When I think of how Florida can beat Auburn in 2019, I recall how the Gators beat LSU and Joe Burrow in 2018.
Yes, it is true that Ed Orgeron hadn’t yet made the necessary and enlightened transition to a modernized passing offense at LSU. Yes, it is true that Joe Brady has done wonders for Burrow’s development as a passer this season; those improvements had not surfaced 12 months ago at this time.
Yes, 2019 LSU is not 2018 LSU.
Nevertheless, remember how Florida handled the Tigers of Baton Rouge a year ago. It offers the roadmap for how the Gators can chomp down on the Tigers of Auburn this season.
Though Burrow’s evolution as a passer had not yet soared to the next level, Burrow had already demonstrated a knack for making clutch plays. His last-minute drive on the road to beat Auburn transformed Orgeron’s coaching career and set the tone for LSU’s redemptive, overachieving 2018 season.
Burrow was a confident quarterback entering last year’s Florida game, even though he had not come especially close to reaching the height of his powers. The Gators weren’t facing a juggernaut offense (this year’s LSU offense has earned that label), but they weren’t facing the inept LSU offense of previous seasons, either.
Florida’s plan against LSU last year was to force Burrow (getting crunched above) to consistently outmaneuver the Gators with a lot of short and short-intermediate passes. The Gators were not going to get beaten on long balls. They allowed only one completion longer than 23 yards, none of 40 yards or more. Burrow completed 19 passes for a modest 192 yards… and he completed barely more than 50 percent of his 34 throws. When he did challenge the Gators down the field, Florida was ready.
Making Burrow win with more and shorter throws put LSU’s offense into throes of agony.
Burrow wasn’t able to be the consistent quarterback the Gators required him to become. Florida pounced on opportunities when they emerged, snagging two interceptions, including a game-sealing pick six in the final minutes of regulation.
Florida forced three turnovers from LSU’s offense. As a result, the Gators collected points off turnovers and created a game in which their offense produced only two scoring drives longer than 43 yards. Florida scored 27 points without its offense having to do too much. Two sustained drives plus a short-field score and the pick-six gave the Gators more than enough to beat LSU.
Doesn’t that seem like the exact template which – if executed properly – will lead Florida to a win over Auburn?
Bo Nix, like Burrow last year, is a confident quarterback entering this game. He just torched Mississippi State and hit the deep balls he had been missing in previous games.
Yet, skeptics (such as myself, I freely admit) will point out that Mississippi State at home isn’t Florida in the Swamp. Moreover, Mississippi State’s 2019 defense isn’t anywhere close to the loaded 2018 MSU defense which featured three top-27 NFL Draft picks.
Force Bo Nix to hit lots of short passes. Don’t allow Auburn speedsters such as Anthony Schwartz to get behind the Gator secondary. Generate a consistent pass rush which keeps Nix contained in the pocket and doesn’t provide running lanes for the Auburn quarterback.
Get points off turnovers. Set up at least one if not two or three short-field drives.
Ask Kyle Trask and the offense to put together one or two long drives and otherwise take care of the ball, facilitating good field position to increase Florida’s margin for error on both sides of the ball while reducing those same margins for Auburn.
Ixnay on the Nix, eh? It is Florida’s most direct path to an upset on a day when Kyle Trask needs to be the less mistake-prone quarterback on the field. That is a big ask for Florida… but it did beat Joe Burrow last year.
Gators announced home and home series with Cal Friday
The Florida Gators continued their philosophy of striking “home-and-home” deals with Power 5 opposition, when they announced on Friday that they will be doing so with the Cal-Berkley Bears out of the Pac-12 coming later in this decade.
The Gators made the announcement through their website and social media mid-day Friday that they will play Cal at home first and then travel to Berkeley the following year:
Coast to coast❗
🐻 at 🐊 2026
🐊 at 🐻 2027#GoGators
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) February 7, 2020
A.D. Scott Stricklin has broken up the long tradition that Florida would only play two home out of conference games in September and usually, against much lesser competition before entering SEC play. Stricklin has been very outspoken that in the age of the College Football Playoff, strength of schedule is emphasized and the selection committee holds schools responsible for not playing top-notch out of conference opponents, at least some of the time.
With that in mind, the Gators opened the 2019 season in Orlando against the Miami Hurricanes and won a sloppy game. And, they already have other Power 5 schools laid out to play home and away.
As we previously wrote, Florida will be playing the Texas Longhorns first in Gainesville in 2030 and then. return the game the following year in Austin.
Florida had previously announced last year that they will also play the Colorado Buffaloes out of the Pac-12, again with the first game in Gainesville in 2028 and then, returning it to Boulder the following season.
It’s interesting with Friday’s announcement that Stricklin and the football program are working backwards with the schedule. And, they will now play Cal before Colorado in September of 2026, and then will be opening on the Berkeley campus the following season.
Florida and Cal have only met two times, having played first in Gainesville in 1974 as the Gators wo 21 – 17 and then, they also met in Tampa to open the 1980 season with a Florida 41-13 blowout victory.
Second National Signing Day recap for top state schools
National Signing Day 2020 has come and gone, and several in state schools were able to improve their classes heading into spring ball. The University of Florida watched rival Georgia secure the number one overall class, but the Gators were still able to land the best class in the state with the number eight class overall.
The Gators officially signed former five-star receiver Justin Shorter from Penn State, and Florida stayed in the family today as well, Xzavier Henderson officially joined the Gators. He’s the ounger brother of former DB C.J. Henderson.
Dan Mullen also able to dip into the state of Texas inking four-star DE Princely Umanmielen. It wasn’t all great news for the Gators, as they missed out on a few key guys, including losing out on arguably top state safety Avantae Williams to in state rival Miami. Overall it was a good cycle for the Gators both recruiting and in the transfer portal.
The Miami Hurricanes continued an impressive offseason on National Signing Day. The Canes made arguably the biggest move in the state by landing Williams and keeping him Florida. Williams became the highest rated Hurricane in the class and propelled the U to the number 13 spot.
Miami has the second-best class in the ACC behind Clemson. With an impressive offseason in the books, once again excitement will be in the air in Coral Gables. The question is: will they live up to it in year two for Manny Diaz?
Florida State and new coach Mike Norvell have been working hard to get this class rolling last minute. After a good early National Signing Day Norvell looked to keep the momentum going. The Noles took a big hit Wednesday though, with the loss of Venice four star WR, Malachi Wideman, who flipped to Tennessee.
The Noles came back from that by landing a handful of other recruits. They got the number six Juco running back La’Damian Webb, ass well as, Robert Scott, an offensive lineman and Corey Wren, an athlete/running back.
Replacing Cam Akers will be tough for Norvell and building the offensive line is a top priority. The former Memphis coach came in late like he did, yet he finishes with a decent class sitting at 22 on 24/7.
Now the work begins turning around the former powerhouse.