Prediction time: UF-Auburn


How Auburn can win:

It’s pretty stunning that the Gators are favored by 19 points in Saturday’s game. The Tigers have struggled on offense with a young line and a mistake-prone quarterback, but I just don’t see how you can justify a 19-point spread.

Auburn has the best defense Florida has seen this season, by far, and can cause some problems with its speed and aggression. If the Tigers can put some pressure on Tim Tebow and force him into some mistakes, AU will have a chance to stay in the game. If this game is still in doubt deep into the second half like last week’s at Ole Miss, the Tigers will be in a position to pull the stunning upset.

To stay within striking distance, the Tigers have to play sound defense, prevent the big play and keep UF out of the end zone when the Gators reach the red zone, where they have been proficient scoring touchdowns.

On offense, there’s no secret what the Tigers are going to do. They’re going to study the tape of last week’s UF-Ole Miss game and try to do the same things the Rebels did to expose the weaknesses on the young Florida defense. Everyone knows what those weaknesses are. The Gators are getting zero pressure on the quarterback and it’s giving the young secondary almost no chance to consistently cover receivers. Seth Adams, who is not exactly a big-time passer, threw for 300 yards a week ago ” and he was never touched by a UF defender.

Auburn quarterback Brandon Cox has had his problems this season (especially with turnovers), but he’s a dangerous passer when he has time to throw and he should have plenty of time Saturday night. If Cox is patient and makes smart decisions, he’s going to have a chance to shred the UF secondary just like Adams did last week.

If the Tigers can take care of the ball and make the most of their scoring opportunities and the defense plays its usual sound game, Auburn can win this game.

Why Florida will win:

Tebow said earlier this week that the Gators went through the best possible learning experience last week. They made a ton of mistakes in Oxford, they could have easily lost the game, but they won and had the chance to learn from their mistakes in a positive and upbeat environment this week.

The defense, of course, was exposed again. With no pass rush, the young secondary looks lost at times and can’t make plays. A steady pass rush could change everything with this defense. So, far, the Gators haven’t taken many chances trying to get to opposing quarterbacks. They have run only a few blitzes (most of them coming from the cornerback position) in an attempt to protect the young secondary. Saturday night, the Gators know they have to get to Cox. That is the key to the whole game. If they pressure Cox, the Auburn offense is going to struggle. If that happens, Tebow and the offense will have a chance to run away with this one.

Auburn’s defense poses the biggest challenge to the offense to date. So, far, the Gators have been up to every challenge and have found a way to roll up and down the field and score points. The yards and points won’t come as easily as they have, but the offense will score enough points to win the game.

Even if the defense struggles again ” which it will ” it’s hard to pick against the Gators in The Swamp, where’ they’re undefeated under Urban Meyer.

Prediction: Florida 31, Auburn 28