No. 7 Auburn expecting tough test at Tennessee

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 08, 2013
Auburn believes Tennessee is better than its record indicates. The seventh-ranked Tigers want to make sure the Volunteers don't prove that this week. Auburn (8-1, 4-1 SEC) has its final regular-season road test Saturday at Tennessee, which was outscored 76-13 by top-ranked Alabama and No. 9 Missouri in its last two games. Tennessee's recent struggles could cause Auburn to look past this game before they close the regular season at home against Georgia and Alabama. The Tigers insist they'll resist that temptation. ''Tennessee is a good football team,'' Auburn center Reese Dismukes said. ''They're playing extremely well at home right now. It's an SEC game and it's on the road. It doesn't matter where you're playing in the SEC on the road -- it's going to be a tough game.'' Tennessee (4-5, 1-4) certainly has been tougher at home than on the road this season. In their last two home games, the Volunteers lost 34-31 in overtime to Georgia and beat No. 13 South Carolina 23-21. ''We have a mentality that no one comes into our house, that we're not going to be denied,'' Tennessee safety Brian Randolph said. ''We just have to learn to take that on the road as well.'' Tennessee also has reason to believe freshman quarterback Joshua Dobbs will fare better at home as he makes his second career start in place of junior Justin Worley, who underwent surgery on his right thumb last week. Dobbs threw two interceptions and lost a fumble against Missouri last week, but he also passed for 240 yards and ran for 45 yards on seven carries. Auburn has a better idea of what to expect from its quarterback. Nick Marshall directs an offense that has reached the 30-point mark in five straight games. Auburn has the SEC's top rushing attack with a backfield that features the mobile Marshall and Tre Mason, who has run for 921 yards and 13 touchdowns. That production has boosted the confidence of a team that has made the nation's biggest turnaround this season. Auburn was 2-7 through its first nine games last year. ''I think any time you're successful, you're going to be more confident,'' Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. ''I really feel like this team's grounded. They've bought into taking it one game at a time.'' While Malzahn has enjoyed immediate success in his first year at Auburn, Tennessee has battled inconsistency while facing a brutal schedule in Butch Jones' debut season. Tennessee is playing a ranked opponent for the seventh time in its last eight games. ''I want it now,'' Jones said. ''Our players want it now. Our former players - our Vols for life - want it now. Our fan base wants it now. Our administration wants it now. We all want it now, but I see the positives each and every day. People in our industry that really study the game see it.'' --- Here are five things to watch Saturday when No. 7 Auburn visits Tennessee. AUBURN'S FOURTH-QUARTER PROWESS: Auburn has outscored teams 64-30 in the fourth quarter this season. Tennessee also has played well in the fourth quarter and is outscoring opponents 48-31 in that period. TOUGHER TENNESSEE?: Jones criticized his team for getting dominated on both sides of the line of scrimmage in a 31-3 loss at Missouri. He vowed that ''Tennessee football is not going to be soft.'' He nicknamed his offensive line ''Club 90'' this week because of the Vols' failure to gain 100 yards rushing against Missouri. Tennessee must show more toughness at the line of scrimmage to have a shot at pulling the upset. CAN VOLS CAPITALIZE?: Tennessee reached Missouri territory on over half its possessions last week, yet the Vols only scored three points. The Vols must do a better job of taking advantage of their scoring opportunities Saturday. FAMILIAR FOES: Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and Tennessee linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen were assistants on Auburn's 2010 national championship team. Thigpen worked at Auburn as a safeties coach in 2009-11 and as linebackers coach last year. Tennessee secondary coach Willie Martinez coached Auburn's defensive backs last season. STRENGTH vs. WEAKNESS: Auburn leads the SEC with 306.2 yards rushing per game. Tennessee is allowing a league-high 201.7 yards rushing per game. Auburn averages 6.3 yards per carry, while Tennessee gives up 5.1 yards per rush. Auburn ran so effectively last week that it attempted only nine passes in a 35-17 victory over Arkansas. The Vols can't allow Auburn to run wild. --- AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Auburn, Ala., contributed to this report.
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