In an SEC battle that could very well have conference championship implications, the No. 24 Auburn Tigers will host the Florida Gators on Saturday. Both teams currently sit at 4-2 overall and are afterthoughts in a conference with No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama.
Florida came out of the gates hot in starting 4-0, but it has been humbled in back-to-back blowout losses to Alabama and LSU. The Gators were dominant prior to that, however, as their defense ranks as one of the nation's best, and the running back tandem of Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey has been excellent.
Not much was expected from Auburn after losing the likes of quarterback Cam Newton and defensive tackle Nick Fairley to the NFL, but the Tigers got off to a great start in their own right. Both Mississippi State and South Carolina were among the nation's Top 16 teams when they beat them, but the Tigers were wiped out by No. 10 Arkansas last week.
This is an extremely tough game to call, but whichever team comes out on top will vastly improve its positioning in the SEC.
Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.
When: Saturday, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Florida (-2)
All of the stats say that Florida is a better team than Auburn, but the Gators' numbers are padded a bit thanks to an easy early season schedule. Auburn, on the other hand, has had a number of high-profile opponents already.
I would normally pick Florida, but with quarterback John Brantley unlikely to play for the Gators, I think Auburn holds a distinct advantage. They already have solid wins over Mississippi State and South Carolina as well, so a win over Florida is certainly possible.
Florida has been in four straight over games, while Auburn has gone under in three consecutive contests, so something has to give. Both teams have given up a lot of points in recent weeks, though, so I could see this being a shootout.
An over/under of 49.5 isn't too high in a game between two good offensive teams, so I think they should beat the over fairly comfortably.
Florida Key Injuries
Doubtful: QB John Brantley (ankle)
Probable: RB Jeff Demps (ankle), QB Jeff Driskel (ankle), LB Ronald Powell (undisclosed), DB Josh Evans (arm)
Auburn Key Injuries
Out: DL Dee Ford (back), RB Anthony Morgan (undisclosed)
Doubtful: OL Jared Cooper (undisclosed)
Questionable: WR Emory Blake (foot), OL Ed Christian (back), DB Chris Davis (leg)
BCS/Top 25 Poll Implications
Both teams would likely have to win out in order to get involved in the BCS picture, but they are each bordering on Top 25 status. Auburn is currently the No. 24 team in the nation, but one loss could change that very quickly.
Florida isn't currently in the Top 25, but it is certainly one of the main teams in waiting and would almost certainly make the polls with a win over Auburn. Neither team seems likely to go the rest of the season without suffering another loss, so they are essentially playing for bragging rights at this point.
Keys to Florida Win
For the Gators, their success hinges largely on the running game. Quarterback John Brantley is likely to miss his second consecutive game due to injury, making freshman Jacoby Brissett the starter. Brissett is skilled, but he can't be counted on to win a big SEC contest with his inexperience.
The running back tandem of Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey has been spectacular this season, as they have already combined for nearly 800 yards rushing in just six games. Auburn has very much proven to be susceptible to strong running games this season, so Demps and Rainey will have to come up huge.
Keys to Auburn Win
Just like Florida, running the ball will be paramount for Auburn. The Tigers have a deadly backfield combination in their own right with Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb, who have done a great job of taking pressure off first-year starting quarterback Barrett Trotter.
The Tigers will also have to tighten up their rush defense and crank up the pass rush. With the inexperienced Brissett running the Gator offense, Auburn may be able to force him into some freshman mistakes with a strong pass rush.
Auburn 34, Florida 30