Tennessee football vs. Auburn matchup: Do Vols have magic on the Plains again?November 20, 2020
Tennessee football is back after an unplanned off week due to COVID-19 issues within the Texas A&M program.
The Vols (2-4) are taking a four-game losing streak into its game at No. 21 Auburn (4-2) on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Here is what you need to know about the matchup:3 questions
How will the unexpected off week affect both teams?
Auburn and Tennessee were among the eight SEC teams that did not play on Nov. 14 due to COVID-19 issues within their expected opponents — Mississippi State and Texas A&M, respectively.
The Tigers have not played in two weeks after having a scheduled open week on Nov. 7. The Vols have only played once in November, a 24-13 loss at Arkansas.
Does Jeremy Pruitt have magic again on The Plains?
The signature win of Pruitt’s tenure is a 30-24 victory at Auburn on Oct. 13, 2018.
Auburn was ranked No. 21 and Tennessee had lost 11 straight SEC games. But Jarrett Guarantano had a big-time outing, setting a career record with 328 yards and two touchdowns on 21-for-32 passing.
The Vols are back at Auburn again with Pruitt in need of another tone-setting moment.
Who will it be at QB?
Guarantano returned to practice Sunday after exiting the Arkansas game with an apparent head injury, but Pruitt also praised what he saw from the team’s three backups during the extra week of practice.
Guarantano has started every game this season, but it hasn’t always been pretty for the senior.
“We’ll see how the rest of the week goes here,” Pruitt said Monday. “I was real excited about how these other guys continued to work, and I thought Jarrett had a good day (Sunday).”2 players
Williams might be the best wide receiver in the SEC other than any Alabama receiver or Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore. The 6-foot-3 junior is Bo Nix’s favorite target and for good reason.
Williams has caught 28 passes for 511 yards and three touchdowns.
McCreary saw an increased role in 2019 but has taken a leap in 2020. The junior leads Auburn with two interceptions and three pass break-ups.
He has made 26 tackles with five tackles for loss. He is a key reason Auburn ranks third in the SEC in passing yards allowed per game and has surrendered only nine passing touchdowns.
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Tennessee’s third-down offense vs. Auburn’s third-down defense
Sound familiar? Probably so.
Tennessee’s third-down issues haven’t dissipated even after going 5-for-15 at Arkansas, which was — alarmingly — its second-best percentage this season.
If the Vols are going to figure out their woes on third down, it better be against Auburn. The Tigers have the second-worst third-down defense in the SEC — 52.1%.
Tennessee football was excellent on third down in its upset at Auburn in 2018, converting 10 of 19 attempts.