The No. 7 Auburn Tigers and the SEC’s top rushing attack take on a frustrated Tennessee Volunteers squad on Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium.
The Tigers will send out running back Tre Mason and quarterback Nick Marshall, a pair that’s combined for 1,441 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. Saturday will be Auburn’s final road game of the season, before a final stretch run against Georgia and No. 1 Alabama that could decide the conference and alter the national title landscape.
The 4-5 Volunteers are last in the conference against the run, allowing 201.7 yards per game and 18 total touchdowns. Containing Mason and Marshall will be a tough test for a squad that has faced numerous challenges this season.
A punishing schedule has placed Tennessee in sixth place in the East division of the SEC, after facing Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, and Missouri in consecutive weeks. Before that difficult stretch, Tennessee met ranked powerhouses Oregon and Florida on the road. Saturday's game marks the seventh time this season that Tennessee faced an opponent ranked in the top 20.
"I'm disappointed but I'm not discouraged," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said, according to the Associated Press. "Nobody said it's going to be easy. ... I said at the beginning of the season that we needed to be a blue-collar team. Our margin of error is very small, we need to overachieve in any and all areas to have a chance."
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Senior running back Rajion Neal has managed to provide the Volunteers with 771 yards and nine scores, good for sixth in the SEC, but the team has been outscored 76-13 in their last two games.
After spoiling Texas A&M’s title hopes, Auburn shutdown Florida Atlantic and ran roughshod over Arkansas last week for a 35-17 victory. Marshall came back from a shoulder injury and passed for one touchdown and totaled 177 yards, and Mason generated 168 yards and four touchdowns.
Tennessee was unfortunate to meet a Missouri squad after their first loss of the season, and fell 31-3 last week, giving up 339 rushing yards. The loss marked the first career start for freshman quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who committed three turnovers while passing for 240 yards.
A consensus four-star high school recruit, Dobbs has gone 31-for-54 for 315 yards and two interceptions in two appearances. He first came in for Justin Worley in the second half of the Alabama loss.
The Auburn defense, ranked third in the SEC and 21st in the nation giving up 20.1 points a game, could ensure Dobbs remains winless as a starter in his early career. Senior defensive end Dee Ford is second in the SEC with seven sacks, and junior defensive back Robenson Therezie is tied for fifth in the conference with three interceptions returned for 102 yards and a touchdown.
Tennessee’s Marlon Walls leads the team with 4.5 sacks, and will look to contain Marshall on the ground, while sophomore defensive back Brian Randolph leads a secondary that hope to limit Auburn star Sammie Coates.
Betting Odds: Auburn favored by 7 points
Over/Under: 55 points
Time: 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Where To Watch Online: Watch ESPN
Prediction: Auburn 35, Tennessee 17