Tennessee’s football team is far from a giant killer and it won’t be anytime soon. So if I told you that the Vols could possibly take down a team that had College Football Playoff aspirations, you would have thought I was crazy. It’s actually not outside the realm of possibility.

I’m certainly not calling for the Vols to upset No. 21 Auburn. However, stranger things have happened. Let’s start with the obvious reasons Auburn will beat the Vols on Saturday. Then we’ll get to reasons for UT fans to be optimistic.

First, Auburn is more talented than the Vols. That’s not debatable. Second, Auburn’s coaching staff is much more entrenched and proven than first-year coach Jeremy Pruitt’s coaches. Lastly, the game is at Auburn, which is an incredibly difficult place to play. Las Vegas would agree. The Tigers are a 16.5-point favorite. However, there is reason for hope for the Vols.

After its second loss, Auburn’s national championship hopes are over. It’s practically impossible for the Tigers to even win the SEC West. After Auburn hosts Tennessee, the Tigers still have to play at Ole Miss, host Texas A&M before road trips to play Georgia and Alabama, which has a headlock on the SEC West once again. Even the most optimistic Auburn football players have to realize that any shot at an SEC Championship went up in smoke when the Tigers lost to Mississippi State 23-9 last week. In a far different way, Auburn and Tennessee are both just playing for pride.

Psychology aside, Auburn’s offense isn’t what one would expect from offensive guru Gus Malzahn. The Tigers rank 12th in the SEC in total offense with 364.2 yards per game. Only UT (360) and Arkansas (359.1) are worse.

Known for a being great with quarterbacks, Malzahn has made the much-hyped Jarrett Stidham look incredibly average. The quarterback is ranked 10th in the SEC in quarterback passing efficiency. He has thrown just 2 TD passes in four games against Power 5 competition.

Pick a stat, any stat, and it will show that Stidham isn’t keeping up with the pace he set last season. He’s thrown just 5 TD passes all season. The only three full-time starting SEC QBs who have thrown fewer are the Vols’ Jarrett Guarantano (4), Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald (4) and Kentucky’s Terry Wilson (3).

It’s little wonder that the message boards have fired up again. Fans started a GoFundMe to raise money for Malzahn’s buyout. (Not happening.) The bigger the expectations, the louder the outrage when they aren’t met. It’s all part of the continuing Auburn fans’ love-hate relationship with Malzahn.

Auburn isn’t much better with its other backfield players. The Tigers rank 12th in the SEC in yards rushing per game with 163.8 yards per game. According to former Auburn offensive lineman Cole Cubelic, Auburn’s rushing — or lack thereof — has been historic.

Cubelic, who is a daily talk-show host on WJOX and a sideline reporter for The SEC Network, didn’t mince words when he tweeted about what Auburn is facing.

Auburn’s problems pale in comparison to Tennessee, which it’s worth noting is coming off a bye week. After all, the Vols are 2-3 and 0-2 in the SEC. Auburn is 4-1 and 1-2 in the conference.

Auburn should win, but is there reason to believe UT can upset a big-name opponent this season? Actually, yes.