Kevin C. Cox
Even though the Auburn Tigers are considered by some Florida Gators fans to be a hated rival, sometimes things are different and you've gotta root for them.
The short and long answer to the title question, is of course ... yes.
Yes, I'm fully aware the Florida Gators and Auburn Tigers played every year from 1945-2002 and met quite often before then beginning in 1912. I'm also well aware of the fact that a lot of Gator old-timers still consider the Tigers a hated rival.
But they aren't a rival anymore, in my opinion. I know that many Gators fans do consider them to be a rival. The Tigers are a team that for some reason the Gators struggle against. Just off the top of my head, I can think of the 1993, 1994, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2007 and 2011 years in which Auburn somehow, someway managed to either beat the Gators and/or make the game closer than it should have been.
There are two main reasons why I just don't consider them to be a rival. The first reason being that because I was born in the mid-1980's and even though I'm close, I'm not 30 years old yet. So while I was in middle school, high school and the beginnings of college, the Gators won 8 of 9 meetings. The Tigers were basically just another Georgia in that respect.
The second reason is that when the SEC changed their scheduling, the Tigers were left off of the Gators' schedule in favor of (the better choice) LSU. Rivals are supposed to play every year. Not only does that breed contempt and hate from the opposing players and fans, but nobody cares about a controversial play if nothing can be done about it for a decade.
Why do you think the Red Sox and Yankees hate one other so much? It's not because the Red Sox once won four games in a row to win a playoff series, but rather it's because they play one another 19 times a year. At least.
The hatred towards the Tigers just isn't there for me like it is for Florida State, Tennessee or Georgia. Heck, I've even fully forgiven Damon Duval for his transgressions in 2001.
Which of course leads me back to the title question: Is it acceptable to root for the Auburn Tigers this weekend in their match up with the Georgia Bulldogs?
You're damn right it is.
When the Bulldogs and Tigers take the field on Saturday, the impact will be felt in Gainesville. As we all know, if the Tigers win the Gators get their shot at Alabama in the SEC Championship Game in early December. If the Bulldogs win, well, they will just be another check mark on the Crimson Tide schedule.
Sure the Gators likely stand a better chance at a BCS bowl if they don't participate in the SEC Championship Game, but hey, like I've said before, there is no second.
With all the revenue sharing that occurs in college football these days, if you aren't playing for the national championship, it doesn't matter one bit what post-season game you're playing in. At the end of the day there is no difference between playing in the Sugar Bowl, Capitol One Bowl, Music City Bowl, AlabasterCaverns.com Bowl or whatever the hell they are calling these bowl games now.
It doesn't matter.
And spare me the recruiting edge or the boosters will donate more drivel. All that means is that you weren't good enough to play for the national championship. There is no difference. Boosters are still going to donate to the school and recruits are still going to be lining up to play at Florida.
Sugar Bowl or Capital One Bowl. It's not going to matter.
And besides, the only way to really rack up booster money and recruits is winning national championships. Or at the very least playing for them. Which is why it's imperative that we as Gators fans root strongly for the Tigers to beat the Bulldogs.
Because if that happens and then Gators beat the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game, they'll be playing for the BCS National Championship.
You can take that to the bank.
War. Damn. Eagle.