Tennessee at Auburn

The Sports Xchange

October 10, 2018 at 5:34 pm.

KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
SITE: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.
TV: SEC Network
SERIES: Auburn leads 28-21-3. Auburn won the last meeting 55-23 in 2013.
RANKINGS: Auburn No. 21


–QB Jarrett Guarantano is fewer than 200 yards away from eclipsing 1,000 for the season — a feat he fell three yards shy of as a freshman. His 145.7 rating places him fourth in SEC as he looks to build consistency. The redshirt sophomore countered his two interceptions against Florida with a pair of touchdowns passes a week later versus Georgia. “Jarrett is just like everybody else on our football team,” coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “He’s had bright spots just like a lot of guys. I think we’re looking for consistency with all of our players.”

–RB Ty Chandler owns the longest play from scrimmage in the SEC through the first month with his 81-yard scamper against Texas-El Paso. The sophomore is second on the team in rushing with 247 yards in essentially three games. Chandler scored the first receiving touchdown of his career two weeks ago against Georgia on a 33-yard screen route.

–LB Derrick Taylor posted a career-best day against No. 2 Georgia with six solo tackles, three sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. It was the type of effort that Pruitt has been looking for from the defensive front, particularly the redshirt junior. Taylor now has six career sacks to go along with eight tackles for loss in 23 games.

–LB Daniel Bituli led Tennessee with eight tackles against Georgia. The strong performance allowed Bituli to leap-frog over Darrin Kirkland Jr. for team lead with 26 stops.


–RB Jatarvious Whitlow paced the running game with 88 yards on eight carries, but lost a touchdown when he fumbled at State’s 1-yard line trying to stretch out for a touchdown. A redshirt freshman, Whitlow leads Auburn in rushing with 414 yards on 69 carries, a 6.0 average, with four touchdowns.

–WR Ryan Davis leads the Tigers in receiving with 29 catches good for 252 yards. He is coming off an 8-catch, 91-yard night in the loss to Mississippi State.

–DE Marlon Davidson recorded a career-high 10 tackles against Mississippi State. The junior also blocked a field goal for the first time in his collegiate career, keeping alive the Tigers’ hopes of getting a late score to send the game to overtime.

–DT Dontavius Russell doesn’t have big numbers (16 tackles, 4.0 for losses, 1.0 sack and a quarterback hurry) but he is a disruptive force inside for the Tigers. He is a senior that nfldraftscout.com rates as an “immediate” contributor at the NFL level next season.


Auburn is hoping history repeats itself when it hosts Tennessee on Saturday afternoon.

Kickoff at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the Southeastern Conference matchup is noon ET on the SEC Network.

With their loss to Mississippi State last week, the No. 21 Tigers (4-2, 1-2 SEC) once again will need some help if they are going to get back to the league’s championship game, as was the case a year ago when they dropped an early game to LSU.

Tigers coach Gus Malzahn is hoping his team can spark another second-half surge by beating the Volunteers (2-3, 0-2 SEC).

“Now that our backs are against the wall, it’s a real similar feeling as it was last year,” Malzahn said. “I’m very confident that we’re going to finish this thing.

“Our team is in a good spot mentally for everything that we went through the first half of the season, and I think we’re set up to improve each week. We’ve done that the last few seasons. I think we’ll do that again this year.”

The big difference is that with two league losses already, these Tigers are going to need more help in the form of some team knocking off unbeaten Alabama and another handing once-beaten LSU a second and even third conference setback for them to have a shot a gaining the league’s title game spot. LSU holds the tiebreaker over Auburn in the conference.

“Obviously, we don’t control our own destiny,” Malzahn said. “We’ll need some help, there’s no doubt about that. But there’s still a whole lot to play for.

“If we can finish like we did last year, there’ll be a lot of good things ahead. There’s a whole lot to play for, and our team understands that.”

Struggling Tennessee may present a good opportunity for the Tigers to get things headed in the right direction again. But the Vols have had some extra time to get ready after last week’s open date.

“We had a really good off week last week,” first-year coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “We had an good opportunity to get back to a lot of fundamentals, which was good for a lot of our guys.

“I was thinking about it over the weekend, I think there’s probably 10 guys that have started for us at some point in time this season that weren’t here during the spring, and there’s probably another 8-to-10 guys that play a lot that weren’t here.

“It was good to go back and get some fundamental work and go back to some foundations on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game.”

One thing wasn’t good. Freshman safety Trevon Flowers, who started the opener and has played in all five games, broke a collarbone diving for an interception in practice.
“It’s unfortunate for him because he really had improved in the last two or three weeks and had a great off week this past week,” Pruitt said.

Auburn, on the other hand, looks to have right tackle Jack Driscoll back from a leg injury that kept him out of last week’s loss to Mississippi State, and linebacker Deshaun Davis, Auburn’s leading tackler with 53 stops, has reported no aftereffects from a leg injury sustained late against the Bulldogs.

“I think we dodged a bullet with that,” Malzahn said. “I mean it scared him. It twisted and kind of fell on him and all that. He came back in the game, and I think he’s doing a lot better.”

The big issue for the Tigers is to get their running game back in gear. They have failed to rush for 100 yards in each of their last three games. Freshman running back JaTarvious Whitlow, their leading rusher with 414 yards, is dealing with a shoulder issue but still managed to gain 88 yard last week.

“I think it says a lot about him as a young running back with a shoulder.” Malzahn said. “He played through it and showed some toughness and made some really good runs.”