HOOVER, Ala. — The last time Auburn traveled to Florida, Guz Malzahn was the co-offensive coordinator at Tulsa.
His players? They were in elementary school.
Regardless, the Tigers understand the weight the renewal of the match-up carries, even if most are unfamiliar with the history of the rivalry.
“I think it’s a very big match-up, going down to Gainesville,” defensive tackle Derrick Brown said. “Being able to play against Florida, I think that’s big.”
Florida hosts Auburn this season for the first time since 2007, although the Gators did travel to Jordan-Hare Stadium in 2011 in what ultimately ended in a 17-6 defeat.
Although the teams first met on the gridiron more than a century ago, the SEC’s method of scheduling has essentially sidelined what was once a competitive rivalry. Auburn holds a 43-38-2 advantage in the series, with nearly half of the games being decided by a touchdown or less.
Taking the stage Thursday to conclude SEC Media Days, Malzahn made sure to mention there’s an additional element this season to the match-up.
“You get in SEC West play, which I believe the SEC West is the toughest league in the country, and it’s a grind. And then we have a crossover opponent. We go to Florida. We haven’t been to Florida in a long time, and I noticed that we’re their Homecoming opponent,” Malzahn said. “We have not been too many people’s Homecoming opponents in the past.”
While college football historians are likely familiar with the competitiveness of the series, it’s fresh in the eyes of the Tigers set to take the field Oct. 5.
For some, such as standout defensive end Marlon Davidson, personal aspects of the game are more significant than the idea of renewing a dormant series.
A native of Greenville, Alabama, Davidson grew up with UF safety Jeawon Taylor and running back Lamical Perine, with the former being “like a brother” to the 6-foot-3, 278-pound Davidson.
“Me and Jeawon text literally every day,” Davidson said. “We share a different bond. We work out with each other, we go to Mad House in Montgomery, we just like having fun.”
That familial bond? It won’t get in the way of Auburn’s mission, however. When Oct. 5 rolls around, it’s business as usual.
“Everybody wants to win, but sometimes, at the end of the game, somebody’s going to have an L and somebody’s going to have a W,” said Davidson. “It’s going to be fun going down there to Gainesville, it’s a different atmosphere there. You’re just going to see different things. And we’re just playing football, no matter what.”
For Auburn defensive lineman-turned-offensive lineman Prince Tega Wanogho, that’s all the trip to Gainesville will encompass: just playing football.
“I don’t know anything about the series, it’s just (another) game” he said. “It should be fun just going down there though.”
Yet that doesn’t mean the 6-foot-7, 305-pound native of Delta State, Nigeria, wouldn’t like to play the role of spoiler.
“That’ll be fun to play there,” Tega Wanogho said. “It would be fun to ruin (their Homecoming), but yeah, at the same time we’ll use it as motivation, knowing we have to bring our ‘A’ game.”