AUBURN, Ala. - No. 11 Auburn is a four-touchdown favorite for Saturday's game against Florida Atlantic at Jordan-Hare Stadium. There is no record of Auburn losing a game in which it has been such a favorite.
The Tigers are 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the Southeastern Conference and coming off a stirring 45-41 victory at then-No. 7 Texas A&M. Florida Atlantic is 2-5. But history says that it's not impossible for trouble to be lurking at Jordan-Hare.
Since 1990, Auburn has had at least five close calls at home against prohibitive underdogs.
Here they are:
Sept. 4, 1999: Auburn 22, Appalachian State (FCS) 15
Auburn was playing Appalachian State in Tommy Tuberville's first game as head coach because of a controversial decision to drop a scheduled game with Florida State. Ben Leard threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Ronney Daniels with 38 seconds left to break a 15-15 tie and rescue the Tigers.
Earlier in the fourth quarter, disaster almost hit. With the ball at the Auburn 20-yard-line, Leard was not ready when the snap came. Freshman wide receiver Travaris Robinson, who would become an All-SEC safety, beat Appalachian State defenders to the ball and recovered inside the 5-yard line.
Nov. 9, 1996: Auburn 28, Northeast Louisiana 24
Auburn head coach Terry Bowden was in the press box after undergoing neck surgery earlier in the week. No one thought it would matter. Auburn was a 41-point favorite.
But Northeast Louisiana (now Louisiana-Monroe) led 21-13 in the fourth quarter before Auburn tied it. Northeast Louisiana then took a 24-21 lead. It could have been worse. The visitors had a first down on Auburn's 1 before settling for a field goal.
Quarterback Dameyune Craig took the Tigers 57 yards to the winning touchdown. He finished off the drive with a 6-yard pass to fullback Kevin McLeod.
Oct. 24, 1992: Auburn 25, Southwest Louisiana 25-24
Southwest Louisiana (now Louisiana-Lafayette), coming in with a 2-6 record, took a shocking 24-10 halftime lead at Auburn's homecoming. The Tigers trailed 24-22 when they got the ball back with 1:55 remaining and drove to the winning field goal. Scott Etheridge made it from 30 yards with 14 seconds left in the game.
Aug. 31, 1991: Auburn 32, Georgia Southern (FCS) 17
Georgia Southern raced to a 17-3 halftime lead in the season-opener at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Tigers rallied to finally win going away.
Oct. 6, 1990: Auburn 16, Louisiana Tech 14
Louisiana Tech was in its first season in Division I-A and Auburn was ranked No. 5 in the nation. But deep into the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs led 14-13 and appeared primed to pull off the upset. Facing fourth-and-2 in Auburn territory, they could have clinched the victory with a first down. But head coach Joe Raymond Peace chose to punt, and Auburn rallied.
White drove the Tigers 74 yards in 12 plays, and Jim Von Wyl kicked the game-winning 30-yard field goal as time expired.
As the 2013 Tigers prepare to play Florida Atlantic, first-year Auburn coach Gus Malzahn says the Owls are plenty good enough to cause the Tigers big problems if they don't approach the game the way they have approached games against bigger-name teams.
"I think that's a challenge for any team in college football," Malzahn said. "You see it every week. You see teams that are on a high kind of losing their momentum. That's our challenge. We've got to keep moving forward. We've got to keep improving and not look ahead. It's a challenge. It's something we address. I'm very up front with our players."
It would be a big surprise if Auburn players don't take the Owls seriously. It has not been the personality of this team to do anything else.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: