Jeremy Pruitt’s 2-4 Tennessee Volunteers will face the #23 Auburn Tigers Saturday night in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Vols will take on the Tigers at 7 pm on ESPN.
This is the first time the two teams have faced each other since 2018, where Tennessee pulled off the upset against #21 Auburn 30-24.
Tennessee currently sits with a 2-4 record and have a 4 game losing streak at the moment. The Vols were supposed to face Texas A&M last Saturday, but that game was postponed due to Covid-19. Tennessee’s most recent performance was a loss to Arkansas, where the Razorbacks won 24-13. The Vols secondary giving up several plays and Pruitt’s bizarre decision making led Tennessee to lose to Arkansas and add to their losing streak.
Auburn was also supposed to face Mississippi State last Saturday but was also postponed due to Covid-19. The Tiger’s most recent performance was a 48-11 win over LSU. Auburn is 4-2 this season with their two losses coming from Georgia and South Carolina. Auburn comes into this game as 10 point favorites against the Vols.
This is a must-win game for Jeremy Pruitt. Pruitt has managed to put himself in the hot seat thanks to this 4 game losing streak.
In the Vols 4 game losing streak, Tennessee has been outscored 150-58. Tennessee has also been outscored 88-7 in the 2nd half in their last three games.
For Jeremy Pruitt to get a win Saturday he desperately needs, here is what the Vols must do to beat Auburn:
Put Pressure On Bo Nix
If there is anything the Vols have struggled with this season, it is the pass rush defense.
In the last four games, Tennessee has only managed to grab just 9 sacks in that span. That means they are averaging less than 2.5 sacks a game.
In that 4 game span, the Vols have only recorded three QB hurries as well. It doesn’t help either that Jeremy Pruitt fired DL coach Jimmy Brumbaugh in the middle of the Kentucky game.
If Tennessee wants to have a shot at winning this game, they must pressure Bo Nix.
Bo Nix has proven when he is given time that he can be lethal in the pocket. In Auburn’s win over LSU, Nix went 18-24 for 300 passing yards, 81 rushing yards, 3 passing TDs, and a rushing TD. Nix also did not get sacked once in that win as well.
However, when he is under pressure, he tends to make mistakes.
In Auburn’s loss to South Carolina, Nix was sacked 3 times and went 24-47 with 272 passing yards, 1 TD, and 3 INT. Nix also only threw for 177 yards and an INT and was sacked in their blowout loss to Georgia. It is proven when he’s pressured; he makes mistakes.
This is why it is essential for the Vols pass rush to have their best performance of the season Saturday if they want to win.
O-Line Must Get It Together
One of the many shocking things about this football season is how mediocre the offensive line has been this season.
At the start of the season, many people, including myself, thought Tennessee would have the best O-Line in the SEC.
Well, that certainly hasn’t been the case this year.
During the Vols four-game losing streak, the “TVA” has given up 9 sacks and 25 TFLs. Tennessee has also had 5 fumbles behind the line of scrimmage as well.
For an offensive line that is consisted of All-American and All-SEC players like Trey Smith, Cade Mays, Wanya Morris, Brandon Kennedy, this ain’t gonna cut it.
Trey Smith doesn’t look like the same player as he did a year ago. Cade Mays has been a disappointment so far. Wanya Morris has been a liability a lot of times. Darnell Wright is still struggling.
This must change.
Now, this does not excuse the poor QB play Tennessee has had all season from Jarrett Guarantano. However, the Offensive line has been subpar and needs to step up their game.
Auburn’s rushing defense is ranked at 57, which is nearly 30 spots higher than Arkansas’s, according to NCAA.com.
Auburn is ranked 65th in team sacks, Arkansas is 85th.
When it comes to Team TFLs, Auburn is at 63rd while Arkansas is at 84th.
The point is that Auburn’s rush defense is significantly better than Arkansas’s.
Tennessee’s O-Line having the same performance on Saturday as they did with the Hogs will not get the job.
If Tennessee wants to have any life at all on offense come Saturday, the O-Line play must improve.
2nd Half Coaching Must Improve
There is no need to sugarcoat it; the 2nd half coaching has been absolutely atrocious. In fact, the 2nd half coaching is the reason why we are 2-4 this season.
2nd half adjustments have been nonexistent when it comes to this football staff.
Arkansas was able to shut down the run game in the 2nd half and score 24 straight points to win.
Georgia was able to put an immense amount of pressure on the Vols offense and shut them down.
The same goes for the Kentucky and Alabama game. The offense has been non-existent in the 2nd half for the Vols. Tennessee has just scored just one touchdown in the 2nd half in the last four games.
Yes, you read that correctly, just one touchdown.
Jim Chaney must open up the playbook in the 2nd half. Pruitt and Chaney must expect Kevin Steele and Auburn to make adjustments on the defensive front in the 2nd half. When this happens, the Vols must change up the playcalling.
Tennessee must open the field and throw it down the field on first down to change it up.
If the Vols continue just to throw it behind the line of scrimmage to start the drive, Tennessee will have no chance of winning in the plains.
Give Harrison Bailey A Shot
I have been saying this every game this year, and I am getting tired of saying this, but Tennessee’s QB play has to get better.
It is beyond obvious that Senior QB Jarrett Guarantano is not the answer under center.
Jarrett Guarantano ranks near the bottom in the conference in every category:
- Passing Yards: 13th (956 yards)
- Completion Percentage: 11th (61.54%)
- Yards Per Passing Attempt: 11th (6.69 yards)
- Touchdowns: T-7th (6 TDs)
- QBR Rating: 12th (127.34)
Guarantano only averaged 5.3 yards a pass in the loss to Arkansas. Harrison Bailey, who only played in the last 7 minutes of the game, ended up having the most passing yards with 65 and averaged 7.2 yards a pass. Granted, Bailey threw 2 INTs (One should have been a PI), but the offense had a spark in them when he was in at QB.
Pruitt himself said last week that the offense looked the best they did all year in practice last week when running the 1’s.
We already know what we are getting with Guarantano.
It is time for Tennessee to move on from Guarantano and give Bailey the start Saturday and give him a chance. There is nothing to lose at this point by starting Harrison Bailey. This is the biggest game in Jeremy Pruitt’s coaching career at Tennessee.
If he manages to pull off the upset against Auburn, Pruitt’s job will be safe for another season.
But if Tennessee shows up uninspired as they did against Arkansas, Saturday’s game will get ugly in a hurry, and Phillip Fulmer will have to make some tough decisions about the program’s future.