After showing more moxie than was expected of him over the first five games — all wins for the Tigers — Auburn quarterback Bo Nix played like a true freshman against Florida, struggling to hit open receivers, completing only 11 of 27 pass attempts and throwing three costly interceptions.
A poor showing by Nix was bound to happen, though. What was most perplexing was the abandonment of elements of Gus Malzahn's offense that keep defenses off-balance — namely, the speed sweeps, fast pace and Wildcat run plays.
With an excellent Florida defense crowding the line of scrimmage, the Tigers only turned to Anthony Schwartz once in the run game, a four-yard loss on the first play of the second quarter after the Tigers took over with good field position thanks to Derrick Brown's 42-yard fumble recovery.
That's it. For his part, Nix rushed 10 times for 47 yards, but only netted 18 yards after accounting for sacks.
To avoid a repeat performance in the future, coaches should develop ways not to put most of the pressure on the young quarterback.
That could prove difficult with the absence of starting running back JaTarvious "Boobee" Whitlow, who suffered an injury against Florida, had his knee scoped this week and is expected to miss four to six weeks.
That will put pressure on the Tigers' stable of mostly young, unproven running backs. For the time being, coaches will likely lean on Kam Martin, although Shaun Shivers, Harold Joiner and true freshman D.J. Williams could get an extended look as the Tigers try to revive an offense that struggled against the Gators.
The Tigers also need to work on third down plays, especially in short-yardage situations. Prior to the Florida game, the Tigers performed pretty well on third downs, converting more than 40 percent of their attempts in every game except the Texas A&M matchup, where they converted on 4 of 12 attempts. Against the Gators, the Tigers were terrible on third down, converting only twice in 14 tries.
There's plenty of room for improvement there, as well as in red-zone offense, where the Tigers have scored 84 percent of the time this season.
The Tigers will need to work on those issues, and others, during the bye week, which comes at a perfect time midway through a daunting schedule that only gets tougher.
After facing an outmatched Arkansas team on the road next weekend, Auburn will face No.5 LSU on the road, an Ole Miss team coming off a bye week, and two of the better teams in the country in Georgia and Alabama.
But all is not lost — the Tigers still control their own destiny and feature a defense that will keep them in any game.
Against the Gators, the Auburn defense left everything on the field and gave the offense multiple short fields after forcing four fumbles. Minus the Lamical Perine's 88-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to seal the game, which came when the defense was gassed, the Tigers held the Gators to just 44 yards on the ground and less than a yard-and-a-half per rush. That's impressive.
Auburn also managed four sacks, seven tackles for a loss and six pass breakups.
But the defense ultimately needs help from the offense if it's going to play at a high level the entire game.