Florida Football: 10 Things You Need To Know about Auburn
A once very promising season is turning into a one on the verge of ending this weekend. John Brantley is still hurt, and with his absence, the offense has totally deceased. We are now at the halfway point and a couple of weeks ago, people were talking SEC Championship Game.Now, they just want to get to a bowl game.
The Gators are two wins shy of the six-win plateau that will guarantee them a bowl game, but the path is not an easy one. The game against Furman on Nov. 19 is a safe bet for a win, and since they are the only FCS team on their schedule, it will count towards the six needed wins.
The other five, however, are very tough. They have visits to Auburn and the newly liberated South Carolina Gamecocks. The departure of Stephen Garcia has brought new life to their offense with Connor Shaw. They have a neutral site game in Jacksonville against Georgia and welcome Vanderbilt and Florida State. The road is long, with many a winding turn, and the Gators must put their offense into gear.
This weekend, the Gators travel to Jordan-Hare Stadium and play an unpredictable Auburn team. With Jeff Driskel’s health returning, it is unclear who will get the start at quarterback, him or the other freshman, Jacoby Brissett, and rest assured, the Tigers will be ready for either. There is a lot to know about this Auburn team, and here are the top 10 things to look out for this weekend.
Gene Chizik has come out and said that Barrett Trotter is still his starting quarterback. The junior has been very hit-or-miss this season. He started out looking like a pro, slinging three touchdown passes in a shootout win over Utah State but his progression since then has seemed to go in the opposite direction.
He has not eclipsed the 200-yard mark since that game and has thrown just as many interceptions (6) as touchdowns. In the Tigers' most recent loss to Arkansas, Trotter put in a dismal performance that included six of 19 passing for 81 yards and an interception.
He did not have his top two receivers, Emory Blake and Trovon Reed, but that is still no excuse against an Arkansas defense that let up 28 points or more in their previous three games.
While the Florida offense is struggling to find a leader without Brantley, their defense has maintained their intensity, and if Trotter wants to make it another week as the starter, he’ll have to step it up this weekend.
The freshman out of Arkansas was named the USA Today National Offensive Player of the Year last season and has seen more and more playing time as Trotter’s struggles continue. In his final year of high school, Frazier threw for just under 3,000 yards and rushed for another 1,164.
He’s a dual weapon with his arm and legs, which makes it more difficult for Will Muschamp to prepare for this one. His main strategy will be to stop Trotter, but to knock him out of the game will be means to play a whole new defense that can stop Frazier.
This season, Frazier has only thrown for 18 yards on five attempts but is more than capable of carrying the load. Chizik has used him as a heavy change of pace in the Wildcat formation that has resulted in 135 yards rushing and a touchdown. The Florida defense allows 115 yards per game on the ground and will be a good test for the young freshman.
When the passing game fails, run it. Michael Dyer is the heart and soul of this offense, and coordinator Gus Malzahn is not afraid to use him. Two weeks ago against South Carolina, Dyer ran the ball 41 times. Forty-one times!
He has proven that he can shoulder the load, but the supporting cast has been nowhere to be found. Two out of his three highest outputs this season have been in losing efforts. A successful running game can do wonders to the passing game. Now, Trotter needs to show him some love and use the play action to his advantage.
The key to beating Auburn is to get to Dyer early and often. As I previously stated, the Florida defense allows 115 rush yards per game, and they will be all over him the entire game. Stop Dyer, stop the team.
The receiving corps has had enough problems with dropped balls. They can’t afford another week without leading receiver Emory Blake. Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn has already announced that Blake will be a game-time decision Saturday.
In his one-week absence so far, the Tigers were only able to throw for 104 yards. There is no true go-to guy when he’s not in the lineup, and his health will heavily affect the outcome of this game.
The Other Guys
The few. The proud? The Auburn receivers. Aside from Emory Blake, this is as rag-tag a crew as you will see. The second leading receiver in catches is their second string running back. They do not have one person with 20 catches. They have 83 receptions as a team. The FBS leader in receptions, Jordan White of Western Michigan has 67 alone, that’s almost as much as the whole Auburn team!
Philip Lutzenkirchen, a hero from last year, has eight catches this season! Where have you been?
Onterio McCalebb has 18 catches, but starting running back Michael Dyer has one. Why is that?
These guys need to step it up big time and make their quarterback look good, or Auburn will fade out of the rankings like the rest of the Florida schools.
Porous is a good word to describe this defense. They have a lot of holes and have been the victim of many big plays this season, but what can you expect from a team that only returned three starters. As a whole, their rush defense is among the worst in the country at 201.8 yards per game and when your in a slump like the Gators running game, this is a perfect time to get back on track.
Their pass defense is in the bottom half at 237.7 yards per game and put those two numbers together to get the 105th worst (out of 120 teams) total defense in the FBS.
Utah State scored on them, Mississippi State scored on them, Clemson torched them, Arkansas lit them up and they were lucky to get South Carolina when Stephen Garcia was still there. They allow on average 5.8 yards per play, and when big time players like Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps come to town, those numbers will only get worse.
In my previous page, I made it crystal clear how bad this defense is, but they have shown resiliency and are more than capable of stepping up and playing.
Week 1: Utah State has the ball with less than a minute, down four. The defense stops them.
Week 2: The play of the year: Mississippi State’s Chris Relf is stopped at the goal line as time expires and the Tigers steal a win from the Bulldogs.
Week 5: Stephen Garcia has the Gamecocks driving, and with a little help from the clock, Auburn prevented a comeback.
Numbers don’t lie, but neither do big plays, and these guys have a few in their back pocket. Don’t count them out this weekend to force whoever's playing quarterback for Florida to make some big mistakes.
The youth and inexperience of this team shows when you breakdown their penalties. Auburn is tied for 85th in the country with 39 penalties in 2011, good for a loss of 370 yards.
On the other side, opponents have committed 39 penalties as well, good for 295 positive yards for Auburn. It’s always a shame when a great play is negated by a holding call or a game is decided on a penalty, but these things are inevitable. And come Saturday, keep an eye on Auburn’s penalties as a possible game-changer.
Auburn came into this year as defending National Champions, and only six returning starters can wear that ring. People have been down on them all season and they continually show up to play and prove them wrong. They have drawn comparisons to the 2009 Texas Longhorn team that reached the BCS National Championship and went 5-7 the following season.
Analysts did not think they’d make a bowl game, but Gene Chizik has done it again. Halfway through this season they are already at four wins and ranked in the No. 24 in the AP Poll. Two more wins and they’re going to a bowl, an upset over LSU and an LSU win over Alabama could put Auburn in the SEC Championship game, and then you never know what can happen. These guys are playing their hearts out as underdogs and their efforts are not going unnoticed.
History, If Anything Is on Their Side
Auburn is just 5-11 against the Gators since 1990 but have won the last two meetings and three of the last four. The last time these two teams met was in 2007 when Auburn pulled a huge upset over then-No. 4 Florida on a Wes Bynum 43-yard field goal as time expired. They held Tim Tebow and their powerful offense to 200 yards below their season average and ended their 11-game win streak.
The previous meeting in 2006, Auburn stunned the No. 2 Gators. In 2001, they were No. 1 and guess what? Auburn pulled the upset.
This time they won’t have the glory of upsetting a ranked Florida team, but a win would be just as good.