It’s the third Saturday in October which means it’s time for Alabama and Tennessee to battle on the gridiron. The good news for the Volunteers is they get Alabama under the lights at Neyland Stadium. The bad news is they still have to play Alabama. To make matters worse, the game will be broadcast in primetime on ESPN. Fans in Knoxville seem to have fears of their team being destroyed on television as they’ve been watching The Blair Witch Project to prepare for the horror they might witness Saturday night.
Of course, I think Derek Dooley deserves credit for the job he’s done at Tennessee. I’m not sure how hot his seat is, but fans in Knoxville don’t seem as up in arms as some outsiders might want us to believe. The No. 4 local favorite, P.S. I Love You might suggest that deep down, Volunteer fans know that Derek Dooley is better than Lane Kiffin. How long those feelings linger remains to be seen, but Dooley seems to have the program on the road to recovery from the Kiffin disaster.
Even though Philip Fulmer is no longer on the opposite sideline, Alabama fans still seem excited to beat the crap out of Tennessee; This Means War showing up as a Tuscaloosa favorite says as much. Look for Coach Saban to hold nothing back in letting the nation know why his team deserves their number one ranking in the BCS Standings, regardless of what the pundits might say about who they’ve played thus far. As the Crimson Tide make a road trip for a second week in a row, look for them to once again to take the home crowd out of it in Knoxville, giving Volunteer fans one giant, empty, Silent House.
As mentioned above, Alabama is in the second game of back to back SEC East visits. Fans are ready for their team to return home. They know that their team is half-way to their goal of repeating as national champions and hope that they don’t encounter problems as they navigate the “dark forest” that is SEC East cellar country. Fans are turning to Amanda Seyfried and Red Riding Hood for reassurance that all will be okay and their team will return safely to Bryant-Denny to take on Dan Mullen’s (more than likely) undefeated Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Residents of Nashville seem to be in a fairly jovial mood these days. Sure, Vanderbilt doesn’t have a winning record, but the program is on the rise and the team has been fairly competitive in conference games, even beating Missouri on the road. Hell, they’ve won twice as many games as Auburn, who won the BCS Championship just two years ago. For the first time I can remember, Auburn enters a game against Vanderbilt as an underdog. There seems to be no arrogance amongst the Commodore faithful, just confidence. The fans are expecting Jordan Rogers to sling the ball all over the field against Auburn to Jordan Matthews. They simply say Whip It all over the place and we can beat these guys.
I’m sure Coach James Franklin is excited about the opportunity his team has Saturday in Nashville, but he recognizes Auburn is still a team loaded with talent. Franklin’s strategy has to be to be opportunistic and not give Auburn a chance to get any sort of momentum going. Taking a cue from Jaws, Franklin has to be encouraging his team to circle the Tigers like a pack of sharks, ready to jump on their wounded prey at the first sign of blood. Beating Auburn as a home favorite could prove to be a signature win in James Franklin’s young career at Vanderbilt as it shows they will win the games they’re supposed to, the sign of a good football program.
After Saturday’s game against Ole Miss, I jokingly tweeted that it seemed to be “raining s**t” on The Auburn Tigers. I know this has been a tough season, but the fact remains that we have talented players on both sides of the ball and with a win Saturday can take a critical first step toward righting the ship and keeping our team’s bowl hopes alive. Losing Saturday doesn’t mathematically eliminate Auburn from bowl eligibility, but it will force the Tigers to win five in a row to finish the season. Fans on The Loveliest Village on the Plains still believe. They’ve seen a huge comeback just this week in their own living room. Watching Tony Stark and company overcome seemingly insurmountable odds in The Avengers.
The plan for Auburn this week is simple–be more physical than Vanderbilt. Fans in Auburn are looking for their young men to step up and show a little more Salt. Auburn was only down by four points heading into the fourth quarter against Ole Miss, before seemingly melting down late in the fourth quarter. Auburn needs to dig deep and come back ready to hit someone in the mouth. Our young men mustn’t forget Coach Dye’s famous words, “There are gonna be a lot a days when you lay your guts on the line and you come away empty handed. Ain’t a damn thing you can do about it but go back and lay em’ on the line again. And again. And again.” Show some saltiness and we’ll get this thing going again. For as all Auburn Men and Women know, this is a practical world and we can count only on what we earn. Therefore we believe in work, hard work.
Stephen Savage, Auburn Man exiled to Baton Rouge, is currently working on his PhD in Political Science. In his free time he enjoys watching movies and writing about them on his blog, Movies N’ Munchies. For more evidence of how Netflix movie rentals reflect the psychology of local fan populations, click here.
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