During the 2019 football season, The Villager will run comments from a focus group on results of the previous Auburn University game and a prognostication for the upcoming game. We’ve collectively labeled the group, Panel of Wanna-Be Experts, or POWE! for short.
Here are the panel's comments for the Tigers' road showdown against Florida:
To say things went well for the DDC last Saturday night is a bit of an understatement. The hounds of Starkvegas had a rough visit to Auburn and it seemed that nothing went right for them in the opening minutes of the game. It is a tough situation to be down 21 points before the middle of the 1st quarter! The only possible issue was if Boobee was going to catch a targeting call when he hit State’s bulldog mascot “Bully” ( whose actual name is “Jak”) after scoring on a nice run.
This coming Saturday will move from mammals to reptiles in the mascot category as the good guys travel to Ben Hill Griffin for a top-10 match-up with the lizard dudes.
Although the chompers are undefeated, they had a spot of bother with Miami and Kentucky. Florida’s Hummin’ Gator QB Franks is out with an injury but back-up Kyle Trask has done well and is improving every week.
RBs Perine and Pierce are tough runners and bear watching. There is no doubt Coach Mullen will have them foaming at the mouth ... er, snout or whatever they call it when the Tigers come to town.
Our guys have done a bit of improving as well. QB Bo Nix did a good job of chunkin’ while Williams and company did a very nice job of catching. We had a few nice runs as well while our defense continued to make the evening hard for the other guys.
All that is nice but when the Tigers and Gators meet up it always seems to end up in a knock down, drag out affair. I offer the 1989 game as an example.
This Saturday could end up being one of those classics. I believe the AU defense will stand tall and offer the Alachua County reptiles a difficult time while our offense does what it needs to do to head back north with a “W." Auburn 24 – Florida 18.
Jay Jones, Lee County sheriff
Auburn travels to Gainesville for the first time since 2007 to take on the 10th-ranked Florida Gators. This is a series steeped in tradition having played every year from 1945-2002. Florida is tied with Alabama for Auburn’s third most common opponent, having faced each other 83 times. Auburn, Florida, and Amen Corner — that is Auburn football.
To me, Auburn-Florida is Slack to Wasden in 1989; it’s Calvin Jackson’s 96-yard pick-six in 1993; it’s Nix to Sanders in the Swamp in 1994. It’s Damon Duval kicking the game winner in 2001; it’s Tre Smith flipping into the endzone scoring on a blocked punt in 2006; it’s Wes Byrum in the Swamp in 2007…twice. To me, Auburn-Florida is special.
The Auburn defense is playing at a championship level right now and they will have some impact opportunities this week. The Gator offensive line is perhaps the team’s weakness, which is good news for the Tiger D-line. The Gator QB — Kyle Trask — is not particularly mobile and was sacked five times the last two games, including three sacks at the hands of FCS foe Towson State. They will need to disrupt Trask and pressure him often because he is an efficient passer, completing 70 percent of his passes on the season, including 18 in a row at one point last week.
Florida has three wins against Power 5 competition. Of those three teams, none have a win against Power 5 competition. Auburn, on the other hand, is battle tested with two wins away from home against ranked competition. The Tigers won’t be intimidated and, as the old adage goes, defense travels. Look for AU to put the clamps on an anemic Gator ground game en route to a 27-17 victory.
Brandon Hughes, Lee County
The game against Mississippi State was a good one. Our Tigers came out firing on all cylinders on offense. The Defense was just as relentless and as advertised. For all practical purposes, the game was over well before halftime.
Auburn seems to have all its offensive weapons available now. And it will need them against a tough Florida defense.
No. 10 Florida will be close to full strength, especially on defense, for its biggest game of the season.
Coach Dan Mullen said Monday that six injured players — including speedy cornerback C.J. Henderson and disruptive defensive end Jabari Zuniga — will be back against seventh-ranked Auburn in the Swamp.
Henderson missed the last three games after spraining his left ankle against Tennessee-Martin in early September. Zuniga tweaked his left ankle the following week at Kentucky and missed two games.
Henderson, a junior from Miami, has six interceptions in 27 games. Zuniga, a senior from Marietta, Georgia, has 18.5 sacks in 39 games.
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is a tough place and loud and rowdy as any. Yours truly is 1-4 in the games I have attended there.
Since both teams feature stout defenses, I think the team with the superior offense wins. For me, that is clearly Auburn.
For this game I think we decide it in the third quarter and hold on.
Auburn 30, Florida 20.
Barry Mask, Auburn’s first “Friend of Aubie,” director of marketing for River Bank & Trust
It’s been a dozen years since the Tigers have traveled to The Swamp in Gainesville, a place that before 2002 we visited semiannually for nearly 90 years when they were regulars on our schedule. On that occasion in 2007, Auburn narrowly upset Heisman winner Tim Tebow and his fellow Gators.
On Saturday we will be facing a No. 10-ranked Florida team that’s 5-0 but which hasn’t yet faced a ranked team, so it’s hard to know how talented they are. They won against Miami in a wild season-opener and then struggled against Kentucky, having to overcome a double digit deficit in the 4th quarter— but, rally they did and in enemy territory to boot.
GameDay, unsurprisingly, will be in Gainesville. It will be the first game there featuring two teams ranked in the top 10 since 2012. To say it’s a pivotal game for both teams is a huge understatement. The Gators are pulling out all the stops — scheduling Auburn, not Towson State, for Homecoming and sporting their vintage uniforms from the ’60s which were worn during the era when Spurrier won the Heisman. They will be motivated!
Florida has a talented corps of receivers and, like a typical Dan Mullen team, will also try to establish their running game. The offense has been balanced this year with nearly the same percentage of running and passing plays, even though the passing game has been significantly more productive. With QB Kyle Trask showing that he has a strong arm, going 18 of 20 against Towson, as well as multiple talented receivers to haul in these passes, it will be surprising if they don’t test our pass defense early and often.
Mullen also says that Florida has a chance to have an elite defense if it gets some of its banged up players off the disabled list, which should be the case this Saturday. There is no doubt that the Gators will be snapping at our Tigers’ paws early and often. We can’t afford three turnovers in the muddy waters of The Swamp
Except for those fumbles, our guys looked extremely potent as they scored on the first five drives against Mississippi State and then made it six of seven in the first half, which ended with a Auburn 42, MSU 9 score. Bo Nix found his receivers for 335 yards, going 16 of 21 and two touchdowns. Seth Williams, with 161 yards, had a career night as well.
Seeing Boobee Whitlow scamper for a touchdown on our first play from scrimmage, being touched only by Bully, State’s bulldog mascot, in the end zone was a sign of what was to come in the first half, the most impressive one Auburn has produced in SEC play in quite some time. I wish we could have banked some of those scores for some of our future opponents!
We will definitely be challenged in Gainesville on Saturday, but we have the tools to win another big road game if we remain focused, and I think we will. Aubie will be chasing Albert and Alberta, the Gators’ mascots, out of The Swamp and back into the Everglades. Auburn 24, Florida 17.
Betty Burgess, retired English teacher, Auburn grad and lifelong Auburn fan
Great crowd Saturday night, with all the orange. It was very exciting to see the basketball team and Coach Pearl be recognized. He has done so much for our men’s basketball program.
Game really went in a direction I had not dreamed of. Started fast and never let up. I don’t think Coach Moorehead knew what hit him until they were down by 21. He probably wished he had never got off the bus. Gus is doing a great job with the play-calling. He threw so much stuff out for the Gators to prepare for, some coaches or analysts will be working day and night. Gus is really bringing Nix around. He had his best night passing the ball. Looks like the offensive line is working together now. Whitlow is running the ball well but needs to stay away from the bulldogs. There’s one that will show up later in the season and his ancestor has a history of snapping at Auburn players.
The Florida Gators are a team that we used to play every year. The two games that stand out to me between Auburn and Florida are 1983 and 1994. In 1983, Charley Pell brought his Gators into Jordan-Hare with a lot of talent. We won the game on the way to winning the SEC Championship. Coach Dye has said many times that there were 54 players between those two teams that went on to play in the NFL. In 1994, we were playing the Florida Gators, who was ranked No. 1 in the nation, in the “Swamp." As time was running out, Pat Nix threw a TD pass to Frank Sanders in the end zone to win the game. There have been many other great games between Auburn and Florida, especially during the Tuberville years. One of my most fond Aub/Fla games was in Auburn 1993 on our way to an undefeated season. A friend of ours from Montgomery, Keith Loomis, was with us at the game. He was the most exciting fan that night when we won the game. He did the Gator Chop many times that night. Keith later developed cancer and passed away a few years ago. He’ll be watching from above this weekend, yelling War Eagle, and doing the Gator Chop.
This year's game will be electrifying in the “Swamp” with GameDay being there. This is a must win for us if we want to get to Atlanta. We have to continue to play good defense and our secondary has to improve. We will be able to stop the run, but can we cover during the pass? Mullen will have a good offensive plan, but has he played against a defense like ours? Gus needs to have the same plan as the last two games on offense. Score early and often. Use all our assets and talent, especially Gatewood.
There will be a lot of Orange and Blue in Gainesville. Auburn will take a big crowd. We are hungry. Auburn 31 – Florida 27.
Wendell McLain, Auburn retired brigadier general, Alabama National Guard
Already, the Iron Bowl is being trumpeted by some as the “game of the year,” and ESPN has moved Auburn up to No. 3 in its weekly College Power Rankings — ahead of Clemson and Georgia.
That’s all based on the Tigers’ blowout of Mississippi State in which the offense came alive behind the passing and running of Bo Nix. And there was Auburn’s usual brutal defense.
Though Auburn is 5-0 (2-0 SEC) and looks to be on the rise, it may be a little early for those lofty projections because of the merciless road the Tigers are traveling.
And it continues Saturday against No. 8, unbeaten and modest underdog Florida at Gainesville.
After Auburn’s impressive win against State and Florida’s routine victory over Towson State, ESPN’s Football Power Index changed from giving Auburn only a 47.3 percent chance of beating the Gators to 53.2 percent.
From the start of the 2019 season, I’ve had the Tigers penciled in for a win at Florida though The Swamp has proved a difficult venue for Auburn, especially through the Steve Spurrier years.
But Auburn leads the series 43-38-2, and has won four of the past five games, including upsets of then-ranked No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4 Florida.
On paper, the Gators have a better defense than Auburn, but Florida has played a far less challenging schedule than the Tigers.
The matchup, at least statistically, favors Auburn. Florida has struggled with its running game, while Auburn’s defense has been ferocious against the run.
That single stat could make the Florida offense one-dimensional, which could spell trouble for the Gators. But the Auburn secondary may have to rise to the challenge because Florida has a capable passing game.
Look for Nix to continue his upward trajectory with Auburn’s talented group of receivers, opening up the run.
The defense will bend but not break in a hostile environment, and the Tigers will escape with win number five en route to future showdowns with No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia and No. 5 LSU.
Make it: Auburn 24, Florida 20.
Bob Lowry, a retired political reporter for United Press International, and three daily newspapers
I think Auburn played a really much improved game against Miss. State. From special teams to offense to defense, they really looked. Best game by far, and probably due to more playing time under their belt, more innovation by the coaches, the coaches expanding both their offense and defense with more plays, involving more players, and both coaches and players being more prepared for the opponent.
I have only watched about 15 minutes of one of the Florida games. But from looking at their record, the two most difficult opponents for them were Miami (24–20) and Kentucky (29–21). I don’t know how good Miami is this year either, but they sure look fast. Florida beat Tenn.-Martin (45–0), Tennessee 34–3, and Towson 38–0. It appears to me just from the record that Florida is beatable, even though we play them in the “Swamp."
The AU coaches must have read my prediction last week that they needed to start fast and keep their foot on the gas. They came out ready to play and didn’t take a half to get up to full speed. The kicking game was really good, the offense scored on six of their first seven times with the ball, and the lead was 42 to 9 at halftime. The defense played well and limited their offense to really not much and held State to 118 yards rushing, even though they came into the game with the SEC's leading rusher.
I think Florida will be ready for Auburn and probably faster than State. Playing in the Swamp is not easy. But if Auburn plays like they did against Mississippi State, Auburn wins 28 to 17.
James Sprayberry, local attorney and longtime Auburn season ticket holder
Editor's note: Check back in next week's Villager to see the panel's mid-season take on the Tigers' season and find the Panel of Wanna-Be Experts online at auburnvillager.com.