The Big Orange Week.

Friday, November 20, 2020

The Big Orange Week.

Tigers play for the first time since Halloween.
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! Saturday evening, the Auburn Tigers will host the Tennessee Volunteers in Jordan Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama. Auburn has a 4-2 record in SEC only competition this year, with 4 games remaining. After winning their first 2 games, Tennessee has lost 4 straight by double digits to fall to 2-4. Auburn needs a win to keep remote hopes alive in the SEC West race. A win for Tennessee would do a lot to settle animosity down in Knoxville. I did not think any coach would be fired this season with COVID-19 budget shortfalls, but I was proved wrong this week. South Carolina sacked head coach Will Muschamp, and will have to pay him a 15 million dollar buy out.

     Auburn had a bit of a COVID outbreak last week, and is expected to be “several” players short this game. We are not being told who tested positive, or who was sidelined due to nebulous contact tracing.

     Auburn is a 10 point or more favorite against Tennessee this week, but I’m nervous about the game. I think Tennessee has played less than the sum of its parts this season, and could have a breakout game at any time. Most curious has been the offense. The Vols have a star-studded, big offensive line, but at times their running game and pass protection seem to collapse. Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has been the poster boy for bad interceptions this season in the SEC, but I think he’s the best option Tennessee has. I certainly have not forgotten him carving up the Auburn secondary a couple of years ago when Tennessee won in Auburn, 30-24.

     On defense, Tennessee started the season with a stifling defense, but has given up 41 to Georgia, 34 to Kentucky, 48 to Alabama and 24 to Arkansas in their last 4 losses. I would expect the Vols to use largely man-to-man coverage, try to shut down Auburn’s running game and force Auburn quarterback Bo Nix to try to beat a pair of really good cornerbacks with his arm. I think it will be very important for Auburn to utilize secondary receivers like Eli Stove and the tight end corps to keep the Vols out of the box and the backfield.

     Auburn’s remaining schedule after Tennessee is the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa, followed by Texas A&M at Auburn, and finishing with at Mississippi State. Just a single win in the remaining 4 games would probably guarantee a bowl game with a 5-5 record. I think the Tigers expect to do better than that! If Auburn were able to pull a monumental upset in the Iron Bowl, they would still need Alabama to lose another game for the Tigers to win the division. Alabama’s remaining opponents are somewhat up in the air. They host Kentucky this week, then the Iron Bowl. Alabama’s last game is scheduled at Arkansas, but they missed a game last weekend against LSU. Unfortunately for the Tide, LSU has games to make up against both Florida and Alabama. It remains to be seen whether Alabama will be allowed to make up the LSU game.

     Auburn should have clear skies Saturday evening, with the temperature around 70 degreesF at kickoff. A celestial show of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars will illuminate the sky, as well as a full moon.

     We have a 6 game slate this weekend in the SEC, barring any last-minute COVID cancellations. Ole Miss at Texas A&M has been postponed due to the virus.

     Kicking off the early 11:00 AM Central Daylight Time action are the Vanderbilt Commodores visiting the Florida Gators on ESPN. I expect a Gator romp, but it is notable that the Vanderbilt offense has shown a few signs of life in recent weeks, and Florida is giving up some yards.

     Also at 11:00, LSU visits Arkansas on the SEC Network. LSU should have enough talent to win this game, but I think the Tiger issues at quarterback will continue to hold them back, especially facing veteran defensive coordinator Barry Odum and his schemes. LSU looked lost against Auburn a couple of weeks ago, and clearly did not want to play Alabama last week. Meanwhile, Arkansas gets a step closer to getting to a bowl game should they win at home.

     At 3:00 PM on the SEC Network, Kentucky visits Alabama for a pre-Iron Bowl tuneup. This will be one of the better defenses Alabama faces. The Wildcats are good, but not that good. Alabama should win easily.

     A trip of evening games awaits, starting in Auburn at 6:00 PM on ESPN against Tennessee. The winner gets to stave off yowling for the head coach’s job for another week.

     At 6:30 on the SEC Network, Mississippi State visits Georgia. The Maroons continue to hemorrhage players, and I expect that Georgia’s league-leading defense will be way too much to handle.

     Banished to the SEC Alternate Channel at 6:30 is Missouri at lame-duck South Carolina, in their first game with interim coach Mike Bobo. Missouri started the season looking awful in 2 losses, then rebounded to down LSU and Kentucky. The past month, Missouri has only played at Florida, where they lost big. If I’m not mistaken, 3 Missouri players will have to serve a suspension for this one due to a mid-game brawl at Florida.

     The Auburn Tennessee game will be nationally televised on ESPN this week. We will have our usual Open Thread up and running. I’ll offer comments on various SEC games, some play-by-play this week. War Eagle, and let’s beat the Big Orange!

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