball at UT in his freshman year of 1942.
    He was an assistant at Tennessee from 1950-63 on the staffs of four coaches, Bob Neyland (1950-52), Harvey Robinson (1953-54), Bowden Wyatt (1955-62) and Jim McDonald (1963). Two of his most treasured experiences came in his first two years on the Vols staff, in 1950 and 1951, when he coached defensive backs and linebackers for the Vols’ national championship teams, widely considered two of the top squads in UT history. He moved to West Virginia in 1964 and remained there as defensive coordinator under Gene Corum until he returned to Knoxville as general manager with Post and Company in 1966. He returned to UT in 1979, serving under head coach Johnny Majors, a player and an assistant coach during Chancey’s tenure. He retired in 1988.

  5. Sandy says :

    OK, so I’ve got a Disney hang-over, and as usual, have no clue.

    I’ll stay true to the orange-tinted glass and assume the defense shuts down Auburn, the offense scores enough points to win, 28-24.

  6. Bert says :

    well, like everybody else i have no idea
    what to expect this week….

    auburn is rockin’ right now and nobody seems
    to be able to stop them offensively…but, of course,
    they’ve played no one so far….

    however, they gave up 509 total yards to WVU,
    which has been their only legitimate opponent so
    far [sorry, missippissi state does not count…].

    on da flip side, ohio u [17 rushes, 21 yards] tore
    up da vols secondary last week and that does not
    bode well against an auburn team that can go
    either way [pass or run…].

    that being said, until “in-cromp-atent” stops
    throwin’ da ball to da other jersey i think it’s
    too much to ask da defense to continue to keep
    da game close until da offense gets in gear…

    unfortunately, i think that is will not only be
    a late night but also a long ride home for mr
    ketron….

    auburn 31
    ut vols 21

  7. OrangeBobber says :

    Well, I’m not a optimistic as some of you. Without a throwing game Auburn is gonna load the box and make Crompton beat them. Unfortunately, I don’t believe he can do that. Is it all his fault? No, the receivers have to share some of the blame. Saw some balls hit receivers in the hands at last game and they dropped them. But Crompton over threw,under threw and threw into coverage in previous games. He also makes it hard for the receivers because he is so inconsistent in where he places the ball. Same ole same ole on Saturday nite. I hate to loose to a team that is rebuilding like us but it looks like Tuberville left more in the cupboard than PF, and Kiffin is not gonna sacrafice playing a JR. backup when he is telling recruits that we have not possible starter on the roster at the present. We will ride this season out and watch the other teams in the bowl games. My prediction for this one is Auburn 27, TN 24.

  8. T K says :

    thank you bert for the concern about my ride home. not sure what to do. i can buy some drugs to ease the pain of the loss cheaper than i can get a motel and stay in knoxville, but the drugs to ease the pain tend to make one drowsy and thats not good when im driving in the dark at 80 mph. wasnt it sweet when doug dickey played all his games at 2pm?
    sandy have you picked tennessee to lose yet?

  9. norcalvol says :

    Well, alright now, alright now…

    Thanks to all the crew members being back for predictions on this one.
    Here is the tally (in order of prediction made):

    AUB 23 TEN 20 NorCalVol
    TEN 30 AUB 28 DW
    AUB 29 TEN 28 TK
    TEN 28 AUB 24 Sandy
    AUB 31 TEN 21 Bert
    AUB 27 TEN 24 Orangebobber

    All predictions are for a pretty close game.
    Which, of course, means this game will be a blowout.
    By whom to whom is anybody’s guess.
    Have a good time at the Stadium for those of you who will be there.
    and remember,
    THIS GAME IS TO BE PLAYED AT MAXIMUM VOLUME.

    And be safe at on that long drive home in the dark!

    NOTE: Yes, back in the day there was the 2 pm start which I believe changed to a 1:30 pm start later in the season (??).

  10. Sandy says :

    4:46 left in 1st quarter, ball on the ground, and it is time to change QB’s…

  11. Sandy says :

    I had the following typed up in the 3rd quarter after watching an inept UT passing game:

    ————————————————
    What is Kiffin’s strategy for the quarterback position?

    Even I will now admit that Crompton does not have the ability to succeed as an SEC QB. Good coaches do need good players to be successful.

    So what does that mean for Stephens? If he has equal, or more ability than Crompton, then he would have played in this game, if for no other reason than to prepare for next season. Stephens is a junior, the backup to a senior who cannot execute basic passes. What makes anyone think he will be any more successful than Crompton next year?

    So is Kiffin sending a message that the QB position is wide open to anyone coming in for next season? Is there a hot-shot high schooler that is not committed? Maybe a Juco transfer?
    ————————————————

    Then Kiffin manages to lead the team to 10 points and pull within a touchdown (although, with better QB execution is should have been within a field goal).

    It is encouraging to think about what this coaching staff could do with a first rate quarterback. But they’ve got to get one.

  12. norCalVol says :

    Sandy, that is the year’s million-dollar question.
    I refuse to believe that there is a motive with regard to recruiting as a reason to basically hang Crompton, and this year’s team, out to dry by sticking with him.
    But, Stephens deserves a fair shot. If he’s not ready to give it a go now, he never will be.
    Waiting another week until the bye week is pointless. Georgia is a lost cause with the same old same old.
    Trying to force a ball into coverage is one thing, but to continually throw behind receivers that are open is another. I share your frustration.
    It’s disheartening that we’re having the same conversation that we all did last season, but I think we’re going to just have to live through it and hope (a) Stephens develops quickly once he’s handed the reigns, whenever that will be, or (b) hope for the best in the recruiting pool.

  13. T K says :

    bobby is convinced the qb deal is for recruiting and as much as hes about to convince me i cant believe the head coach would possibly throw away games or a season for that reason. what has he got to lose in trying stephens in a game……when he chose crompton he kept saying that stephens was almost as good so lets see if he is

    THIS WAS THE MOST FRUSTRATING GAME I HAVE WATCHED IN A LONG TIME, IT DAMN WORE ME OUT.

  14. T K says :

    and freddy you are right about the 2pm start times. when this section of the country went to daylite savings time, the games after the time change were moved from 2p to 1:30pm…………remember at that time there were no lights in neyland

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