I remember last year. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Auburn beat Tennessee 14-12 in the most pathetic display of offensive ineptitude since…since…
Since the 3-2 win over Mississippi State.
And the only good thing I could think of to say was that it beat losing. And, after watching that game, it kicked in for me how long a season it was going to be. I had seen some things work for the offense, but knew I should be seeing better.
What a difference a year makes.
This year, Auburn comes in at 4-0, but looking at its first road game of the season. Tennessee is 2-2 (should be 3-1), and playing in front of 100,000 screaming fans. (I went to Knoxville twice for games when I was in school. The first time, Auburn came in ranked #1 and lost. The second time, in a game where Auburn also appeared to be the better team before kickoff, we left with a 20-20 tie.)
So, we’re left to ask what kind of game this will be?
It can be a statement game for Auburn. In 2004, a 4-0 Auburn traveled to Knoxville in what was expected to be its first serious test of the season. It played an excellent UT team (a team it would play again for the SEC Championship) and blew it off the checkerboard by a final of 34-10. Watching the game, I realized that the season had a shot to be a magical one.
However, it could also be like 1999, when a 3-1 Auburn team in Tuberville’s first year traveled to Knoxville to face a 2-1 Tennessee squad. (Yes, UT’s one loss was to Florida.) Auburn lost 24-0.
Given the low expectations for this season, we already know that this season could be a good one. However, with eight games left, what Auburn team are we seeing? Initial indications are that it could be a good one. And as much as I want to jump on the Gus Malzahn bus (and I do believe it is good long term), I don’t know if I ready to say that this will be a great year. It has, however, been a fun season so far.
Auburn owns a 4-game winning streak in the series and a 26-21-3 record overall. No doubt, Tennessee wants to break the streak and will be up to do so. They used to say that the loser of the Auburn – Tennessee game would never win the conference (at least until Auburn did it in ’89 when they finished in a three-way tie for the conference crown with Tennessee and Alabama.). I don’t expect that old adage to change this year. I do, though, expect to enjoy myself.