They pulled up the game film this week, and for both of them, there was no doubt as to who was coaching the other side.
They could’ve seen the personalities in the schemes right there on tape.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham have gone head-to-head plenty of times before — and Saturday, Malzahn’s flashy offense meets Grantham’s aggressive defense again when No. 7 Auburn travels to face No. 10 Florida in Gainesville.
Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on CBS.
And for veteran play-caller Malzahn and veteran defensive mind Grantham, the game will mark the sixth time they’ve matched wits.
“We’ve had some battles,” Grantham said during his preparation this week down in Gainesville. “He’s a guy that challenges you to make sure you’re good in the run defense, so we’ve got to make sure we do that.”
Yes, he knows just what to expect from Malzahn: The run-first attack will be there inside, with the jet sweeps and deep balls stretching the field all around — with inventive formations puzzling defenses all the way.
On the other side, Malzahn knows what he’ll get from Grantham: Blitzes and aggressiveness providing the chomp to that Gator defense, with players matching that same personality.
Grantham and Florida boast the SEC’s best scoring defense, allowing just 8.8 points per game.
“They’re really aggressive,” Malzahn said. “Of course, their defensive coordinator — we’ve went against each other a lot of times — he’s one of the best. He has an aggressive mindset.
“Their players are playing that way and they’ve got some guys that can flat get after it.”
Malzahn and Grantham first crossed paths in 2010, when Malzahn was the offensive coordinator at Auburn and Grantham was the defensive coordinator at Georgia. They met again in the same roles in 2011, then in 2013 when Grantham was still at Georgia and Malzahn was in his first season as head coach at Auburn.
Grantham was even at Louisville when Malzahn and Auburn played the Cardinals in the first game of the 2015 season.
Grantham then joined Mullen at Mississippi State for the 2017 season before jump to Florida with Mullen for last season.
All told, Malzahn is 4-1 against Grantham, with the only loss coming in the 2011 Auburn-Georgia game. Make it 3-1 head-to-head with Malzahn as a play-caller, as Auburn’s former offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey called the plays in the 2017 Auburn-Mississippi State game.
Malzahn took over play-calling again at Auburn before the Music City Bowl last December, and counting the bowl game, his team’s gone 6-0 since.
Grantham agreed with a reporter down in Gainesville earlier this week saying that there’s not many in Malzahn’s class as a play-caller.
“He does a really good job of understanding the players he has, understanding how to get the ball in those guys’ hands in space to be effective — whether it’s first down, second down, third down, doesn’t matter,” Grantham said. “I think that’s what kind of makes him unique.”
Cue up the film of Anthony Schwartz breaking free on the end-around. Cut up the tape of Will Hastings running deep.
Grantham describes an Auburn attack plenty familiar with fans who’ve followed Malzahn’s teams — because he’s seen them himself often enough.
“I think Gus does a really good of getting the ball to his playmakers,” Grantham said. “I mean when you look at it, he’s going to find ways to get the ball in those guys’ hands, both as runners running the ball, but receivers, whether it be rocket sweeps, balls down the field, screens, things like that.
“And they’re really a physical team when you look at their run game,” he added. “They’re a downhill running team that will continue to pound you. But they have ways to get the ball on the edge of the defense. So you’ve got to make sure you play a complete game from an assignment standpoint as far as setting the edge of your defense, building a wall and communicating and executing.”
On top of the SEC’s leading scoring defense, Florida also boasts the conference’s third-best total defense, giving up 281.2 yards per game, and the league’s second-best mark in rushing defense, allowing only 86.8 yards per game on the ground.
Auburn has the conference’s second-most productive rushing offense, rolling up 251 rushing yards per game, going into Saturday’s showdown in The Swamp.