September 29, 2007. That was the last time the Auburn Tigers took a trip to the Swamp to play the Florida Gators. And on that day, an unranked Auburn squad knocked off the then fourth-ranked Gators 20-17, thanks to a game-winning field goal by Wes Byrum with no time on the clock.
12 years later, these teams will finally collide again at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The EC’s wonky scheduling has meant that these two traditional SEC powers haven’t even faced off in general in nearly eight years. But it’s a mighty big matchup, as Auburn and Florida are both ranked in the Top 10 as they prepare to face off with each other on this Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers have been playing their tails off lately, and a win over the Gators may lay a proper claim to being the #1 team on resume alone. Auburn’s defeated the Oregon Ducks on a neutral field, a road win over the previously 17th-ranked Texas A&M Aggies and a blowout win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs. And a win over a Top 10 team in the form of Florida will only cause their resume to swell in the right direction.
Florida, meanwhile, sure could use a major victory of their own. They’ve been impressive, pitching two shutouts this year, a game where they allowed three points (to the Tennessee Volunteers) and ones where they gave up 20 to the Miami Hurricanes and 21 to the Kentucky Wildcats. But absent is a win over a ranked opponent. Auburn represents that chance and, well, so too does their matchup with the LSU Tigers next week and the Georgia Bulldogs at the start of November. Basically, this begins a pivotal stretch for Florida, and one that could make or break them this year.
Understandably, Florida has one of the best defenses in the nation from a statistical standpoint. They rank in the Top 10 in points per game allowed (8.8), 29th in passing yards allowed (191.0), 17th in rushing yards allowed per game (93.0) and 22nd in yards per play (4.6).
Auburn could have difficulties against that defense, but competition is of course worth noting. The best offense by yards/play that Florida faced is Miami, who rank just 42nd in that category. Now, Auburn is 43rd in that category, but they’ve inarguably played better teams and better defenses. So, it will be intriguing to see what goes down in the matchup between the Auburn O and the Florida D.
UF’s offense has been owning it lately, averaging 6.8 yards per play, which ties them for 16th-best in the nation. The competition factor comes into play though, as they haven’t played many a great defense. Miami comes to mind in Week 1, but after that, the competition is pretty scarce. Tennessee is the highest-ranked team defensively in yards/play at 33rd, while Auburn is up to 28th. So, the Gators will face as stiff a test as they did that day but no doubt against a team with better talent and a more complete team too.
I would expect this to be a bit of a slugfest in the Swamp. Wouldn’t think that many points are scored here, but I suspect that despite his rawness, Bo Nix and Auburn will be prevailing here. Will I be wrong? Perhaps I will!
HOW TO WATCH
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. CT
TV: CBS (Check your local listings
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