Running the Point is a weekly column written by Noah Gardner of RadioAlabama Sports, featuring opinion on Auburn Athletics and other relevant sports topics. Follow Noah on Twitter at @PointGuardner.
Auburn has the most impressive resume in the country, but it is still unknown whether the Tigers are pretenders or contenders. On Saturday against No. 10 Florida, we are going to find out.
When Auburn has started 5-0 since 2000, the Tigers are 2-4 (1-4 SEC) in the sixth game of the season, outscored 103-160 in SEC play. In the four seasons Auburn lost the sixth game, the Tigers averaged four losses. In the two years Auburn won the sixth game, the Tigers went 27-0, winning two SEC Championships, a Sugar Bowl and a BCS National Championship.
With the difficulty of Auburn’s schedule increasing dramatically after its game with the Gators, it is time for the Tigers to decide if they are going to contend in the SEC West this season.
Undoubtedly, Florida is Auburn’s toughest test of the season. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium hasn’t been kind to the Tigers with Florida boasting a 23-9 record against Auburn when playing in Gainesville. The Florida defense, especially the defensive line, will provide the most pressure to Bo Nix and the Auburn offense so far this season.
Florida is tied for second in sacks in the FBS with 24, and they rank fourth nationally in tackles for loss with 45. The pressure starts with the front seven, which has forced opposing quarterbacks into interceptions. Florida is one of two teams with seven different players with an interception. The Gators already have 13 takeaways on the year, while Auburn has five.
Nix hasn’t committed a turnover since the first half of the Oregon game, but unfortunately for Auburn, the Tigers have put the ball on the turf 12 times, losing five of them.
Auburn will have to overcome the turnover bug and Florida’s defense in a pressure-packed environment. Against Mississippi State, we saw Nix play his best game, throwing for 335 yards on 16 completions. It is evident Nix took a step forward against the Bulldogs, but Saturday’s game against Florida will look much different compared to a home game against Mississippi State. It will closely resemble the type of game Auburn faced in College Station, where Nix threw for 100 yards on 12 completions. An offensive performance like the one in College Station won’t be enough to win in Gainesville. Nix will have to be effective against the ravenous Gator defense.
Recent history may not like Auburn’s chances in the sixth game of the season after starting 5-0, but it does tell us one thing: if Auburn prevails, it could be in for a special season.