Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:56 AM

Auburn at Florida

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No. 7 Auburn Tigers at No. 10 Florida Gators

Venue/Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL
Time/TV: Saturday, Oct. 5, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: Auburn -2.5, Total 48.5

For the first time since 2011, Florida and Auburn will finally collide again Saturday afternoon at The Swamp in Gainesville. It’s easily the toughest ticket for a UF home game since the Tim Tebow Era ended in 2009.

Both teams are undefeated and looking to stay that way with brutal schedules on the horizon in the coming weeks. Both are also playing new quarterbacks that have thrown some life into their respective offenses.

As of Friday afternoon, most betting shops had Auburn (5-0 straight up, 5-0 against the spread) installed as a 2.5-point favorite with a total of 48.5. The Gators were +120 on the money line. The Westgate SuperBook was showing the best price on Auburn at -2.

Auburn owns an 8-5-1 spread record in 14 games as a road favorite during Gus Malzahn’s seven-year tenure. Meanwhile, UF won outright in its only home underdog spot since Dan Mullen took over, beating LSU 27-19 last year as a 2.5-point home ‘dog. The Gators are 3-5 ATS in eight games as home ‘dogs since 2009.

Auburn won in come-from-behind fashion in its season opener, rallying to a 27-21 win over Oregon at Jerry World in Arlington. The Tigers took the cash as four-point favorites.

Since then, Malzahn’s bunch has won 24-6 vs. Tulane, 55-16 vs. Kent State, 28-20 at Texas A&M and 56-23 vs. Mississippi State. Auburn is one of only four schools with 5-0 spread records (the other three are down below in Bonus Nuggets).

Mississippi State got its clock cleaned on The Plains from start to finish last Saturday night. Auburn, which surprisingly went from a double-digit favorite down to -8 or -7.5 just before kickoff, raced out to a 21-0 lead in the first six minutes and one second of action. By intermission, the Tigers had a commanding 42-9 advantage.

Auburn racked up 580 yards of total offense and converted 6-of-10 third-down opportunities. True freshman QB Bo Nix was sensational, connecting on 16-of-21 passes for 335 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. He also rushed for 56 yards and one TD on only seven attempts.

JaTarvious Whitlow ran for 55 yards and three TDs on 10 carries. Seth Williams had eight receptions for 161 yards and two TDs, while Anthony Schwartz had two catches for 67 yards. Schwartz, a WR with big-time wheels, also ran for 25 yards and one TD on three totes.

Nix, the five-star recruit, was in for spring practice and won the job in August over redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood. Nix passed my “eye test” right away against Oregon, especially with his work on the game-winning drive. Trailing 21-20 and in field-goal range, Nix decided to take a shot deep and found Williams with a 26-yard scoring strike with only nine seconds remaining.

Obviously, this prevented Auburn from depending on a kicker to boot a field goal from more than 40 yards out to win. Most important for our purposes, though, it hooked up Auburn backers with a winner as a four-point ‘chalk.’

For the season, Nix has completed 57.6 percent of his throws for 980 yards with a 7/2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He threw both picks against the Ducks and has five TD passes without an interception in AU’s last four games. Nix, who has improved every week and will most likely continue to do so, has 173 rushing yards, two TDs and a 4.9 yards-per-carry average.

Williams has emerged as Nix’s favorite target, pulling down 17 receptions for 289 yards and four TDs. Eli Stove has 18 catches for 177 yards and two TDs, while Will Hastings has nine grabs for 148 yards and one TD. Schwartz, who missed the first two games after breaking a bone in his hand in early August, has produced five receptions for 110 yards and 82 rushing yards and two TDs on just four carries.

Whitlow has been handling the bulk of the carries on the ground, rushing for 463 yards and seven TDs while averaging 5.0 YPC. Kam Martin has 145 rushing yards and two TDs with a 5.0 YPC average.

AU’s offense is ranked 14th in the nation in rushing yards, averaging 251.8 yards per game. The Tigers are ranked 24th in scoring with their 38.0 points-per-game average.

Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has done outstanding work with his unit since taking this job in 2016. The Tigers are ranked 19th in the country in run defense and 22nd in scoring ‘D’ (17.2 PPG).

Florida (5-0 SU, 2-3 ATS) opened the season with a 24-20 non-covering win over Miami down in Orlando. After an open date, the Gators beat up on UT-Martin by a 45-0 count as 44.5-point home favorites. They lost two-time, second-team All-SEC cornerback CJ Henderson to an ankle sprain against the Skyhawks, however.

Henderson has missed the last three games, but he’s good to go against Auburn. Truth be told, Henderson probably could’ve played last week vs. Towson and maybe even against Tennessee two weeks ago, but Mullen wisely held him out to be 100 percent vs. Auburn. Likewise, UF’s other preseason All-American, senior DE Jabari Zuniga, hasn’t played since injuring his ankle in the second half of a 29-21 win at Kentucky on Sept. 14. Zuniga is ready to go this week and probably could’ve played last week, too. Zuniga, a third-team All-SEC selection in 2018, had three sacks in UF’s first three games.

In Week 3, Florida saw starting QB Feleipe Franks go down with a dislocated ankle in the third quarter at Kentucky. The injury required season-ending surgery the following week.

Trailing 21-10 going into the fourth quarter, back-up QB Kyle Trask rose to the occasion. He sparked the UF offense to three TD drives in the fourth quarter of the comeback win as a 9.5-point road ‘chalk.’ With 12:41 remaining, Trask ran left on the option and made a smooth pitch at the last second to LaMical Perine who strutted his way into the end zone for an eight-yard TD scamper.

Down 21-16 after a failed two-point conversion, Mullen called a QB draw for Trask and the middle was open for a four-yard TD run. The Gators failed on another two-point attempt and led 22-21, but Kentucky’s Chance Poore missed a short field goal wide right.

On a third-down play with Kentucky set to use its final timeout and get the ball back if it could stop UF short of a first down, Mullen called a sprint sweep to Josh Hammond. The senior WR found a crease and busted it 76 yards for a TD with 33 ticks left.

On Sept. 21 at home vs. Tennessee, Trask made his first start since his freshman year of high school. He was a back-up at the prep level behind Houston star QB D’Eriq King. Trask responded by hitting Kyle Pitts for a 19-yard scoring strike on the game’s opening drive.

Florida went to halftime with a 17-0 lead on the Volunteers. Trask put the Gators in front 24-3 with a 29-yard TD pass to Freddie Swain midway through the third quarter. Although he did throw a pair of second-half interceptions, Trask completed 20-of-28 passes for 293 yards in the 34-3 win over UT as a 13-point home favorite. His 293 passing yards were the most by a QB since Mullen took over (more than Franks in his 16 starts).

Trask has connected on 51-of-66 passes for 698 yards with a 5/3 TD-INT ratio. He also has a pair of TD runs. Unlike Franks, he makes quick decisions and gets the ball out fast, and that’ll be key against Auburn’s stout defensive line.

UF’s weakness is its offensive line, so that matchup could be a major issue for the Gators. Mullen will need to get creative with his play-calling and do a masterful job in that department or Trask could take a lot of big hits vs. Auburn.

Trask has provided a major upgrade at the QB position, and he’s blessed with UF’s best and deepest group of WRs in a decade. Van Jefferson has 18 catches for 248 yards and one TD, while Trevon Grimes has 15 catches for 231 yards. Pitts is emerging as one of UF’s most improved players and one of the SEC top tight ends. He has 17 receptions for 189 yards and three TDs.

Hammond (14-176), Tyrie Cleveland (10-167-1 TD) and Swain (8-134-2 TDs) are also factors in the passing game. However, the explosive and versatile Kadarius Toney remains ‘out’ with a wrist injury sustained against UT-Martin.

Perine hasn’t had any room to navigate yardage on the ground. He’s been limited to 198 rushing yards and a 3.7 YPC average, but it’s not on him and he does have three rushing TDs. The senior RB also has 14 catches for 78 yards and one TD.

UF is ranked No. 89 in the country in rushing yards. The Gators are No. 29 in passing yards and No. 43 in scoring with their 34.0 PPG average.

Florida’s defense gets its two best players back and even with Zuniga and Henderson missing five combined games, Todd Grantham’s unit is ranked fifth in the nation in scoring defense (8.8 PPG). The Gators are 18th in the country in total defense, No. 17 in run ‘D’ and No. 30 in passing defense.

UF senior LB David Reese has a team-high 36 tackles that ranks him fifth in the SEC. He has one sack and one tackle for loss. DE Jonathan Greenard is in a first-place tie with South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw for the SEC’s lead in sacks with four. Greenard, the transfer from Louisville, has 21 tackles, 1.5 TFL’s, four QB hurries, three passes broken up, one forced fumble and one interception.

The ‘over’ is 3-2 overall for Auburn, 1-0 in its lone road assignment as the 48 combined points at Texas A&M inched ‘over’ the 47.5-point total. The Tigers’ games have averaged combined scores of 55.2 PPG.

The ‘under’ is 4-1 overall for the Gators, 4-0 in their home games. Their games have averaged combined scores of 42.8 PPG.

Auburn has won three games in a row in this rivalry, including a 17-6 home win in 2011 and a 20-17 win at UF in 2007. In fact, the Tigers are 4-1 SU and 5-0 ATS in the past five meetings dating back to 2001.

Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Eastern on CBS.



Bet and Collect Podcast

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-- For what it’s worth, Florida was a four-point favorite vs. Auburn at most books this summer in Games of the Year lines.

-- Speaking of Games of the Year, the Westgate SuperBook released its updated lines earlier this week. UF is a 14-point underdog next week at LSU. Also in Week 7, Oklahoma is a 12.5-point favorite vs. Texas. If that line hold and keeps the Sooners as double-digit ‘chalk,’ it’ll leave Tom Herman as a double-digit underdog. In that role as a head coach at both Houston and Texas, Herman is 5-0 ATS with four outright victories. The Gators are 10-point underdogs for their Nov. 2 showdown vs. Georgia in Jacksonville. They’re 14.5-point home ‘chalk’ vs. FSU in the regular-season finale.

-- Other notable Games of the Year from The Westgate: LSU -9.5 vs. Auburn, Alabama -12.5 vs. LSU and Alabama -11 at Auburn.

-- Florida is 13-3 SU at home vs. Auburn since 1973. The home team has won 22 of 30 head-to-head meetings in this rivalry since 1976. H/T to Phil Steele for both of those factoids.

-- UF-Auburn will take place 10 days shy of the 25-year anniversary of a showdown in The Swamp on Oct. 15 of 1994. Bo Nix’s father, Patrick Nix, found Frank Sanders for a TD pass in the final minute to rally Auburn past the top-ranked Gators in Gainesville.

-- Former Florida LB Kylan Johnson is thriving at Pittsburgh after leaving the Gators via the grad-transfer route. Johnson has 20 tackles, four sacks, two TFL’s, one forced fumble and one PBU. The Panthers are 3-1 both SU and ATS since losing their season opener 30-14 to Virginia at Heinz Field. The only loss during that span is a 17-10 defeat at unbeaten Penn State. Pat Narduzzi’s squad has won four games in a row over Duke both SU and ATS, but it is an underdog in Durham on Saturday. Pitt junior starting QB Kenny Pickett has been upgraded to ‘probable’ after a shoulder injury kept him out of last week’s 17-14 win over Delaware as a 27.5-point home ‘chalk.’ The Panthers are 13-6 ATS as road underdogs during Narduzzi’s five-year tenure. Since 2012, Duke is 19-15 ATS as a home ‘chalk’ despite limping to a 1-5 ATS mark in six such spots last season. As of Friday, most books had the Blue Devils favored by five points for this 8:00 p.m. Eastern kickoff on the ACC Network.

-- Duke senior QB Quentin Harris has an 18/3 career TD-INT ratio and nine rushing touchdowns.

-- Northwestern, a 7.5-point road underdog at Nebraska, is 28-10 ATS as a road underdog since 2008. Since Nebraska joined the Big Ten, six of eight meetings with the Wildcats have been one-possession games, and five of those contests were decided by three points or less. Also, Northwestern is 4-0 ATS in the four games played in Lincoln.

-- Colorado head coach Mel Tucker told the Denver Post Monday that star WR Laviska Shenault will be game-time decisions for Saturday’s home game vs. Arizona. Shenault was a fourth-team All-American in 2018 despite playing in only eight games. He had 86 receptions for 1,011 yards and six TDs last year, in addition to 115 rushing yards and five TDs with a 6.8 YPC. Colorado senior DT Mustafa Johnson, who had 7.5 sacks and 16 QB hurries in 2018, has been downgraded to ‘doubtful’ due to an ankle injury. Arizona QB Khalil Tate (hamstring) and RB J.J. Taylor (ankle) both missed last week’s 20-17 home win over UCLA, and both remain ‘questionable’ against the Buffaloes.

-- UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson is ‘questionable’ vs. Oregon State. ‘DTR’ has thrown for 1,253 yards and has an 11/6 TD-INT ratio for the Bruins, who are 4-13 since hiring Chip Kelly.

-- Stanford QB K.J. Costello is ‘out’ again this week vs. Washington due to a thumb injury. The Huskies had been favored by 16.5 points for most of the week, but the number dropped to 15 or 14.5 by Friday afternoon. The Cardinal is 4-1 both SU and ATS as a home underdog during David Shaw’s nine-year tenure, but let me be clear that that’s not an endorsement in this spot.

-- Akron, the only team in the nation with a 0-5 ATS record, has an open date this weekend ahead of an Oct. 12 home tilt vs. Kent State.

-- Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, FIU and Vanderbilt are 0-4 ATS.

-- The four schools with 5-0 spread records include Auburn, Oklahoma State, Louisiana and SMU. Meanwhile, Washington, Wyoming and Ohio State are 4-1 versus the number.

-- Purdue first-team All-American WR Rondale Moore (leg) is ‘out’ of Saturday’s game at Penn State. Junior QB Elijah Sindelar had surgery earlier this week to repair his broken collarbone. He is ‘out’ indefinitely, perhaps for the rest of the season.

-- The ‘over’ is 5-0 for Charlotte and SMU, 4-0 for LSU. On the flip side, the ‘under’ is 4-0 for Tulsa, East Carolina, Old Dominion and San Diego State.

-- TCU is 19-8-1 ATS as a road underdog since 2005. The Horned Frogs are 3.5-point ‘dogs at Iowa State for a noon Eastern kick on ESPN2.

-- Rutgers QB McLane Carter is ‘out’ again this week at home vs. Maryland. Johnny Langan will start for the Scarlet Knights against the Terrapins, who are 13.5-point road favorites. According to a report from Football Scoop, former Rutgers HC Greg Schiano resigned as New England Patriots defensive coordinator in March because he informed Bill Belichick that boosters at his former school told him he’d be the top target if/when Chris Ash was fired. Since Schiano reportedly wants his old gig back, he and Belichick agreed that it wouldn’t work with the Patriots if he planned on leaving the club in November or December to return to New Jersey.

-- Boise State, a 23-point road favorite at UNLV, is 41-17-1 in its last 59 games as a road favorite. The Broncos have had two weeks to prep for the Rebels, who are 3-7 ATS in 10 games as home underdogs during Tony Sanchez’s tenure. Although UNLV QB Armani Rogers (leg injury) has been upgraded to ‘probable,’ Sanchez has named redshirt freshman Kenyon Oblad as his starting QB vs. BSU.

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.


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