StatTiger: Analyzing Florida vs. Auburn

StatTiger breaks down the numbers as the Florida Gators and Auburn Tigers prepare to face each other Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Florida/2005 record: 9-3

Offensive Numbers: 147 rushing yards/227 passing yards/373 total yards/29 points per game

Defensive Numbers: 95 rushing yards/205 passing yards/300 total yards/19 points per game

Returning Starters: Offense 6/ Defense 6

2006 Numbers and National Rankings:

Offense: 155.5 yards rushing/257.8 yards passing/413.3 total yards/29.0 points

Defense: 56.8 yards rushing/ 202.8 yards passing/ 259.7 total yards/ 9.5 points

Total Offense (yards): 20th

Scoring Offense: 35th

Total Defense (yards): 14th

Scoring Defense: 2nd

Against Auburn since 1999:

Record: 4-1 (split in the last 2 meetings)

Auburn Numbers: 102 yards rushing/ 200 yards passing/302 total yards/15 points per game

Florida Numbers: 118 yards rushing/284 yards passing/402 total yards/30 points per game

Last Outing…

The Florida Gators are coming off a 23-10 victory over the LSU Tigers, moving the Gators up to No. 2 in the Associated Press poll. Florida is currently 6-0 on the season with a 4-0 record in conference play.

The Auburn Tigers were throttled against Arkansas last Saturday, dropping their first game of the season. Auburn is 5-1 on the season with a 3-1 conference record.

Key Players…

Florida:

Chris Leak (QB) is currently the 13th highest rated quarterback in the country, completing 65 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns. Dallas Baker (WR) is a huge target for Leak, hauling in 31 passes for 494 yards and five touchdowns. Jemalle Cornelius (WR) and Andre Caldwell (WR) have three touchdown receptions each. Tim Tebow (QB) has seen extensive action in situational play, completing 71 percent of his passes along with 5.6 yards per carry.

Tony Joiner (S), Earl Everett (LB) and Brandon Siler (LB) have accumulated over 30 tackles each on the season, including 10.5 tackles behind the line. Marcus Thomas (DT) has three sacks on the season and Derrick Harvey (DE) has four. The Gator defense has 33 tackles for losses, 14 sacks and 11 interceptions on the season.

Auburn:

Brandon Cox (QB) is currently ranked 38th in the country with a 141.4 quarterback rating. Kenny Irons (RB) is on pace for another 1,000 yard season with 514 yards and a 4.8 average per carry. Courtney Taylor (WR) leads the team in receptions with 25 and Rodgeriqus Smith (WR) is averaging 22.0 yards per catch on 12 receptions.

Will Herring (LB) leads the team with 33 tackles and two interceptions. Eric Brock (S) and Aairon Savage (S) have been rolling up the tackles and are the "head hunters" in the secondary. Marquies Gunn (DE) and Quentin Groves (DE) have combined for six sacks and Sen'Derrick Marks (DT) has five tackles behind the line, including 3.5 sacks.

John Vaughn is 9-11 in field goals this season and Kody Bliss is averaging 47 yards per punt.

Inside the Numbers

*In their last three conference games, the Auburn Tigers are averaging only 234 yards per game and 14 points. On defense, they have surrendered 341 yards and 16 points per game.

*After completing 68 percent of his passes on first down in the first three games, Brandon Cox has dropped to 50 percent in the last three outings.

*Brandon Cox was sacked 20 times last season, once every 15.3 pass attempt. This season, Cox has already been sacked 18 times, once every 6.8 pass attempt.

*Through six games, Auburn's offense has scored 46.6 percent of the time, excluding possessions to expire the half. The Florida Gators have scored 36.9 percent of the time.

*The Gators hold the edge in touchdown percentage, scoring a touchdown in 36.9 percent of their possessions while Auburn is scoring a touchdown 31.0 percent of the time.

*The Gator defense has allowed five touchdown drives on 62 possessions and the Auburn defense has allowed eight in 56 possessions.

*Florida is -1 in turnover ratio, giving up the ball 12 times, while forcing 11 turnovers through six games. Auburn is currently +1.

*Auburn has passed for 200 yards just once in the last eight games. The last time Auburn went through a similar passing drought was during the 2002 and 2003 seasons when the Tigers posted one 200-yard game in a nine-game stretch. Auburn posted a 5-4 record during those games.

*Since Cox became the starting quarterback, Auburn is 1-3 in games in which the Tigers are held under 100 yards rushing. The offense averaged 185 yards passing and 10 points per game.

Keys to the Game

The Florida Gators are well deserving of their current No. 2 ranking in the polls with victories over Tennessee, LSU and Alabama. They have been very consistent on both sides of the ball and are playing at a championship level on the defensive side of the ball.

Auburn's Kenny Irons runs vs. South Carolina.

*The formula for stopping Auburn's offense over the past two seasons is a simple one. Stop the running game and force Auburn to beat you with its passing game.

*Control the tempo of the game by stretching out the Auburn defense with high percentage pass plays along with counter and misdirection run plays.

*Success on early downs will extend drives. South Carolina and Arkansas were able to do this, giving them third and short conversions to work with. Auburn's defense has been very sound when defending third and long plays.

*Offensive balance will keep the game off of Leak's shoulders and will keep the Auburn defense on their heels.

*Keep Auburn on a long field and protect the ball. If Auburn has to work for every point and yard, the Tigers will not score very often.

*Auburn was outright horrible against Arkansas and there appears to be more than just chinks in the armor. What once was a team strength (defense) through the first three games has been exposed in the last two games. The Auburn offense has been hit with key injuries and is nowhere close to running at full speed.

*Establishing the running game will be vital for the Auburn offense to have any success against the Florida defense.

*Cox has done a good job taking care of the ball, but it might have come at a price. The redshirt junior is now holding the ball in the pocket too long and is tentative in his throws downfield. Cox will need to gamble this Saturday and create plays rather than waiting for them to develop.

*The defense has not been sound in its tackling this season and is staying on the field way too long. In the last two games, the Auburn defense has forced only two three and out series. Forcing turnovers will be a must this Saturday.

*Special teams slipped last week against Arkansas and Kody Bliss had his first bad game of the year. Should the offense continue to struggle, Bliss will be essential in keeping the Gators on a long field. Auburn could also use a big play in the return game.

*Auburn must play on a short field against the Gator defense. Excluding the Buffalo game, the Auburn offense has scored five touchdowns from 29 possessions starting from its own 30 yard line or worse. When the Tigers have started near midfield, they have scored six touchdowns out of nine possessions.

Final Thoughts

Plain and simple, the Gators are a much better team than the Tigers right now. They are better on offense and defense, but Auburn does have a decisive advantage in special teams. Auburn is not as bad as it performed against Arkansas but the Tigers have been very inconsistent since the season opener against Washington State. Either the offense doesn't show up for one game or the defense fails to show up. They have yet to play well on the same day and both failed against Arkansas resulting in a 27-10 loss.

Coach Tommy Tuberville has stated the 2006 Tigers need to play well as a team to be competitive against the better opponents. This translates to major problems should one component break down during the course of the game. If Auburn is to defeat the Gators, both units will have to make plays this Saturday. Based on the performance through six games, the defense has been more consistent than the offense, but not by much.

If the Auburn defense plays "lights out" and forces turnovers it will relieve some of the pressure from the offense having to carry the team. The probability of the defense having the better game than the offense is much higher considering the injuries on the offensive side of the ball. With this being said, should the defense continue to struggle Auburn is in for a very long night.

The Tigers could use a big game from Brandon Cox vs. the Gators.

Surprisingly, the Florida offense has not been a "big play" group this season, but has been very efficient. The Gators have only one offensive play over 50 yards and have not had one rush over 30 yards by their running backs. If Auburn is sound in tackling, making the Gators earn everything they get, they could hold Florida to 17-20 points. If this is the case, can the Auburn offense score 20 points against a very good Florida defense?

The weakest part of the Florida defense has been their pass defense and the weakest part of the Auburn offense has been the passing game. This reason alone makes the chance of an Auburn victory slim. The coaching staff is still searching for the best personnel on defense and to find healthy players to put on the field for offense. An extra week would have benefited the Tigers, but this is not the case.

Florida is plus 10 on offense and minus 17 on defense in terms of scoring margins this season with an average score of 29-10, Auburn is plus 4 on offense and minus 11 on defense with an average score of 25-11. A weaker Auburn squad took on a No. 1 ranked Florida team in 2001 and pulled off a major upset. Despite what Auburn fans witnessed last Saturday, the 2006 team is better than the 2001 Auburn squad and the 2006 Florida Gators are not as potent as the 2001 Florida team.

As much as I believe Auburn will play inspired football Saturday night, the numbers just don't add up to an Auburn victory. Of course, the numbers certainly didn't add up to a 17 point Arkansas victory either, but I'm sticking with the numbers to play it safe…Florida 21, Auburn 10


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