The Direction Bowl

Auburn and Tennessee are two teams looking for direction. Jeremy Pruitt and Tennessee seem to be rising up from rock bottom, and Gus Malzahn and Auburn are trying to avoid a cliff

Following a disappointing loss to Mississippi State last weekend, the No. 21 Auburn Tigers are looking for new life on Saturday against Southeastern Conference opponent Tennessee. The Vols have been doing some soul searching as well this season and arrive at Jordan-Hare Stadium looking for their first conference victory.

This game features two teams on quite dissimilar paths. Many Tennessee fans believe Jeremy Pruitt is the man who can finally restore order in Knoxville, despite his 2-3 start this season. Those around the program seem to trust Pruitt, at least for now, to reestablish the Vols as an SEC contender.

Meanwhile, the energy in Auburn is decidedly negative following the team’s better-than-Tennessee (but still unsatisfactory) 4-2 start, with some fans directing their fury at coach Gus Malzahn.

Whether the blame should fall on him or not is a completely different debate, but the fact remains that some are frustrated with the state of the Auburn program. Don’t expect many fans to come to his defense if the Tigers slip up again this weekend.

So, does this mean the Vols can finally come away with a conference win? Probably not, but it’s hard to tell with Auburn these days.

Auburn has an edge in the series | Photo courtesy Auburn Athletics

The Tigers lead the overall series 28-21-3, and have won the last six straight—the most recent a 55-23 beatdown in 2013 when quarterback Nick Marshall and running back Tre Mason made for a deadly combination. Marshall found the end zone through the air, and had even more success on the ground, rushing for 214 yards and two more scores. Meanwhile, Mason accumulated 117 rushing yards and three touchdowns. 

The last time Tennessee came away victorious was in 1999 when Phillip Fulmer led the Vols to a 24-0 victory over Tommy Tuberville.

Since neither of these teams are in the national championship hunt, this game may not have the hype of past meetings such as when No. 5 Tennessee visited No. 3 Auburn in 1990, but will tell the world a whole lot about both teams and their coaches.

This most likely won’t be a game of fireworks or big plays, but it may offer a glimpse into the future direction of both these programs.

For the viewers sake, let’s just all hope this game has a more telling conclusion than the 1990 game, which ended in a 26-26 tie. H&A

Kickoff time for Tennessee and Auburn is 11 a.m. CDT on The SEC Network.

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