The quick look came earlier this week; now to the full preview. Everything below has and will be discussed leading up to Saturday’s game against Auburn, but there is one thing Florida needs to do: just win. We’ve reached must-win status at game seven. The Gators need to learn from the losses and improve in the areas of concern right now. The second half of the season starts now and 4-2 must become 5-2.
When: Saturday, October 15, 2011 – 7:00pm
Television/Radio: ESPN, ESPN3.com, GRN, Sirius 91, XM 91
Records: Florida: 4-2 (2-2), Auburn: 4-2 (2-1)
Betting Score That Would Calculate To: Florida 26-24
Scoring Offenses: Florida: 30.3, Auburn: 27.8
Scoring Defenses: Florida: 19.2; Auburn: 29.2
Gators’ Win Factor (See Here): TBG: 51, OEW: 49
1. Auburn was originally chartered in 1856 as the East Alabama Male College. Doesn’t really have much of a ring to it, does it?
2. Auburn offered the nation’s first interior architecture design degree.
3. The school has a fully FAA certified Air Agency – the Auburn University Aviation Department.
4. Sure the Tigers are the defending national champions, but swimming and diving is where it’s at. The men’s and women’s squads have combined for 13 titles.
5. As you know, Gene Chizik played football at Florida. As you may not have known, he began his career as an assistant at Seminole High School. Don’t get confused though, that’s not the same Seminole Gators’ wide receiver Andre Debose went to.
When the Gators Have the Ball
When the Gators have the ball we at least know that the Gators will have the ball. What we don’t know is exactly which one of the Gators will have the ball. We do know that John Brantley is out until at least the Georgia game (some conspiracy theorists seem to think he’ll miss more time than that), so no. 12 won’t have it. We also know that both Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel are being prepared. What we don’t know is the exact combination we are expected to see. Odds are in favor of both playing along with a little Trey Burton thrown in there, without Burton actually throwing the ball more than once or possibly twice. And the “who will have the ball?” line of questioning doesn’t end there.
At running back there’s a similar situation that is there for entirely different reasons. Chris Rainey will get the majority of carries again as he looks to get back on track after a disappointing outing against Alabama and a subpar one against LSU. Jeff Demps, we all hope, will eventually return to his normal self and bring back the threat of world-class speed in pads. And Mike Gillislee has earned carries and should become a change of pace to the speedsters over the last half of the season. Not that Gillislee doesn’t have a nice burst of his own, but Charlie Weis may look to use him between the tackles against Auburn to give the Florida offense another dynamic to move the ball.
There you have it: a three-headed pass game and a three-headed run game. For the run game, it’s a positive – assuming the offensive line, well, you know. For the pass game, it’s a riddle of sorts. Brissett and Driskel have had a rough go of it this season; in part due to inexperience and in part thanks for the Alabama and LSU defenses. They will need all the time they can get against Auburn. Still in the learning mode, both need the offensive line to step up every aspect of line play. They need time to be able to make decisions without having to worry about avoiding a pass rush. Because of this, and the need for an explosive run game to return, the offensive line continues to be the most important unit on the team.
For those that watch football for the big play or the huge hit, there’s a sigh associated with hearing about offensive line play, but it’s a definite truth. The last two weeks have been rough for the Gators’ offensive line. It hasn’t been any easier for the defensive line, but we’ll get into that in a second. The offensive line hasn’t allowed the run game to develop and hasn’t given the young quarterbacks a chance to survey more than their first option, if they even have time to do that. The remainder of the season lies on the shoulders of the offensive line. That’s a lot of pressure, but there should be. Along that line is experience, talent and potential. The Gators have not used any of those three things to their favor over the last two weeks. In order to beat Auburn, they’ll have to bring them all together…FOR 60 MINUTES!
There should be a section in there about the wide receivers and the tight ends, but enough has been said at this point. The line needs to give the quarterbacks the chance to get through plays and the QBs have to deliver before we focus on the pass catchers yet again.
When the Tigers Have the Ball
Now for that other line – the defensive line. They’ll be named individually because they’re being called out: Dominique Easley, Sharrif Floyd, Jaye Howard, Omar Hunter and Ronald Powell. There are other names that could be thrown in there and Powell could also be taken out since he is technically occupying the buck position, but those five are the key to pressuring opposing quarterbacks and disrupting running plays in the backfield. They’ve done little of either since the win over Kentucky. Did we mention that among that group, there are four five-star rankings and a fifth-year senior? You already knew that, but more importantly the players know it too. They’re just as frustrated as the coaches and Gators’ fans are. They don’t want to underachieve. They want to be great in the orange and blue. If the offensive line is unit of importance number one, then the defensive line is number two.
And then there’s that whole tackling thing. Practice, coaching, a review of the fundamentals, film review and, yes, a lot of yelling needs to occur. This site counts Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins among its favorites on the roster. Michael Taylor is about the take the top linebacker spot on that list. He’s one more game away from taking actual minutes away from one of those two as well and rightfully so. Taylor is the bright spot on a unit that was invisible in 2010 and is quickly disappearing in 2011. It’s only a matter of time before a change is made on the field and off of it. D.J. Durkin doesn’t seem to be getting through to his players. Either that or he is but is just being completely ignored when games start. Guess is it’s the former.
This is another game for the secondary in which they’ll be facing an average quarterback. Kiehl Frazier is used often, but he rarely throws the ball, so the focus is on Barrett Trotter. Trotter’s efficiency rating has decreased progressively over the course of the season and he hasn’t made it through a game interception-free since the opener against Utah State. The secondary may not have much to worry about in the pass game, but they have to be prepared to help in the run game. Auburn is another team that pounds the ball at opposing defenses. The Tigers’ top four rushers all average between 5.2 and 5.5 yards per carry. If tackling from the front seven is an issue again, the Gators’ defensive backs must come up with meet the running backs and not allow those extra yards.
The Gators need a special teams spark. Whether that is a blocked kick or a Debose kickoff return, Florida needs a momentum shifter. The defense isn’t cause turnovers, so the special teams may need to provide that spark. A big special teams play can silence a crowd in a mere second. These previews usually only mention Will Muschamp and Weis when discussing coaches, but this will be the second time Durkin’s name has come up. The assistant needs his unit to come through.
The Gators can’t drop three in a row. It’s really as simple as that. The game won’t be, but the outcome needs to be. Florida needs to believe they have the talent to compete in the SEC this year and not wait for the future to come. The Gators are still alive in the chase for the East, but a loss to the Tigers almost assuredly knocks them out. Auburn is a team Florida can beat, but it has also become a team the Gators must beat.