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TENNESSEE AT AUBURN

FULMER ON THE HOT SEAT

9/27/08

2* Tennessee +7 over Auburn - If handicapping football games were easy, we could use logic as simple as the following and do quite well. Tennessee lost to UCLA who then got blown out 59-0 by BYU. Then Tennessee beat a weak UAB team before getting blown out once again by Florida last week. On the other hand, Auburn started out 3-0 with a defense playing superb ball, and SHOULD have won last week at home against LSU to go 4-0. Easy stuff. Automatic play on Auburn huh? Well, maybe not.

These are the types of situations that sure aren't easy to play as a bettor. But they can provide us with some extra value due to the results of both squads year to date. Let's first take into consideration the emotional state of these two teams. Auburn was sky high last week for LSU. National TV audience. Chance to go 4-0 and knock off LSU. What makes it worse is that they had the lead a couple of times and should have won the game. The loss totally deflated this team. To quote coach Tuberville, "We’ve got a disappointed bunch of guys in the locker room. We felt like the way we played at times, we should have won it. They made a few more plays than we did"

Tennessee on the other hand figures to be loose. What do they have to lose? Everyone thinks they are terrible. While they also had a disappoint result last week, it's a little different when the score is 30-6 and you were never in the game to begin with. It's disappointing, sure, but not as disappointing as the Auburn loss. The Vols had already tasted defeat once this season and no one was mentioning their names and National Title in the same breath.

So, so far we have a slight mental edge in favor of the Vols and we have some added value in the line as a result of the Vols score last week not being close while Auburn could have won their game. But how about the talent that these two bring to the table? Well, first let's revisit last season. In case anyone forgot, the Vols started out last season in similar fashion. In their first 3 games, they were blown out by Cal and by Florida and beat So Miss to start 1-2. Just like this year, they were calling for Fulmer to be fired (someone called a radio show Fulmer was on this week and asked if he was going to resign) The Vols responded to last years 1-2 star by winning 8 of their next 9 games and landing themselves in the SEC title game.

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Fulmer gets bashed quite a bit. But his teams have always responded for him when their backs were up against the wall. In 2005 they went 5-6 which is unacceptable in Vol Land. Fulmer was all but done if he didn't produce. The team responded with a 9-4 mark in 2006 and the last years 10-4 capped with Bowl game win over Wisconsin. You don't last 17 years in Tennessee without doing something right.

The Vols lost QB Eric Ainge which has hurt. But there's 8 starters on this offense from a year ago and six on the defensive side of the ball. This team will score some points this year you can be sure of that. Which brings us to where we feel the Vols have a shot this week. The Tennessee defense actually played well last week. Sometimes the score on the scoreboard doesn't tell the whole story. They held Florida to just two offensive touchdowns. Florida had a few field goals and a punt  return for a TD. 3 Turnovers and a ton of penalties added to the Vols problems. Each team had 16 first downs and about 250 yards of total offense.

Auburn on the other hand, came back down to earth a tad defensively against the first real offensive threat it has faced this year. They gave up 178 rushing yards and 220 thru the air while offensively they had just 70 yards on the ground. So this defense has some holes. As long as this Auburn offense is a work in progress, it opens the door for teams like the Vols to stay close. If the Vols can slow down Tebow and the Gators they should be able to handle a brand new Auburn spread offense with just a few games under their belts.

The potential to keep it close combined with the mental edge the Vols are likely to have has us taking the +7 here. To use another quote, this one from Auburn QB Chris Todd - "It was real exciting. There’s nothing like it,” Todd said. “The adrenaline rush, playing on that stage was awesome. You’d like to win, but it came down to the end, and those are the type of games you like to play in"

That was last week. Now that the adrenaline rush has worn off, do you think Auburn will be as high for the Vols this week? Or perhaps a little flat?

2* Tennessee +7

 

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