Each week, Gator Country will stop to recap all of the news and notes from the week leading up to the game. Today we recap everything that has happened leading up to Florida’s game Saturday against Auburn.
We provide you with an overview of all the Gators news stories we’ve published in the past week with links to each, as well as three key questions, a look inside the enemy camp and more.
|Florida vs. Auburn – Oct. 15, 2011|
|Florida enters its game Saturday against Auburn with a lot riding on the line after a pair of blowout losses to the first two SEC West teams on the schedule. The Gators are in about as much of a must-win situation as they can be midway through October in the SEC East race.
Still, head coach Will Muschamp is happy with Florida’s response to the back-to-back losses. He said effort hasn’t been an issue at all for his team and they’re working hard to avoid a third loss and a crushing blow to the season outlook.
Like last week, starting quarterback John Brantley will miss the weekend’s game with a lower leg injury he sustained against Alabama. Florida was undecided on a starter midway through the week, but Muschamp said Jacoby Brissett entered the week as the starter. He’s expected to get the starting nod again against the Tigers.
Brissett was thrown to the Tigers last week in Baton Rouge, but this week he’ll face a Tigers team with a much less productive defense. He should get plenty more open looks against an Auburn secondary that has struggled to limit opposing offenses.
Florida could also give some snaps to fellow true freshman quarterback Jeff Driskel, who is expected back after suffering an ankle injury against Alabama that kept him out of the LSU game a week ago. Driskel could see some snaps as a Wildcat quarterback if Florida decides to run some of the same packages it ran last week against LSU.
Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis spoke about the offense Tuesday and said the Gators will be much more aggressive on offense against Auburn after playing a fairly conservative gameplan against LSU.
Florida figures to unleash Mike Gillislee this week after the junior running back found some success running between the tackles against LSU. Gillislee has averaged 6.8 yards per carry so far in his career, and he’ll be looking to continue that type of production as the go-to running back against the Tigers.
The real key for Gillislee, of course, will be the play up front of Florida’s offensive line. The Gators have been manhandled up front the past few weeks, and LSU and Alabama have stacked the box to stop the run.
The offensive line faces a crucial week with Florida’s SEC East hopes on the line, and they’ll need to get a good push up front to allow the Gators’ ground game to get going again. Matt Patchan took over the starting left tackle spot for Xavier Nixon last week, and Weis likes his physicality there. Florida’s hoping to get that type of physical play across the line against Auburn.
Defensively, the same thing is true about Florida’s physicality up front. The Gators have got to do a better job holding the point of attack after the line was beaten badly against LSU.
Coaches were pleased with defensive end Sharrif Floyd’s ability to play physically up front, and he’ll likely lead the charge against Auburn for a defensive line looking to reassert itself after being handled the past two weeks.
The Florida defense has prepared all week for Auburn, and a handful of players said they know the importance of being able to slow down the Tigers’ offense. Auburn’s up-tempo style on offense will be tough to stop, but the defense will have to figure it out to give its freshman quarterback a chance to win.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn wants more from his defense as a whole, too. The tackling in the secondary has been a big problem, and the linebacker play has been poor the past two weeks as a result of defensive linemen not being able to hold their gaps up front.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Michael Taylor is expected to get more playing time at linebacker after Dee Finley transferred from Florida during the week. Taylor played well in the second half against LSU and has shown good promise against the run.
Florida’s secondary was torched against LSU, as the Tigers decided to open up the deep passing game despite being able to control the game on the ground. Auburn is likely to do the same thing even if to a lesser extent, so the Gators must improve in coverage.
|Three Key Questions|
|1. Will Florida really open things up at the quarterback position? Last week Florida didn’t allow Brissett to really open things up offensively until the Gators were down big to LSU.
Weis has said that he will open the playbook a little more now that Brissett has a road start under his belt and the offensive is expected to be more aggressive. But will that actually happen?
The dynamic will be interesting to watch, particularly if Florida is able to get an early lead. Will the offense continue to take shots with a freshman under center if the Gators are ahead by a field goal or a touchdown?
|2. Can Florida’s defense slow down Auburn’s up-tempo offense and Michael Dyer? Florida’s biggest problem defensively the past two weeks has been stopping the run, and the Gators will face another good running game in Auburn’s Michael Dyer.
Auburn runs an up-tempo offense designed to wear teams down late in games, which has been an issue for Florida’s defensive front. If Dyer gets going on some sustained drives early, Florida will be in trouble in the second half with his ability ti pound the rock against more worn out defense.
The biggest key for Florida is being able to get off the field on third down, which has kept the Gators from having much success defensively in the past two weeks. If the Gators can’t get off the field, there’s little reason to think Auburn won’t be able to put up a lot of points like Alabama and LSU.
|3. Can the Gators play with some emotion instead of simply going through the motions? Simply put, Florida has looked dazed and confused the past two weeks, seemingly unable to figure out any way to get things going against Alabama and LSU.
Florida has gotten behind early and been unable to dig out of the big holes. Getting out to an early lead and playing fired up on the road in a hostile environment will be extremely important for Florida in a place the Gators have had trouble winning the past few outings.
Will someone emerge as a leader and bring some energy on either side of the ball? If so, can Florida stay focused and not allow the added emotion and energy to create some costly penalties?
|Eying the Enemy|
|If there’s a team in the SEC similar to Florida, it’s the Auburn Tigers. The Tigers have quarterback issues, consistency problems and a ton of freshmen making meaningful contributions.
The Tigers named Barrett Trotter their starting quarterback again this week, despite a poor showing from the offense last week in a blowout loss to Arkansas. Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said the Tigers need to play better around Trotter to give him a better chance to win.
Wide receiver Emory Blake is questionable for the game, but DeAngelo Benton is expected to start after showing improvement in practice.
The Tigers will be without defensive end LeDarius Owens against the Gators after Owens suffered an injury. Auburn’s defense will have to improve significantly to slow the Florida rushing attack, as the Tigers have ranked near the bottom of the league in every defensive category.
|What We Think|
|With a game against the nation’s defending national championns, our staff took the opportunity to weigh in on the matchup and other weekend contests throughout the week.
Adam Pincus took a close look at Auburn, previewing some of the things the Tigers do well and some key statistics heading into Saturday’s game. Derek Tyson broke down the game with a 10-point preview of Auburn and what Florida has to do to win.
Derek and I broke down the game with our thoughts on the matchup in a brief video preview of the Auburn game.
|Kickoff Time – 7:00 p.m. ET|
|TV – ESPN|
|Radio – GRN | Sirius 91 | XM 91|