As embarrassing as those results were for my column, I could not have been more wrong than my prediction for the Florida game. “I sold my ticket to the Swamp when I realized it wouldn’t be much fun to drive six hours to watch us get clobbered” (9/12/07). I told a number of people that their trips to Gainesville were going to be a waste of time. The Auburn Tigers, apparently, thought otherwise.
I should have known that Auburn would pull off the upset. The Tigers are at their best when they are perceived to be at their worst. (I wish Auburn could somehow play as the underdog in every game for the rest of its history, because then Auburn would never lose.) Also, recent history has shown that Auburn is capable of beating Florida without an offense: the Gators are no match for Auburn’s defense and special teams.
In 2001, Auburn placekicking legend Damon Duvall tacked a 40+ yard field goal with ten seconds left onto a pair earlier in the game. That kick defeated Spurrier’s final Gator squad, which was ranked #1 coming into Jordan-Hare Stadium. I was only fifteen when I attended that game, but seeing the students rush the field and tear down the goal posts is one memory I will never forget.
In 2006, Auburn rebounded from a humiliating loss to then-underappreciated Arkansas to defeat the future national champions. John Vaughn, who single handedly lost the 2005 LSU game (for which I will never forgive him), put four of five through the uprights. The defense forced mutliple turnovers, a safety, and converted a blocked punt into a touchdown.
In 2007, offensive coordinator Al Borges replaced quarterback Brandon Cox with a ridiculously efficient robot. Cox was 17 of 26 for 227 yards, connecting on multiple occasions with superstar receiver Rodgriqus Smith. He didn’t throw any touchdowns, but that was due to the utilization of Kodi Burns in the red zone. More importantly, Cox didn’t throw any interceptions, either.
“Wait a second,” you may be asking yourself. “Didn’t you say Auburn beats Florida without offense?” Yes, I did; I guess I exaggerated a little. The Tiger defense held the Gators to only 17 points when they had averaged 49.25 in their first four games. They shut down Tebow three consecutive times inside the goal line.
The difference maker, in my opinion, was special teams. It all began with a Florida penalty: roughing the kicker transformed Auburn’s first drive from a three-and-out to a field-long campaign for the end zone. Early in the second quarter, Auburn blocked a 34 yard field goal attempt. And, of course, freshman kicker Wes Byrum nailed two field goals (three, if you count the first try at the game winner) in the second half to seal the win.
I wish I had a picture of Byrum’s Gator chomp. It was classic.
I’m a little worried about Vanderbilt’s visit to the Plains on Saturday. Just as Auburn is incredible as an underdog, Auburn is sketchy as a favorite and slow in the morning. Three of our last four losses were to unranked opponents and kicked off no later than noon (Arkansas, Georgia, and Mississippi State). However, considering my stupidity in recent times, I’m going to go against what I would normally say and pick Auburn to win by more than two touchdowns.
That reminds of me of the Seinfeld episode where George finds incredible success by rebelling against his instincts. Maybe I should try that on this week’s slate. Would South Carolina over Kentucky (Thursday, 7:30 PM ET, ESPN) be an upset? Certainly Illinois over Wisconsin (Saturday, 12 PM ET, ESPN) would. So would Florida over LSU (8 PM ET, CBS) (thank goodness I’ll get to watch it). Just for kicks, I’ll pick Purdue over Ohio State, Eastern Michigan over Michigan, Florida Atlantic over South Florida, and…Stanford over USC. It’s so crazy that it just might work!
I’m taking college football advice from this guy. It can’t get worse than last week, right?