Florida takes on Auburn this week in a game the oddsmakers say belongs to the Gators by a wide margin. I really have a hard time thinking is going to be a blowout no matter what the oddsmakers say. This is Auburn, right? The Tigers were the last team to beat the Gators and they have won their last six SEC games in a row on the road and 12 of their last 13 roadies in the conference. The Gators could roll them but I would have to see it to believe it.
FLORIDA OFFENSE: The questions of the week are where is the variey in the Gator offense and are they running Tim Tebow too much? Well let’s look back at Ole Miss one final time. UF scored on five5 of 12 possessions and missed one field goal and one extra point. The Gators also could have had a field goal attempt at the end of the first half if the referees would have stopped the clock properly. They had three drives over 70 yards for touchdowns and a 61-yard drive for a touchdown. I think the offense is fine and the issue is spreading the wealth. I still expect Auburn to make Tebow keep the ball on the option if the Gators put that in the plan this week. Dan Mullen will probably take some of the inside runs from Tebow and give them to running backs. Florida did what it had to do to win against Ole Miss and if the situation calls for a critical third and 3 this week to win, you can bet Tebow will get the ball.
The spread offense that UF runs is a lot like a good buffet. There are many good choices and you can enjoy all of them. But last week with the injuries to Bubba Caldwell and Riley Cooper it was more like a hungry man TV dinner. It featured just Tebow and Percy Harvin. This week I expect the serving line to be open and Cornelius Ingram, Brandon James and Cooper to be a part of the menu. I also think it is time for Deonte Thompson to get on the field. He is physically ready and should have the offense down by now. The key though is blocking and if he struggles on the perimeter he won’t play much. The Gators will face their fastest defensive line of the season and must be ready for some linebacker blitzes. Auburn will play some cover two zone but they will bring five man pressure to ensure Quenten Groves gets a one on one match-up in the pass rush.
FLORIDA DEFENSE: Put me down as one guy who can’t wait to see this secondary in two seasons. They are young and talented, definitely in need of some help from better pressure from the guys up front. I still get the feeling Auburn wants to run the football and shorten the game. I expect Kodi Burns, the back-up quarterback, to have some special packages to utilize his running skills. Auburn played two freshman on the offensive line last week and may stick with them this week. The Tigers passing game is not very good. Ole Miss wasn’t supposed to be very good throwing the ball but they piled on 300 yards on UF. I think right now the two best corners that are healthy for UF are Jacques Rickerson and Joe Haden. I think Major Wright should start at free safety with Kyle Jackson as the back-up. I think Derrick Harvey is going to have a monster game this week. He should be able to stuff the stat sheet with sacks, tackles and tackles for loss.
Keep an eye on UF on third down situations and who they blitz. I think it makes the most sense to blitz A.J. Jones. He has struggled some but he has excellent speed. Jerimy Finch was a guy who could have provided a physical presence before he broke his ankle.
THIS AND THAT: UF needs to improve two areas in this game. First they must cover kicks better and secondly they need to cut down on penalties. Sure UF won the title last year and was the most penalized team in the SEC, but 14 penalties against Ole Miss is way too many. The other factor in this week’s game is health. For UF to beat LSU they must win this week and the offensive line must stay healthy. These are players I am expecting to see something from at some point real soon: Carlos Dunlap, Torrie Davis, Deonte Thompson, Brandon James, Aaron Hernandez and Chris Rainey.
The Gators are 11th in the country at converting third downs.
Auburn is 92nd in the country at converting third downs.
UF is 21st in red zone conversions while Auburn is 87th.
Florida is +3 in the turnover margin while Auburn is -3.
The Gators are giving up 19.5 poiints per game while Auburn is giving up 19.8 points per game.
Tebow is 25th in the country in passing yards per game while Auburn’s Brandon Cox is 98th.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I think UF’s defense has played exactly the way it should. Stop the run and force the opponent to see if it can hit a big one on you … Auburn had struggled to do anything offensively until last week against the New Mexico State Aggies … Auburn has turned the ball over 13 times this season while Florida has committed only three turnovers. That means there are balls to be gotten by Florida’s young defense … I think UF will play it close to the vest on defense until next week (LSU) when they will be truly challenged by a great running game and offensive line … Offensively Florida will spread the wealth more this week and I think the Gators will try to throw it early in the game. Also look for mis-direction plays against a fast Auburn defense … UF has a huge game next week, but must be focused on Auburn and be ready to play this week. I think UF will win because of turnovers and good solid quarterback play. It could be closer than what people think.