Wednesday, September 30, 2009
No one likes Tennessee. Similar to Notre Dame (albeit nowhere near the extent) you either love them or hate them. Some programs reek of unmitigated arrogance and Tennessee ranks high on the list (encroaching upon, however yet to surpass, our brethren from Tuscaloosa).
Knoxville will be abuzz as undefeated and unranked Auburn rolls into town to take on their beloved Vols in a prime time national broadcast. I read on al.com the university is attempting to forbid Tiger Walk for "security and safety measures" at Neyland Stadium. Good luck with that. That will be more challenging than slowing down those on board the Gus Bus. By the way, Tiger Walk is at Gate 7, 2 hours prior to kickoff!
We shouldn't take it lightly that this will be the first road game of the year for this young team (for some, I'm sure, their first trip on a plane as well!). The stadium is vastly overrated however. It's a sight to see no doubt, but it's no louder than Death Valley or Jordan-Hare or the Georgia Dome when it's at its loudest...and rumor is this will not even be close to a sell out.
I always felt like road games brought you closer together as a unit. You have an extra 1/2 day to start thinking about the game for travel, and it's the quintessential "us against the world" mentality and it's a fun role to play. Nothing like taking the air out of a raucous crowd on national television. It's exponentially more satisfying than the most deafening roar at your home stadium. When on the road, you don't have to worry about gathering tickets for visiting family members and friends--there's just much less peripheral distractions on the road.
Tennessee's defense will be the toughest we've played to date. At times our offense will appear inept and downright foolish against a speedy, tough-against-the-run defense and if it gives effort for four quarters, UT's defense will keep them in the game. I don't believe they can keep Chris Todd and Auburn's offense in check all night, especially if Jonathan Crompton puts them in terrible situations repeatedly (here's hoping for the same Crompton we've seen for two years shows up Saturday night!!).
What I see as key in this game however is not if Auburn can run the football, how our young guys respond to being on the road for the first time, or getting out to a fast start, but rather if our defense can routinely stop the UT running attack. If we stuff Bryce Brown and Montario Hardesty on first and second down, then the game falls on the shoulders of Crompton. Unless Crompton transforms into Heath Shuler or Peyton Manning...having the game on his back is all we can hope for. I like our chances of outscoring a Crompton-led attack.
I expect a nip and tuck game throughout. I like to believe Auburn's offense is explosive enough to deny being contained very long. I also like to believe Auburn has yet to show all of its pressure packages defensively. Tennessee will come out swinging ferociously early...how will Auburn respond on the road? Special teams must improve this week...we can't give Tennessee a short field or special teams points.
If we run it with success...this game is not close. If we struggle running the ball, which I anticipate...it goes four quarters. Auburn also plays with a chip on its shoulder playing the "lack of respect" card for no top 25 ranking. Here's your chance on a national stage to show the voters who you are!!