For the first time since 2012, Gainesville will host ESPN’s flagship college football program, College Gameday. The traveling show will be in town to showcase the Gators homecoming game, a top ten clash with the seventh ranked Auburn Tigers.
Although Auburn has received the lion’s share of hype entering this game, it would be a fatal error to count the Gators out. Florida ranks better than the Tigers in nearly every statistical category, and even though both teams are starting relatively inexperienced quarterbacks, the Gators’ Kyle Trask knows the system very well. Beyond that, Nix will be making his first appearance in the Swamp, an experience that promises to be jarring to say the least.
With a perfect storm of homecoming, College Gameday, a top ten matchup, and being the CBS Primetime Game of the Week, I expect the fans to show up in a way that hasn’t been experienced in some time. Perhaps the closest comparison could be the Gators win over, then fifth-ranked, LSU last season.
The Gators have faced much adversity this season, whether it be injuries or hard-fought ugly wins, they have shown grit and found a way to win every game. For the first time since week one, Florida will be at nearly full strength. The timing couldn’t be any better.
Auburn boasts one of the best defensive fronts in the nation, one loaded with future NFL talent. Containing this unit will be a tall order for a Gators offensive line that has certainly taken some lumps this season. Dan Mullen and line coach, John Hevesy have really turned up the heat on the inexperienced unit and demanded more than what they’ve given up to this point.
It will be interesting to see how they respond to being publically called out. Behind them has been a fledgling running game that might be showing some improvement. How much, remains to be seen and will likely be a major factor in Saturday’s game.
Likewise, Auburn will be facing an elite pass rush and one of the nation’s best rushing defenses. Bo Nix has managed to get the job done for the Tigers up to now, but that credit could just as easily go to the Auburn defense. Either way, Nix will face an onslaught of pressure in an effort to force him into making the mistakes that true freshman quarterbacks are often prone to make.
The Tigers are giving up 255 passing yards per game, a stat that absolutely swings in the Gators favor. In fact, each of Auburn’s weak points align with one of Florida’s strengths. As long as the Gators can apply pressure to Nix and contain the Tigers’ rushing attack, Florida stands a real chance at pulling off what most of the college pundits feel is an impossibility.
As has been the case in just about every game this season, Florida’s chances live and die in the trenches. Call it optimism. Call it foolish hope. Call it whatever you’d like, but I’ve seen an intensity in the eyes of the players that hasn’t been there up to this point in the season. Dan Mullen and Todd Grantham will have the schemes in place to eliminate any threat from the Tigers. If the intensity on the players’ faces is any indication, they will come out ready to execute those schemes and make a statement.
I am going against the grain and picking the Gators to win on Saturday. I believe it will be a close and low-scoring game, with the Gators coming out ahead, 24-17.
Florida celebrates homecoming on Saturday afternoon, hosting the #7 Auburn Tigers. Television broadcast will be on CBS starting at 3:30 p.m. Make sure you show up to the game early and be in your seats making noise before kickoff!