Both Auburn and Tennessee are coming off home losses to bitter division rivals, putting them in early holes in the Southeastern Conference standings and giving their two fan bases reason to complain.
One team will take a step back toward expectations at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The other will find itself in a difficult situation, indeed. Neither the No. 15 Tigers (3-1, 1-1 conference) nor the Volunteers (1-2, 0-1) can afford a loss in a contest that will be televised by CBS.
“It’s obvious to us that we haven’t played our best football in two of the three games to this point,” Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said Wednesday during the SEC coaches teleconference about losses to UCLA and Florida. “You can talk until you’re blue in the face, but at some point you have to go to the practice field to get the things done you need to get done.”
Fulmer blamed his team’s performance in a 30-6 loss to Florida on mistakes – penalties and turnovers – at the worst possible times.
“You come back and you watch the film and say we could’ve or we should’ve – but we didn’t,” Fulmer said. “Those are fixable mistakes.”
The mistakes, which Fulmer said too often put the team in unfavorable down-and-distance situations, will have to be fixed if the Vols are to score on an Auburn defense Fulmer described as “stout.”
That may be so, but the Tigers had a rough go of it in a loss to LSU. Charles Scott became the first ever LSU running back to rush for more than 100 yards at Jordan-Hare Stadium, and the visiting Tigers racked up 398 yards of total offense.
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said preparing a team is difficult after a heartbreaking loss such as LSU 26, Auburn 21.
“That’s a tough job for all your coaches and your seniors,” Tuberville said. “You have to talk to your players every day about the game at hand.”