Auburn Tigers vs. Tennessee Volunteers Preview: Unanswered Questions -- Now and Later

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

It's worth asking just how genuine Auburn's famed turnaround has been -- and whether that means anything against a team as bad as Tennessee

Auburn Tigers vs. Tennessee Volunteers, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN

How real is the Auburn resurgence this year? If you want to get down to it, that's the question that still swirls around this game -- while at the same time being perhaps the one question that it can't answer.

There's no doubt in my mind that Auburn is a good football team. Bad football teams don't go 8-1 in the SEC, winning at a nationally-ranked opponent along the way. But it's also worth remembering that, aside from that trip to College Station, the loss at LSU and arguably the game against Ole Miss, there's really not that much too Auburn's schedule so far.

Washington State? A so-so Pac-12 team. Arkansas State? A mediocre Sun Belt team, which is more than can be said for conference-mate Florida Atlantic. Western Carolina is in the FCS and still doesn't have a winning record. And we all know about Mississippi State and Arkansas. In fact, the wins over Texas A&M and Ole Miss are the only ones Auburn has this year against teams with a winning record.

If Auburn keeps winning, of course, that will change. After this week's trip to Knoxville loom home games against rivals Georgia and Alabama. Both will have winning records when they face Auburn, and there's a chance that both of them will be ranked. (Alabama will be, regardless, while Georgia is in a position to potentially move into the poll depending on the results this weekend.) The Tigers will be tested soon enough.

But therein lies the potential obstacle. Auburn can't get caught looking ahead, which is an all-too-real possibility for a young team experiencing unexpected success. That allows the Volunteers to put a scare into the Tigers, but only a scare and only for a while.

Auburn 31, Tennessee 17

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