This, really, is a must-win game for the Vols. If the Vols lose this one, it could confirm the end of Phillip Fulmer's tenure as UT head coach and the Northern Illinois attendance would be expected to be around 65,000, which would mean more than 35,000 empty seats and the lowest attendance for a UT football game in a long time.
Here's five ways the Tennessee Volunteers can pull the upset on #15 Auburn.
1. Limit the mistakes
Too many mistakes are the reason why Tennessee is 1-2 right now. In the UCLA game, UT lost a great chance to go up 21-7 in the second half when Arian Foster fumbled a handoff at the UCLA 5 and gave the ball away to UCLA.
This play, in my opinion, really changed the game. If UT had gone up 21-7, the way UCLA had been playing, UT would've held on to win easily.
Against Florida, they turned the ball over twice inside the Florida 3. If Tennessee got two TDs instead of losing the football on those plays, the score would've been 17-7 and then 20-14, bringing a much different outlook on the game.
But those mistakes were made, and it's time to forget about 'em and make as few mistakes as possible against this tough Auburn team. The way Auburn wins is they make very few mistakes (usually) and simply outplay the other team. Tennessee has got to play as hard as they can and limit the mistakes.
2. Do not punt the ball to Robert Dunn!
Phil Fulmer, we UT fans would've thought that you might've learned from the past three years of Brandon James running all over UT defenders for easy punt return TDs. If you didn't know, James has returned punts for TDs three years in a row on Tennessee (technically two, since one was called back for an illegitimate block-in-the-back penalty, but you get the point). Robert Dunn is just as good of a player and just as fast as James is.
You must not punt to this man, or we could see another debacle like last week where James broke five poor attempts at tackles en route to a 78 yard punt return TD. Phil, please tell Chad Cunningham to not punt the ball to Dunn. OK?
3. Get Gerald Jones involved as much as possible
This Auburn team has lots of speed. So why not try and beat them at their own game?
Jones, a quarterback in high school who was converted to wide receiver upon coming to Tennessee, is a better quarterback than Jonathan Crompton from what has been seen in Vols practices. He's also the fastest player on the offense, besides third-string RB Lennon Creer.
The G-Gun formation needs to be used for just more than the option. Let Jones throw the ball some. Last week, Florida knew what was coming when we ran the G-Gun, either a draw by Jones or a handoff to Foster/Creer/Hardesty.
Put some variety in the G-Gun, because that's one way that we can confuse Auburn and find some offensive success.
4. Run the ball, run the ball some more, and if General Robert Neyland's ghost suddenly appears, let him scream, "What did I tell you, boy? RUN THE GODD--N FOOTBALL!"
It's honestly about time that we let Crompton relax if he's going to be the starter. Stop making him throw so much. We shouldn't let a guy who's starting his fifth career game feel like the entire game rests on him throwing perfect passes.
We need to run more. The way Tennessee has won before is running the football up the gut. We have three very good running backs in Arian Foster (although he is mistake-prone), Montario Hardesty, and Lennon Creer. If Tauren Poole gets some more carries, you could maybe even add him to the list.
If we had run more against Florida, we would've had a shot at winning.
If you run the ball over and over, it wears the defense down. Don't let Auburn's D have any rest and just pound the ball up the middle.
5. Play for 60 minutes.
This cannot be said enough. Too many times, Tennessee has played well for three quarters but stopped playing in the fourth quarter and let the game slip away. Part of this is due to bad coaching, but part of this is due to the players just becoming exhausted.
Fulmer needs to be subbing the starters in and out as much as possible, so he can keep fresh legs going in, tire Auburn down, and most of all, keep the players energized and able to actually play in the fourth quarter.
If Tennessee can do these things, they will beat Auburn. It mainly rests on Fulmer to get them ready for what may be a game that could decide his fate at Tennessee.