The Edge: UK vs. Auburn

Key Matchups:

UK defense vs. quarterback Cam Newton

Newton, who originally signed with Florida out of high school, leads the Southeastern Conference in passing efficiency with a 191.4 rating. However, he is by no means only a pocket passer. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound junior quarterback also leads the Tigers with 474 rushing yards. UK’s scout team Tyler Sargent has been playing the role of the opposing quarterback during practice this week, but simulating Newton’s mobility and strength in practice is virtually impossible.

UK head coach Joker Phillips said Newton is the player that needs to be stopped for the Cats to have a chance to spring the upset over a team that averages 36.6 points per game. Promising for the UK defense is the fact it limited a dual-threat quarterback last weekend, holding Ole Miss’ Jeremiah Masoli to 90 passing yards and 43 rushing yards.

Edge: Newton

UK special teams vs. Auburn special teams

Often the most-overlooked of the three phases of football, special teams could be pivotal in this game. Junior wide receiver Randall Cobb had five punt returns for 85 yards last week. This week, Cobb indicated he was tired of losing, and a big punt or kickoff return could be the spark he uses to ignite his teammates. Auburn wider receiver Quindarius Carr returns punts at a clip of 7.7 yards.

In the kicking game, Auburn senior Wes Byrum has been a model of consistency for four years at Auburn and is 34 points away from becoming all-time leading scorer in school history. Aside from going 0-for-2 in field goals against South Carolina, Byrum has replicated the form that led him to a 94 percent field goal conversion rate last season.

Conversely, UK freshman kicker Joe Mansour impresses coaches with his powerful leg on kickoffs, but struggles with his accuracy at times, sending too many kickoffs out of bounds. Giving Auburn great field position because of out of bounds kicks will be tough to overcome. On the bright side, UK sophomore kicker Craig McIntosh drilled a 42- and 50-yard field goal against Ole Miss, as he seems to have solidified his field goal duties.

If the Cats win, it probably won’t be a large margin of victory, so taking advantage of every PAT and field goal opportunity could be the difference.

Edge: Auburn special teams

UK vs. Top-25 talent

The Cats last win over a ranked Auburn team came in 1964 when the Cats blanked the then seventh-ranked Tigers 20-0. That game marked the only time the Cats have beaten Auburn when the Tigers have been in the top 25 (1-13).

Phillips acknowledged Auburn had better athletes, but when the Cats played error-free football last year against the Tigers, it was enough to overcome top-25 talent. UK desperately wants a win to ensure the losing streak doesn’t get out of hand. And despite Auburn’s No.8 ranking this week, three of its five wins have come by a combined 14 points, meaning a close game is a possibility.

Edge: Top-25 talent

Final Edge: Sizeable edge for Auburn