Pick a storyline, Auburn-Florida rivalry has had it all

Updated: October 12, 2006, 6:09 PM ET
Associated Press

AUBURN, Ala. -- Stunning upsets. Thrilling comebacks. Heisman Trophy moments. Even a 24-year jinx.

The Florida-Auburn rivalry has had it all.

There were famous kicks by Steve Spurrier -- yes, that Steve Spurrier -- and Damon Duval. There was the Gators stuffing Bo Jackson in 1985 and rising to No. 1 for the first time.

And what about the so-called Cliff Hare Stadium jinx, when Florida failed to win at Auburn's place from 1949-72? The entire time the stadium held that name, in fact.

But you don't have to go back nearly that far to appreciate the rivalry that will be renewed Saturday night, when No. 2 Florida (6-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) and No. 11 Auburn (5-1, 3-1) meet in another high-stakes showdown.

Just consider, for starters, the last two meetings:

--In 2001, an unranked Auburn team knocked off Spurrier and No. 1 Florida 23-20 on Damon Duval's 44-yard field goal with 10 seconds left. The kick was set up by the passing of backup quarterback Daniel Cobb, who replaced a struggling Jason Campbell.

--The next season, Auburn scored two touchdowns and converted a pair of 2-point conversions in the fourth quarter to force overtime. Duval had another chance to win it, but Bobby McCray blocked his 23-yarder with 30 seconds left. Then Rex Grossman hit Taylor Jacobs on a 25-yard, third-down touchdown pass in overtime for a 30-23 victory.

Current Auburn defensive back Patrick Lee watched that one on television.

"I was like, 'That's a big game and I'd love to be in it," Lee, a Miami native, said. "I can't wait for this one. It's going to be lovely out there."

It sure could be, judging by history.

The teams haven't played since that 2002 game. The annual rivalry was a casualty of an SEC scheduling change that rotated non-divisional opponents, to the dismay of David Housel and Norm Carlson. They're the resident football historians at their respective schools.

"To me that's kind of like Oklahoma and Nebraska not playing every year," said Housel, retired from posts as Auburn's athletic and sports information director. "There are some rivalries that should just be played."

"There have just been so many great games over the years," echoed Carlson, Florida's former SID. "I really miss it."

Georgia and Georgia Tech are the only teams Auburn has faced more often than the Gators, and the Tigers lead the series by a not-so-commanding 40-38-2. Florida has played only Georgia more often.

Florida and Auburn are the only Top 25 teams facing off this week, though several highly ranked teams face potentially tricky conference opponents

No. 1 Ohio State is at Michigan State; No. 3 Southern California hosts Arizona State; No. 4 Michigan at Penn State; and No. 5 West Virginia plays Syracuse at home.

No. 6 Texas faces Baylor matchup of Bi 12 South co-leaders.

No. 7 Louisville hosts Cincinnati and Cardinals quarterback Brian Brohm, out since Sept. 16 with a hand injury, might play.

No. 10 California is at Washington State; No. 14 LSU hosts Kentucky; No. 15 Iowa is at Indiana and No. 16 Georgia plays Vanderbilt at home.

No. 17 Arkansas plays Southeast Missouri; No. 18 Oregon hosts UCLA; No. 19 Missouri is at Texas A&M; and No. 21 Nebraska is at Kansas State. No. 23 Oklahoma hosts Iowa State; No. 24 Rutgers plays at Navy and No. 25 Wisconsin is at Minnesota.

No. 20 Boise State plays at New Mexico State on Sunday night.

Florida coach Urban Meyer, like most of his players, has never participated in a Florida-Auburn game. He showed his players highlight videos of rivalries with Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State over the summer.

Auburn wasn't included. That's kind of old news for 20-year-old kids.

"I remember when I was at Notre Dame, everybody was saying, 'OK, tell them about Rockne and Gipper and the Four Horsemen," Meyer said. "It's a different era."< ^UCLA at No. 18 Oregon<

EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregon receiver Jaison Williams believes he knows what UCLA's defense has been up to lately: The Bruins are likely dissecting the Ducks' loss to California last week.

"Once the offense came out and wasn't clicking, it all went downhill from there, and we never had a chance to pick ourselves up because we were feeling sorry for ourselves," he said.

Coming off that 45-24 loss to the Golden Bears, Oregon (4-1, 2-1 Pac-10) hosts UCLA (4-1, 2-1) at Autzen Stadium.

An issue for the Ducks is the running game. Jonathan Stewart managed just 25 yards on 18 carries against Cal.

While Oregon still leads the league with 197 yards rushing per game, UCLA's run defense ranks at the top of the Pac-10 and second in the nation at 50 yards allowed per game.< ^No. 4 Michigan at Penn State<

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Mike Hart can be hard to find before he emerges from behind Michigan's massive offensive line, while Penn State's Tony Hunt likes to bowl over opponents in between the tackles.

But two of the nation's best backs might face their toughest tests yet this season Saturday night, trying to gain yards on two of the country's top run defenses.

The Wolverines (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) and Nittany Lions (4-2, 2-1) meet under the lights at Beaver Stadium.

"If you can run the football, stop the run, and you are good in protecting the football and not turning it over, then you have a great chance to win," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.

It's a formula that has worked to perfection so far for the Wolverines, angling for a BCS run behind Division I-A's stingiest run defense (40.3 yards) and the elusive Hart on offense.

The 5-foot-9 junior averages 132.3 yards a game, eighth-best in the country. With receiver Mario Manningham (nine TDs) out this week after having knee surgery, Hart might have to shoulder more of the load.

Hunt averages 111.5 yards per game, third in the Big Ten.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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