StatTiger: Analyzing AU vs. Gators Matchup

StatTiger (Stuart Carter) does his weekly preview of Auburn's football game.

Florida Gators 4-0 / 2-0 SEC

Offensive Numbers: 517.8 yards per game (237.5 rushing, 280.2 passing), 49.2 points per game
Defensive Numbers: 307.0 yards per game (54.5 rushing, 252.5 passing), 19.5 points per game

Record Against Auburn: 38-42-2

11th Total Offense
6th Scoring Offense
27th Total Defense
34th Scoring Defense

Last season the University of Florida captured the BCS National Championship by defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes in Glendale, Arizona. The Gators rolled to a 13-1 record with their only loss coming at the hands of the Auburn Tigers. The Gators were successful last season mainly because of a dominating defense that finished at No. 6 in the country in total defense and scoring defense.

Four games into the 2007 season, the Gators are currently ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press Poll and No. 3 in the USA Today Poll, mainly on the strength of one of the top offenses in the country. The Auburn Tigers are currently 2-2 on the season and are no longer ranked.

Last time out...

The Gators are coming off a close call on the road, defeating the Ole Miss Rebels, 30-24. The Rebels managed to exploit a Gator secondary that has surrendered over 250 yards per game through the air. Auburn ended a two-game losing streak by defeating the New Mexico State Aggies, 55-20. Auburn was able to convert six Aggie turnovers into 34 points.

About the Florida Gators...

The Florida Gators picked up from where they left off in 2006, but are doing it more with offense than defense in 2007. The Gators have outscored their opponent 119-29 in the first half, establishing their dominance from the outset. Quarterback Tim Tebow has lived up to all the hype, rushing for seven touchdowns and throwing for another 10. He has completed 68 percent of his passes for an average of 274 yards passing per game and currently leads the team in rushing with 358 yards.

Wide-receiver Percy Harvin continues to be a major playmaker for the Florida Gators. Through four games, Harvin has accumulated 336 yards receiving and 155 rushing. Running back Kestahn Moore is the second leading rusher on the Gator roster with 279 yards and four touchdowns.

Another player to watch is sophomore running back Brandon James. Though he has seen limited action on offense, James has been stellar on special teams. He's currently averaging 32.2 yards on kick returns and has two career punt returns for touchdowns.

Linebacker Brandon Spikes leads the Gators in tackles with 36 stops on the season. Derrick Harvey and Jermaine Cunningham have combined for five sacks, though the Gators have struggled on pass defense. Last season the Gator defense averaged 5.6 tackles for loss per game and are currently making 5.2 per game in 2007. Though the Gators have been exposed on pass defense, the Florida run defense is currently No. 5 in the country.

About Auburn...

Before the 2007 season began, most Auburn observers would have expected Auburn to be 4-0, but this obviously isn't the case. A convincing victory over New Mexico State might have sparked the Tigers, but too many questions remain unanswered.

After four games, the hope was that a new offensive line might have gelled coming into the first SEC stretch run. Coach Hugh Nall has made some recent lineup changes, electing to go with a youth movement up front.

Senior quarterback Brandon Cox is not having the season most were expecting. He enters the Florida game completing only 53 percent of his passes with six picks and only three touchdown passes. He did have a solid performance against New Mexico State, which will hopefully carry over to the Florida game.

The combination of Ben Tate and Mario Fannin has resulted in 550 yards and six touchdowns rushing. Rod Smith is currently averaging 23 yards per reception for the Auburn Tigers, but no other receiver has stepped up to give Auburn a much needed offensive punch in the passing game.

The Tigers will be counting on redshirt freshman Mario Fannin to add a spark to the running game.

Despite battling numerous injuries, the Tigers have been fairly consistent on the defensive side of the ball. The defense currently has 32 tackles for loss, which is 15th best in the nation and second in the conference behind LSU. Three of Auburn's top four tacklers play in the secondary, which has to be a concern coming into the Florida game. Linebacker Chris Evans currently leads the team with 25 tackles on the season.

Final Thoughts...

On paper, this game should not be close. Though Florida has some defensive issues, its offense has performed well enough to overcome any defensive shortcomings. The same cannot be said about the Auburn defense making up for the miscues committed on offense. Auburn has 12 offensive touchdowns on the season, but seven of them came against an outmanned New Mexico State team.

Excluding possessions to end a half, Florida is scoring on 62.2 percent of its offensive possessions and Auburn is scoring 32.1 percent of the time. This includes a 55.6 touchdown percentage for the Gators and a 21.4 touchdown percentage for Auburn.

The Tigers are turning the ball over 23.2 percent of the time and the Gators have turned the ball over only 6.7 percent of the time. On the defensive side of the ball, 67.9 percent of Auburn's defensive possessions have resulted in a punt or turnover and Florida is close behind at 66.7 percent.

This game just might be decided during the first quarter if current trends for both teams continue. Auburn has struggled on defense early on during the first four games, allowing over 33 yards per possession on the first three series of each game. The Gator offense has scored eight touchdowns on 12 possessions, averaging nearly 40 yards per possession during their first three offensive series.

The Auburn offense has averaged only 22 yards per offensive possession during their first three offensive series, scoring one touchdown out of 12 possessions. Auburn cannot afford another slow start against the Gators.

For the season, the Florida Gators are +14 on offense and –6 on defense in terms of scoring margins. In other words, Florida is averaging 14 more points per game than what their opponent normally allows and their opponent is scoring 6 points less than what they normally average. Auburn is +7 on offense and –10 on defense. Prior to the New Mexico State game, Auburn was only +2 on offense. Based on their average scores and current scoring margins, Florida should win this game by 12-14 points.

Auburn is 2-13 in its last 15 trips to Gainesville and 1-8 when the Gators are ranked in the Top 20. From 2002-2006, Auburn is 16-6 on the road and 11-1 over the last three years. This also includes a 4-3 record on the road against Top 10 teams since 2002.

With everyone picking Florida to win big, something tells me that Auburn might take this game down to the final gun. Despite all the numbers posted in this column, this game will simply come down to matchups. Can Auburn's defense make Florida work for everything the Gators get on offense and will Brandon Cox be able to exploit a weak Gator pass-defense?

Florida 27, Auburn 16

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