The third week of the college football season opened on Monday morning, and the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide are favored by more than two touchdowns in their Saturday contest against Florida.
Not that it bothers the Gators’ new transfer defensive tackle Daquan Newkirk much.
“Hey, I love it,” Newkirk said during media availability Monday night. “Just got to go out there and play.”
The redshirt senior spent his first three years at Auburn, so he doesn’t need any extra motivation to foster animosity toward his old Iron Bowl foe.
“Something well-learned over the years,” Newkirk said about hating Alabama. “So I know what it takes. I know what I had to come into this week doing.”
Junior linebacker Mohamoud Diabate echoed his teammate’s sentiment about being the underdog, saying the news didn’t bother him at all.
“That’s what somebody else thinks,” Diabate said. “They don’t know what goes on in our building, they don’t know what’s going on in Alabama’s building.”
The Auburn, Alabama, native grew up in War Eagle territory, but he said a lot of his best friends growing up rooted for the Crimson Tide. He knows the eyes of those fans and his former teachers, among many others in his home state, will be on him this week.
Beyond serving as a personal rivalry game for Newkirk and Diabate, Saturday’s matchup against Alabama offers a chance at revenge for last season’s SEC Championship loss, when Florida came within six points of dethroning Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban.
The last game between these two squads offered 1,067 combined yards, 59 first downs and 98 total points before the clock expired. Diabate hopes Saturday’s game goes a little differently.
“Just being a defensive guy, I’d rather the score be 10-7,” Diabate said.
The third-year linebacker highlighted Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, the redshirt freshman whose collegiate career is off to a sterling start. Young threw for 571 yards and seven touchdowns through his first two starts in 2021, but Diabate and the defense hope to put the fresh signal-caller under pressure.
“Our whole goal is to rattle the quarterback,” Diabate said. “Whether he’s been there four years or two days.”
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham agreed emphatically, hoping to capitalize on Young’s first career road start.
“I think any time you can affect the quarterback, you’re going to be successful,” Grantham said. “Obviously, you've got to be able to, first of all, stop the run...but anytime you can affect the quarterback and get after him a little bit, and make him a little nerve-wracked, that's got a chance to be in your favor.”
Saban’s squad surrendered three sacks over their first two games. The Gators have gotten to opposing quarterbacks for seven sacks and 14 tackles for loss themselves, including three sacks and 5.5 TFL from redshirt senior defensive lineman Zachary Carter.
Saturday’s game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. Saturday from The Swamp.
Contact Ryan Haley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ryan_dhaley.
Ryan Haley is a second-year journalism major with a sports & media specialization from Jacksonville, Florida. He grew up playing a bunch of different sports before settling on golf, following Rory McIlroy and all Philadelphia sports teams. He also loves all things fiction, reading, watching shows and movies and talking about whatever current story or character is in his head.