During the 2018 football season, The Villager will run comments from a focus group on results of the previous Auburn University game and a prognostication for the upcoming game. We’ve collectively labeled the group, Panel of Wanna-Be Experts, or POWE! for short. Here are the panel's comments for Auburn vs. Tennessee:

This past weekend was Auburn’s first true road game, and the team was beaten in all three phases of the game. 

Mississippi State controlled both sides of the ball and time of possession. We were beaten soundly by a very marginal team that will struggle to have a winning season this year. Their plan was to run Fitzgerald, and we never seemed to make changes to stop him. Our offensive plan was good, but we could not execute.

Now, on to the rest of season. Where is this program headed? This is mid-season, do we get better and finish with a bang like last year?

The way we looked Saturday night, it may be a tall task to finish the second half of the season at 4-2. We obviously need to start looking at some different players, especially at QB. Stidham is very talented, but he has a problem executing the play. Do the offensive players want to play for him?

Saturday brings a team to Auburn that used to be one of Auburn biggest rivals. As many of you know, before the SEC went to divisions, we played Tennessee every year.

Tennessee was Auburn’s first conference game somewhere around the middle of September. Before 1980, Auburn’s  home game with Tennessee was played at Legion Field. We had some great games with Tennessee at Legion Field and Neyland Stadium. In the early '70s, while Bill Battle was their head coach, we had three games in a row that were very close. In 1971, at Neyland Stadium, we won 10-9. With two and a half minutes to play, Pat Sullivan pointed toward the end zone and marched down the field 80 yards to score the go ahead TD. This Tennessee team went on that season to beat a very good Penn State team. Penn State’s two running backs were Franco Harris and Lydell Mitchell, who went on to have great NFL careers.

Tennessee is in a rebuilding year. They are coached well, but are short on talent. It’s time for our offensive line to start playing together and help our back field. We need to score TDs.

Auburn 31, Tennessee 10

Wendell McLain, Auburn retired brigadier general, Alabama National Guard

After the Auburn offense fell down again and couldn’t get up at Mississippi State, Tiger fans should rightfully be leery of the odds makers’ projection that Tennessee will lose by three TDs at Jordan-Hare Saturday.

In its games against four Power Five Conference teams this season, Auburn (4-2, 1-2 SEC) has only scored three TDs twice — once in a loss to LSU and once in a win over woeful Arkansas. Otherwise, there were two TDs against No. 7 Washington (its best performance of the season) and zero against No. 24 State.

Falling from No. 8 to No. 21 in the AP poll and absorbing its second SEC loss, Auburn’s preseason goals have pretty much gone up in smoke.

At mid-season, following the embarrassing performance at Mississippi State in which all three phases of the game — offense, defense and special teams — failed miserably, Auburn fans are understandably upset, specifically at coach Gus Malzahn.

They are asking where is the imaginative offense he deployed as an OC to take Auburn to a national championship in 2010 and to the brink of one as head coach in 2013? After six games, he appears to have no answers to those questions.

For now, the Tigers must try to quickly put the pieces back together of an offense that has been plainly broken from the jump, or this season could devolve into one reminiscent of 2008. And no one wants that.

Tennessee (2-3, 0-2 SEC) will come to town after a week off following the Georgia game in which the Vols showed some fight before finally falling 38-12.

On paper, Auburn has more talented and more experienced players, especially on defense, than the Vols and have owned Tennessee in recent years, winning six straight. 

Even if they’re still depressed over what could/should have been at State, the Tigers should summon enough to beat a Tennessee team that could very well finish with a record worse than the one that got Butch Jones fired last season.

If asked to pick this game in the preseason, I would have predicted an Auburn blowout. But there will be no blowout predictions until Liberty — unless the Malzahn offense is miraculously resurrected before then. AUBURN 20, Tennessee 13

Bob Lowry, retired political reporter for United Press International and two daily newspapers

This week’s game against Tennessee will be the 53rd meeting between these two old rivals, and they enter Jordan-Hare mirror images of one another, both historically and for this season.

Over the previous 52 matchups the average score is 17.8-17.1 in favor of the good guys, while this season, the Tigers are averaging 28.7 points per game, which is slightly better than the Vols 26.0.

As for Saturday’s game, it pits two teams near the bottom of the conference, meriting a morning kickoff.  Auburn ranks an abysmal 100th nationally in yards per game (a previously unthinkable position given our head coach's offensive acumen) while Smokey comes in at number 102.

Defensively, they are giving up virtually the same amount of yards per game; however, Auburn has a big edge in points per game, ranking sixth nationally (14.3). Tennessee ranks 63rd (25.6).

With only one guaranteed victory remaining on the schedule, this game is a pivotal one for the Tigers. It could mean the difference in playing in a bowl game versus staying home for the holidays.

This once great rivalry has been relegated to just another conference game thanks to conference expansion, but it’s still Tennessee, so it should be a fun one. Auburn is on a six-game winning streak in this series, and the Tigers bump that number to seven this week. Auburn 27-17

Brandon Hughes, Lee County

district attorney

After a rough night in Starkvegas our guys are back home for a morning bout with the citrus-affiliated volunteers from Rocky Top.

Our guys didn’t lack for effort this past weekend, and the final score was a bit misleading in many respects. A couple of goal line calls (literally!) had a significant impact on the outcome, but an excuse it is not. A fresh game and a different opponent await our guys, and I think we are due for a turnaround. The T helmet guys aren’t having the best of years so far, holding a 2-3 record. They were outscored 125 to 47 in the L games against ranked opponents, being gator chomped, dawg bit and tromped on by some mountaineers.

QB Guarantano, RB Chandler and WR Callaway are athletic and capable of inflicting damage on opposing defenses. Our D guys will need to keep these three from having a good day, and if they do, we should come out with a much needed W on Saturday.

On a side note, I have to offer that I try to be nice to the Tennessee folks because my momma told me to do so. My mom (dad, too) was a hardcore Texan. She would swat my brother and me if we didn’t stand with hand over heart when they played the "Star Spangled Banner" and "The Eyes of Texas."

Anyway, she told us to be nice to the folks in Tennessee since Davey Crockett and a bunch of Volunteers went down to help Colonel Travis, Jim "Sand Bar Fighter" Bowie and their friends for 13 days in February/March of 1836 at the Alamo. Any of y’all who know true Texans also know that you do not make light of the Alamo. That is a serious subject and you can get whipped if you show a lack of respect! To add to it, Uncle Robert (mom’s brother) served a couple of terms in the Tennessee legislature! OK, enough of that. Regardless, I still want us to beat the Vols.

There are those who feel that AU is having major issues and is not up to where it should be performance wise. Well, if that is the case, it is not for a lack of talent and effort. Our guys are trying hard, and I’m sure they are just as disappointed (if not more so) than the Tiger faithful with recent outcomes. I would offer that this is when we need to support them more than ever. This weekend is a great opportunity to do just that! I think we’ll send Smokey home with a clawed up tail. AU 24, UT 14

Jay Jones, Lee County sheriff

The original Tennessee Volunteers were led into battle by Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812, which included the famous Battle of New Orleans and, earlier, an important battle just about 30 miles up the road from Auburn at Horseshoe Bend.

I don’t think General/President Jackson is available to lead another charge to East Alabama, but the current edition of Tennessee Volunteers will be heading our way on Saturday.

After a head coach search that was the most embarrassing and awkward in recent memory, Tennessee has struggled for respectability this season. Off to a 2/3 start, they’ve lost three games by 26 points each; however, each was to a ranked team — No. 2 Georgia, No. 6 West Virginia, and No. 14 Florida. They will be coming to the Plains for the first time in a decade after a much-needed off week to rest, practice, access and regroup.

Tennessee only had 66 yards on the ground vs Georgia. However, its defense had three sacks and four tackles for loss against the Bulldogs and caused two fumbles. The Vols had only one turnover against Georgia after having six against Florida. Despite their final score against Georgia, they showed improvement, which is not something I’m sure we can say about Auburn since our opening win against Washington.

Even our defense let us down against Mississippi State, giving up 349 yards on the ground, nearly FOUR times as many as the 92.8 it had averaged in the first five games. Adding to our misery was the fact that our offense also tanked, gaining only 79 total yards in the first half.

In a game where both teams were searching for an identity, Mississippi State was the one making a positive statement while Auburn took a giant step backwards with not only the offense but also the defense and special teams playing below par.

So, at mid-season we are 4-2 with some of our most challenging games ahead. The Tigers can either try to find a place to hide out on the Plains, maybe in the forest land around Chewacla Park where there’s a natural water supply, or they can decide to defend their turf, beginning this Saturday morning in the confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium where over 87,000 partisan fans will be hoping to see their Tigers take charge.

If they chose to cower and allow the Volunteers to leave with a W, I’m gonna ask my Wanna-Be Expert colleague Jimmy Sprayberry if I can go along with him on one of his Saturday outings which, to date, have included riding around on his tractor and helping install tongue and groove paneling. Those sound a lot less painful than watching a repeat performance of our trip to Starkvegas.

Hopefully, our Tigers will step up and play to their potential so Jimmy won’t have to put up with me. Our winning streak against the Vols is now at six, and the road to Rocky Top should remain rocky for at least one more week. Smokey the blue tick hound will need a little more practice sniffing out the raccoons, tigers and other wild animals  in Lee County. Auburn 24, Tennessee 17.

Betty Burgess, retired English teacher, Auburn grad and lifelong Auburn fan

My wife and I had both our children in town this past weekend. They voted to stay home and watch the game instead of going out to celebrate their birthday. We were all disappointed.

Instead of improving, Auburn is going backwards. Mississippi State is not nearly as good as Washington or LSU. I don’t know what happened, but it is not pretty.

State had 349 yards running compared to our 90. Their quarterback had 195 yards running, himself. They had the ball 42 minutes to our 18 minutes, with 418 yards of total offense to our 304 total yards.

The local sports writers gave Auburn terrible grades. They gave an F on rushing defense and overall gave them a D. We are going in the wrong direction, which I haven’t seen since Barfield was our coach years ago.

To simplify the problem, both the offensive and defensive lines need to improve dramatically. Our offensive backs can’t run or pass due to lack of blocking. But the opposing team can run or pass at will, as the D-line cannot make an impact. The linemen are like the pistons in an engine. If they aren’t working at 100 per cent, your car isn’t going to operate well.

If we improve, we beat Tennessee by 29 to 10. If we don’t improve, it will be a long season.

James Sprayberry, local attorney

and longtime Auburn season ticket holder

Tennessee comes into Jordan-Hare Stadium looking for a marquee win. I’m not sure we are “marquee” anymore, but both teams desperately need this win. The 11 a.m. “ tailgate buster” time slot doesn’t help either as we have been woeful in the first half of past 11 a.m. games. We might as well get used to them as we will see more of these brunch games now.

These are trying times for those of us who bleed orange and blue. We’ve been here before, and suffice it to say, our love for anything Auburn extends well beyond the fortunes of our football team. We feel for those young men and hope it all comes together for them.

It does come together for them Saturday and I’m seeing an Auburn victory for sure.

Auburn 26, Tennessee 13

Barry Mask, Auburn’s first “Friend of Aubie,” director of marketing for River Bank & Trust

 

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