Tigers counting on Campbell

Originally Published: September 30, 2004
By Todd McShay | Scouts, Inc.
Saturday night's game represents the 48th meeting between these two storied programs, but just the third time both have been ranked in the top-10. Following Auburn's win over LSU and Tennessee's win over Florida two weeks ago, the Tigers and Volunteers find themselves in the pole position in their respective divisions. While both teams have treacherous conference schedules, the winner of this game will be one giant step closer to advancing to the SEC championship game in Atlanta, Ga.

Who: Auburn (9) vs. Tennessee (8)
When: Sat., 7:45 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Where: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN

Neither team was expected to rank this highly in 2004 after losing key players from a season ago. Auburn head coach Tommy Tubberville was fortunate to retain both of his premier running backs, Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and Ronnie Brown.

The play of QB Jason Campbell remains the "X-factor," particularly in big games. The biggest personnel turnover came on defense, where the team lost its best three starters – OLB Karlos Dansby (Cardinals), MLB Dontarrious Thomas (Vikings) and DE Reggie Torbor (Giants).

While the unit has allowed an average of only 6.5 points in four games, including just nine in the LSU win, its toughest test to date will come against the Volunteers. Tennessee's offense can be overpowering on the ground with its own two-headed monster at running back – Cedric Houston and Gerald Riggs.

For Tennessee, the challenge has been to replace four-year starting quarterback Casey Clausen and three-fourths of its secondary from a season ago. The Vols have gotten terrific play from their freshman quarterback tandem of Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer. They also have been able to overcome an inconsistent offense by generating 10 sacks and four interceptions in three games.

Ainge and Schaeffer showed moxie in their first SEC test against Florida, but can they repeat that success when Auburn comes to town? Furthermore, while the Tigers don't strike fear with their aerial attack, can the Vols stop the one-two punch of Williams and Brown? MLB Kevin Simon was lost for the season as a result of an ACL injury he suffered in the win over Florida.

Todd McShay

ESPN Senior Writer