2011 Florida Gators Football: 3 Keys to Beating the Auburn Tigers
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It has been a rough couple of weeks in the Gator Nation.
First, there was a 38-10 thumping by Alabama on Oct. 1 in The Swamp—a game that saw Florida lose starting quarterback John Brantley to a high ankle sprain (and unknowingly lose backup Jeff Driskel for the next week with a similar injury).
Then, with true freshman Jacoby Brissett under center taking the first snaps of his college career, visiting UF was handled, 41-11, at Louisiana State.
OK, that and the fact that Brantley (won't be back for this weekend's game at defending BCS national champion Auburn make up the bad news.
Now, the good.
The Gators are still 4-2, and at 2-2 in the Southeastern Conference, they sit just a game behind Georgia and South Carolina, both of whom Florida has yet to play.
Besides, if you take a survey of college football followers, you will find quite a few (me included) who believe the Crimson Tide and the Tigers are the two best teams around.
Up next is last year's best team in college football. With that in mind, perhaps the two most integral parts of Auburn's 2010 BCS title run, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton and Lombardi Award-winning defensive tackle Nick Fairley, have moved on to the Carolina Panthers and Detroit Lions, respectively.
Can the suddenly unranked Gators bounce back with a huge victory on The Plains?
The guess here is yes, if they can do a few things.
1. Force the Tigers' Quarterbacks to Make Plays
Auburn (4-2, 2-1) ranks 27th nationally in rushing offense, compiling 204 yards a game. Through the air it is a completely different story, as the Tigers rank 106th (170.7 ypg).
In AU's two losses—to Clemson and Arkansas—starting quarterback Barrett Trotter is a combined 18-for-44 for 279 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Make him win the game, not running back Michael Dyer (124 carries for 679 yards and eight touchdowns on the season) or even backup Onterio McCalebb (56 carries for 312 yards).
2. Run, Run and Run Some More
Alabama ranks first nationally against the run, while LSU is fourth, allowing 1.57 and 2.28 yards-per-carry, respectively.
Auburn? Well, that's a different story.
The Tigers are 103rd against the run, ranking below powerhouses like North Texas, Buffalo and Western Kentucky. They allow 201.83 yards-a-game and 4.66 yards-a-carry.
Unless Auburn has the same type of week it did when limiting South Carolina's talented sophomore Marcus Lattimore to 66 yards on 17 carries in a 16-13 victory Oct. 1, Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey should have big nights.
3. Forget the Previous Two Weeks
Remembering the Alabama and LSU games will do no good. Those losses were confidence-sappers for a young team and should be put in the past.
Florida needs to focus on what is ahead. And who knows, maybe in a season or two the Gators will be the team in the Top 5 laying beatdowns on conference rivals. They have the talent, just not the experience and physical strength that comes with having your best players on campus for three or four years.
Beating the Tigers will do a lot to bring back a swagger to UF, which still controls its own destiny in the SEC East.
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