The No. 9-ranked Auburn Tigers still have a shot to play for the national championship. If they run the table the rest of the way and win the Iron Bowl against the No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide on Nov. 30, the team will be 11-1 overall.
Considering Auburn is already ranked in the top 10, it isn't a preposterous concept. The Tigers can't get too far ahead of themselves, though. Gus Malzahn's team has a potential trap game in Tennessee this Saturday. Though the challenge isn't as stiff, the Tigers should learn from the lesson the Oregon Ducks learned against the Stanford Cardinal on Thursday.
Ducks fans had shirts printed up that read "We Want Bama" but ultimately wound up falling 26-20 to a Cardinal team that didn't appreciate being overlooked.
The Tigers aren't likely to fall victim to a similar fate. The team's three-headed monster at running back will suck all the air out of Neyland Stadium by dominating time of possession. Emancipated by a studly offensive line, Tre Mason, Nick Marshall and Cameron Artis-Payne have combined for 1,956 yards and 23 touchdowns this season.
Auburn is averaging 306.2 yards on the ground per game.
If the Vols hope to pull the upset, they will have to find a way to slow the Tigers down. Tennessee's chances to stop Auburn's ground game seem very slim.
After all, the Vols are ranked just 102nd in the nation against the run. Tennessee is surrendering 201.6 yards per game on the ground. In its past three games, against Missouri, Alabama and South Carolina, the Tennessee defense has given up an average of 253.6 rushing yards per contest.
These are elite SEC teams that are comparable to the attack the Vols will face on Saturday against Auburn. Many would argue the Tigers' ground game would be the best of the bunch. It would take a miracle for the Vols to produce the type of effort on defense necessary to stifle Mason, Marshall and Artis-Payne.
Expect Auburn to keep its national championship hopes alive behind a dominant ground attack.
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