ATHENS — AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — The Auburn Tigers have plowed their way into Southeastern Conference, and maybe national title, contention with a running game that has lately been making the forward pass more luxury than necessity.
The run-heavy formula is working well so far for the seventh-ranked Tigers, who attempted nine passes against Arkansas and still won 35-17.
"We just feel like we're a big freight train and once we get started, it's hard to stop us," tailback Tre Mason said Tuesday.
Mason and speedy quarterback Nick Marshall have helped the Tigers (8-1, 4-1 SEC) continue barreling down the tracks with a running game that leads the league and ranks sixth nationally, averaging 306 yards a game.
Auburn's offense didn't slow down much against the Razorbacks when Marshall was nursing a shoulder injury that limited him in practice leading up to the game, helping contribute to the minimal passing.
Now, the Tigers face the SEC's worst run defense statistically Saturday against Tennessee, which just allowed 339 rushing yards to Missouri. That apparent matchup advantage doesn't require much change in philosophy.
"We're going to run the ball," center Reese Dismukes said. "I don't think that's really going to change week in and week out. We've got the mind-set that we're going to run the football and that's the goal here. We're going to run the football."
They're also going to run it with a number of different players normally. Auburn has four of the SEC's top 18 rushers, including Marshall.
Mason has emerged as the star of the deep backfield, and was the workhorse against the Razorbacks when he ran 32 times among Auburn's 55 plays. He produced 168 yards and four touchdowns to earn SEC offensive player of the week honors.