Series record: Auburn is 42-38-2 vs. Florida
2011 National Rankings: Auburn:/Florida:
Rush Offense: 27th/Rush Offense: 31st
Pass Offense: 106th/Pass Offense: 98th
Total Offense: 80th/Total Offense: 75th
Score Offense: 64th/Score Offense: 54th
Rush Defense: 103rd/Rush Defense: 32nd Pass Defense: 81st/Pass Defense: 12th
Total Defense: 105th/Total Defense: 11th
Score Defense: 79th/Score Defense: 20th
The Florida Gators are coming off a second lopsided defeat, this time to the LSU Tigers. After starting the season 4-0 Florida has lost in consecutive weeks to Alabama and LSU by an average margin of 29 points.
Adding injury to insult, Florida lost the services of its starting quarterback, John Brantley, forcing offensive coordinator Charlie Weis to restructure his offense to match his available personnel. The Gators will roll into Jordan-Hare to face a struggling Auburn team, which is also 4-2 on the season and is coming off its worst defeat under Gene Chizik. Auburn was blown out 38-14 by the Razorbacks, raising more question marks about the quarterback position.
It appears the Florida offense will be directed by true freshman Jacoby Brissett, who saw his first action of the season against LSU last Saturday. Look for the Gators to mix in Trey Burton, who has played a similar role as Kiehl Frazier as a running threat from the quarterback position. Another true freshman, Jeff Driskel, was out with an injury last week, but he could be available this week. Starter John Brantley is not expected to play due to an injury suffered vs. Alabama.
The heart of Florida's offense is its trio of running backs with Chris Rainey leading the team with 467 yards rushing. The Gators also feature Jeff Demps and Mike Gillislee, who have combined for 566 rushing yards. That's a combined average of 172.1 yards per game for the three running backs. Rainey is also the Gators' leading receiver with 16 receptions for 245 yards. Tight end Jordan Reed is second on the team with 11 receptions.
Jeff Demps is a breakway threat for the Gators.
Linebacker Jonathan Bostic leads the team with 42 tackles, including five for a loss. Defensive tackle Dominique Easley leads the Gators with 5.5 tackles for losses and Bostic leads the defense with three sacks. Florida is No. 11 nationally in total defense, including rankings of 12th vs. the pass and 14th in pass efficiency defense. Florida averages 6.2 tackles for lost yardage per game and is No. 94 in turnover margin. During its four-game winning streak Florida allowed 56.5 yards rushing per game, but during the two losses the Gators allowed 232 yards per game.
The Gators are ranked 58th in net punting, No. 46 in punt return offense and No. 21 in punt return defense. Florida is No. 39 in kick return offense, No. 78 in kick return defense and Caleb Sturgis is 13 of 14 on field goals. Sturgis was 19-21 in 2010 and is 37-48 during his career.
Matchups to watch...
•The Auburn running game has averaged 257.3 yards per game while the Florida defense has allowed 199.3 yards rushing in its last three conference games.
•The Florida running game has averaged 166.8 yards in conference play, facing an Auburn defense that has allowed 212.7 yards rushing to SEC opponents.
•Trent Richardson of Alabama rushed for 181 yards on 29 carries against the Gators and Spencer Ware of LSU rushed for 109 yards on 24 carries. For the season Auburn's Michael Dyer has averaged 134.3 yards rushing against conference opponents.
•The Florida pass offense has 25 plays of 15 yards or more, including nine of 25 yards or more. The Auburn pass defense has allowed 30 passes of 15 yards or more, including seven of 25 yards or more.
•The Florida defense has surrendered 26 passes of 15 yards or more, including five of 25 yards or more. Auburn's pass offense has 27 completions of 15 yards or more and nine of 25 yards or more.
•Auburn's run offense has produced 37 run plays of 10 yards or more, including seven of 20 yards or more. The Florida defense has allowed 22 run plays of 10 yards or more and six of 20 yards or more.
•Florida's ground game has 41 run plays of 10 yards or more, including 14 of 20 yards or more. The Auburn defense has allowed 35 runs of 10 yards or more, including seven of 20 yards.
•Florida's offensive line has allowed 6.8 tackles for losses per game as it faces an Auburn defense that averages 6.1 tackles for losses. Auburn's offensive line has allowed 7.5 tackles for losses per game, going up against a Gator defense which averages 6.2 tackles for losses.
•Auburn's offense has converted 40.9 percent of its third downs, but will face a Florida defense which allows a conversion rate of just 30.7 percent. The Florida offense has converted only 36.1 percent of its third downs, but will face an Auburn defense that has permitted a conversion rate of 50.5 percent.
•Auburn has 20 touchbacks on kickoffs and has dropped 20 punts inside opponents' 20-yard line. Florida has only eight kickoffs for touchbacks and has dropped seven punts inside the opponents' 20.
Why Auburn should win...
•Despite Auburn's offensive woes the Tigers have been able to establish their running game, which will face a Gator defense that has been vulnerable to the run.
•Auburn is currently 17-2 at home under Gene Chizik while Florida is 7-3 on the road during the same time span. Auburn has won three of the last four meetings with the Gators.
•Auburn is No. 60 in turnover margin and Florida is No. 94. Auburn is the only FBS team that has not lost a fumble this season.
•With Florida's issue at quarterback, Auburn suddenly becomes a much better defense, having performed better at defending run oriented offenses.
Will Muschamp is in his first season as head coach of the Gators. He was Auburn's defensive coordinator in 2006 and 2007.
Why Florida should win...
•The two offenses are about equal, but Florida has been the better defensive team.
•Taking the scoring margins and averages from the four BCS opponents each team has faced, Florida should come out on top, 28-27.
•During Auburn's first three games the offense scored a touchdown every 2.8 possessions. In the last three games Auburn is scoring a touchdown every 6.8 possessions.
•Last season Auburn's offense averaged five red zone opportunities per game against conference opponents. This season the Tigers have averaged only three per game through three SEC games.
I expect Florida to rely on speed and misdirection in attempt to force an aggressive Auburn defense out of position to create big plays. Auburn's interior line is beginning to flex its muscle over the last three games, which is always a great sign for any defense. Florida will want to take advantage of making plays in space with its speed at running back so it will be important for the Tigers to close quickly on defense, but not play reckless in their pursuit angles.
Auburn's running game has been the only consistent aspect of the offense, but the Tigers need to be more efficient throwing the football to sustain drives and score more points. Auburn doesn't have the personnel needed to be a dynamic offense, but its drop in impact plays has truly hurt the offensive production. During the first three games of the season the offense produced a play of 15 yards or more every 6.8 snaps. In its last three games that ratio has dropped to one every 11.5 plays. During Auburn's 25 scoring drives, the Tigers produced at least one impact play in 22 of 25 possessions.
The lack of impact or explosive plays has prevented Auburn from sustaining drives and scoring more points. When you consider that the majority of impact plays normally come via the pass offense, it's easier to see why Auburn has scored only two offensive touchdowns in each of its last three games.
Auburn's special teams have been the most consistent component of the team this season and will likely play a major factor against the Gators. They will put the offense and defense in position to be successful, but both units must take advantage of the opportunities.
The Auburn offense has gone from scoring a touchdown every 14.7 plays during the first three games of the season to one every 38.5 plays during the last three games. Injuries, penalties, turnovers and poor execution have definitely hindered the offensive production, but are there any factors to indicate Auburn's offense can turn it around against Florida?
The AU defense and special teams will likely play well enough to win Saturday night, but it will be Auburn's offensive performance that decides the final outcome. The comfort of playing in front of the home crowd should inspire the offense to step up this week. Auburn 23, Florida 20
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