The long road back to relevancy for the Florida Football program (4-2, 2-2 in the SEC) takes a turn to the Gators' own house of horrors, Jordan Hare Stadium, to face #24 Auburn (4-2, 2-1 in the SEC). Florida has won just 8 times in 34 trips to the Hare and hasn't tasted a road victory on that field since 1999.
After consecutive blow out losses to ranked opponents, the Gators hope to change their fortunes not only in Auburn, but overall as the season unfolds. The Gators still control their own destiny for an SEC East title but that grip will loosen greatly if Florida can't start posting conference wins.
Let's take a look at the matchup.
Jacoby Brissett made his collegiate debut against the LSU Tigers defense and did about what you'd expect a true freshman in that situation. Without much support from his running game, Brissett struggled to move the Florida offense, splitting time with F-back Trey Burton and completing 8 of 14 for 94 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions.
Brissett seemed to be developing a chemistry with the now fully healthy Andre Dubose, connecting with him on a scintillating 65 yard bomb for a touchdown.
The display of arm strength and accuracy downfield was pretty much the only bright spot for the youngster. Florida's receiving core is led by HB Chris Rainey's 16 receptions, 245 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Auburn ranks 94th in passing yards against among FBS schools. The Tigers secondary has surrendered 9 touchdown passes but has also intercepted 6 passes (led by DB's Neiko Thorpe and Demetruce McNeal with 2 each). Auburn's pass rush has been formidable as well, registering 7 sacks (4 by DE Corey Lemonier).
Florida's Running Game vs. Auburn's Run Defense
Oh where have gone vaunted Florida rushing attack? In their two blow out losses, the running game that was the force behind so many big plays for the Gators' offense had disappeared against better competition.
With Jeff Demps on the medical trainer's table, Chris Rainey has shared the bulk of the running duties with Trey Burton and Mike Gillislee. As Florida's top rusher and receiver, you have to wonder if the 5-9 175lbs running back can handle the pounding he's taking. Despite their recent troubles, Florida is still ranked 21st in the nation running the football.
Florida will face an Auburn defense that is surrendering 201 yards a game on the ground and is ranked 115th among FBS schools against the run.
Corey Lemonier leads the team with 7 tackles for losses while their top tackler is DB Neiko Thorpe's 47 (25 solo).
With a wet-behind-the-ears freshman under center, Auburn can expect a steady dose of Florida's running game.
Auburn Tigers Passing Attack vs. Florida Gators' Pass Defense
Like Florida, Auburn is having issues at quarterback - but their problems are due to the effectiveness of starter Barrett Trotter. Trotter's struggled in game management, throwing 6 interceptions and completing just 56% of his passes while averaging only 162.7 yards a game through the air.
Trotter has thrown 9 touchdown passes, primarily to Emory Blake, who leads Auburn with 333 yards on 19 receptions and 4 receiving touchdowns.
Auburn's passing game ranks 100th in the nation.
The Gators counter with the nation's 26th best defense against the pass. Despite their solid ranking, the Gators have only intercepted 4 passes this season and have 10 sacks (led by linebacker Jon Bostic's 3).
Auburn Running Game vs. Florida Run Defense
Coming into the gauntlet of the past two ball games, Florida had one of the best run defenses in the nation. After facing the likes of Trent Richardson and Spencer Ware, the Gators will get a large dose of one of the premiere runners in the country, Michael Dyer. Dyer is tied for 9th in rushing in the nation and is 3rd in the SEC behind Richardson and South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore with 679 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns.
Containing Dyer may be the Gators only hope in staying in this football game.
Despite their recent troubles, Florida still ranks 41st in the country against the run, surrendering about 115 yards per game on the ground. The Gators are led in tackles for loss by Dominque Easley's 5.5 TFLs. Bostic is Florida's leading tackler with 42 stops (24 solo).
Sophomore returner Solomon Patton leads the Gators kick return unit with 10 returns for 241 yards. Chris Rainey is the Gators top punt returner, averaging 10.4 yards a return. Andre Dubose, 2010's National Returner of the year is now healthy enough to return kickoffs for Florida.
The Tigers kicking duties are handled by Cody Parkley 8 of 9 on his field goal tries with a long of 43. Steven Clark is Auburn's punter, he's averaging 41.6 yards a punt.
Will Muschamp is in his first year at Florida, he's 4-2.
Gene Chizik is in his third year at Auburn, he's 26-7 and won the 2011 National Championship.
By the Numbers
- Auburn leads the all time series 42-38-2
- Auburn has won three of the last four meetings
- Auburn has won 10 of their last 11 games against SEC opponents
- In the 35 meetings where at least one of the teams were ranked, the lower ranked or unranked team won 16 times.
Outlook: After facing two of the top run defenses in the nation, the Florida Gators' running game will get its opportunity to stretch its legs against a porous Auburn run defense. The Gators come searching for an identity on offense under Freshmen QBs Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskell. Driskell should be ready for Saturday but Brissett will start, but Jeff Demps will be a game time decision. Still, Mike Gillislee will get some much earned playing time against that soft underbelly of Auburn.
Turnovers could very well decide this game. If Brissett or Driskell (if he gets some reps) start chucking it to the team in the other jerseys, it could be another long day for the Gators. It will also be a long one if they can't keep Michael Dyer contained.
Dyer's a fantastic back and he'll get his - but if Florida can keep him out of the end zone and between the 20's they stand a good chance to force Trotter into a mistake.
So the formula is classic - Run the football, protect the football, contain the run, force turnovers. Accomplish these goals and Florida will walk off the plains of Auburn victorious. Fail and it will be three straight losses and dimmed division title hopes.
Prediction: Florida 20, Auburn 17