Gus Malzahn

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A reminder Nick Saban is a perfect 17-0 against former assistants as No. 1 Alabama heads to No. 24 Texas A&M

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It’s that time of the year again when we are regularly reminded that Alabama head coach Nick Saban has never lost to an assistant coach during his coaching career. That perfect streak will once again be put on the line this weekend when the top-ranked Crimson Tide make their way to College Station, Texas to face the No. 24 Texas A&M Aggies. Texas A&M, of course, is coached by Jimbo Fisher. You guessed it. Fisher is a former assistant to Saban.

Fisher has gone 0-2 against his former boss, including last season’s loss in SEC play. Last season marked the first time Fisher faced Saban as a coach of an SEC West Division foe. His previous loss to Saban came while coaching at Florida State when the No. 3 Seminoles opened the 2017 season with a 24-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama in the season opener in Atlanta, Georgia. The most-hyped Week 1 game in quite some time ended up being far from able to match the preseason hype. Florida State hasn’t exactly been the same since and may still be trying to recover from that game.

The odds always seem to be in Saban’s favor, as he generally has the best team in every matchup against his former assistants, and that should once again be the case this weekend. Is Saban due for a loss against an assistant? Perhaps. It’s hard to win so many games before taking a mild hit somewhere along the way, even if by a fluke. Fisher may have Texas A&M working to be a viable threat to Alabama, and maybe playing at home helps, but the Aggies have already lost one game at home to Auburn so it doesn’t seem like this may be a difficult destination for Alabama.

Brett McMurphy of Stadium notes Saban has lost to just nine active coaches. Active coaches with victories against Saban are Les Miles (Kansas; 3), Hugh Freeze (Liberty; 2), Gus Malzahn (Auburn; 2), Dabo Swinney (Clemson; 2), Mack Brown (UNC; 2), David Cutcliffe (Duke; 1), Kirk Ferentz (Iowa; 1), Kevin Sumlin (Arizona; 1) and Kyle Whittingham (1; Utah). Only four of those coaches (Malzahn, Swinney, Ferentz, Whittingham) are at the same program today as they were when they topped Saban. Swinney and Brown, of course, have victories against Saban in the national championship game (Brown in the BCS and Swinney twice in the College Football Playoff).

Is Fisher going to be the first former Saban assistant to beat his old boss? We’ll find out this week. If not, we may be waiting for Kirby Smart to get another crack in the SEC Championship Game.

SEC rolls out four-day summer media day schedule

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Once again, the SEC will be masters of media day coverage in the middle of the summer with a four-day media day extravaganza. This year, the SEC is returning to Birmingham, Alabama. The SEC distributed updated details about this year’s media day event including what schools and coaches will be speaking on what day.

The SEC will open up the 2019 media day fun on Monday, July 15 from the Hyatt Regency Birmingham – Wynfrey Hotel. Television coverage of the event will be available through the SEC Network as well as ESPN over the course of the four days.

The exact order of what coaches will be speaking at what times will be hashed out later on, but Florida’s Dan Mullen, LSU’s Ed Orgeron, and Missouri’s Barry Odom will be featured on Day 1 on Monday, July 15. Day 2 will feature Kirby Smart of Georgia, Matt Luke of Ole Miss, Jeremy Pruitt of Tennessee, and Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M. Alabama’s Nick Saban will highlight the festivities on Day 3, with Chad Morris of Arkansas, Joe Moorhead of Mississippi State and Will Muschamp of South Carolina also getting their time in front of the microphone. Day 4 will wrap things up with Gus Malzahn of Auburn, Mark Stoops of Kentucky, and Derek Mason of Vanderbilt.

Here is the full SEC Media Day schedule, for those planning ahead.

2019 SEC FOOTBALL MEDIA DAYS SCHEDULE

MONDAY, July 15
Florida – Dan Mullen
LSU – Ed Orgeron
Missouri – Barry Odom

TUESDAY, July 16
Georgia – Kirby Smart
Ole Miss – Matt Luke
Tennessee – Jeremy Pruitt
Texas A&M – Jimbo Fisher

WEDNESDAY, July 17
Alabama – Nick Saban
Arkansas – Chad Morris
Mississippi State – Joe Moorhead
South Carolina – Will Muschamp

THURSDAY, July 18
Auburn – Gus Malzahn
Kentucky – Mark Stoops
Vanderbilt – Derek Mason

While the SEC media days are going on, the ACC will also be holding their media day event in Charlotte, North Carolina. The ACC media day runs from July 16 through July 18.

With Auburn’s bowl outlook becoming tense, Gus Malzahn sticks with Jarrett Stidham for better or worse

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If any Auburn fan was even thinking that the time has come for Auburn to make a change at quarterback after the Tigers suffered their second loss at home and their third loss overall this season, Gus Malzahn isn’t having it. Malzahn confirmed this week Jarrett Stidham will remain the starting quarterback for the Tigers as they look to turn things around in the second half of the regular season and try to avoid finishing the year in the bottom half of the SEC West.

Jarrett Stidham will be our starting quarterback,” Malzahn said this week, according to Al.com. “He needs to protect the football better; he understands that, but I do have confidence in him and I think he’ll lead us in the right way moving forward.”

After seven games, Stidham is the SEC’s 10th-rated quarterback in passer rating with 1,499 passing yards and seven touchdowns with four interceptions. Last season, Stidham had 3,158 passing yards with 18 touchdowns to six interceptions. Stidham passed for 322 yards and two touchdowns but had two interceptions and a fumble in Auburn’s home loss to Tennessee last weekend.

After the loss to Tennessee, Malzahn said he would begin assessing all areas of the team and make adjustments where he feels they are needed (similar to Miami head coach Mark Richt and his approach after Miami’s second loss of the year; Miami has since made a QB change).

Stidham is overwhelmingly Auburn’s most experienced quarterback, so making any changes would have been a bit surprising. Freshman Cord Sandberg has appeared in just one game this year, attempting and completing one pass for 22 yards. Sophomore Malik Willis has appeared in three games, completing one of two attempts for three yards.

Auburn, already at 1-3 in the SEC standings, will play at Ole Miss on Saturday afternoon. The Rebels are 5-2 and could deal a tough blow for Auburn’s chances of becoming bowl-eligible. Auburn still has home games against Texas A&M and Liberty and road games against Georgia and Alabama this season. Auburn must win two of their remaining games in order to go to a bowl game, and a loss to Ole Miss could make those home games against the Aggies and Liberty must-win games.

It’s going to be Stidham’s job to get Auburn to a bowl game.

Nick Saban takes jab at UCF’s “self-proclaimed” national title, but Gus Malzahn stays out of it

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Alabama head coach Nick Saban added another national title to his ever-growing list of achievements last January when the Crimson Tide rallied from behind to stun Georgia in overtime of the College Football Playoff national championship game. At the same time, UCF was busy celebrating their claim to a national title even if critics shrugged it aside. Although Saban offered some praise for what UCF accomplished last season, including beating an Auburn team that Saba’s Tide could not, Saban suggested that UCF’s claim to a national title carries little weight.

“I guess anybody has the prerogative to claim anything,” Saban said to USA Today, commenting on UCF’s claim to a national championship for the 2017 season. “But self-proclaimed is not the same as actually earning it. And there’s probably a significant number of people who don’t respect people who make self-proclaimed sort of accolades for themselves.”

Saban has a legitimate point, of course. Alabama may not have won their own division but they were selected by the College Football Playoff selection committee to participate in the four-team playoff to determine a true national champion. And to Alabama’s credit, they took advantage of that opportunity by dominating ACC champion Clemson in the national semifinal and then coming from behind to upset SEC champion Georgia. UCF may have gone undefeated last season, with wins against USF, Memphis and Auburn to close out their undefeated campaign, but years from now it will be widely accepted that Alabama was the national champion while UCF is still free to claim their national title as well. College football is loaded with claimed national titles, including some by Alabama of course, so what UCF is doing is nothing out of the ordinary for the history of the sport.

Of course, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn isn’t about to get caught up in the drama despite playing a key role into the Alabama-UCF national title debate.

“They played extremely well that day (in the Peach Bowl),” Malzahn said at a golf tournament, according to Al.com. “We didn’t play our best, but give those guys credit. They played extremely well and got after us.”

Realizing Malzahn didn’t exactly answer the question regarding the national championship claim by UCF, Malzahn stood his ground when asked again.

“They played real well that day,” Malzahn said, “and we didn’t play that well.”

It must be a tough spot for Malzahn seeing as Alabama is his top rival and the other team claiming a national title is using his Auburn team to help support the argument.

Former UCF head coach and current Nebraska head coach Scott Frost has no regrets over his comments about likely not standing behind UCF’s national title claim the way the school has gone about it.

Malzahn says Auburn defense “has a chance to be really good” after impressive spring game

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With a good handful of key offensive players out of action for one reason or another, the Auburn spring game was expected to be highlighted by the effort from the defense. Suffice to say, that was the case on Saturday as the Tigers played the annual spring game in less-than-ideal weather conditions. Regardless of the level of play from the offensive side of the team, head coach Gus Malzahn is ending the spring feeling confident about what the Tigers may end up doing in the fall.

Our defense has a chance to be really good,” Malzahn said after the Auburn spring game. “From a head coach’s standpoint, I feel very good about our overall team.”

Auburn’s first-team defense locked down on Auburn’s second-string offensive unit (with the offense already a bit more shallow than Auburn would have preferred), limiting the offense to negative yardage in the first half of the spring game. Defensive lineman Nick Coe recorded a sack that was good for a safety.

Auburn played without wide receiver Ryan Davis, fullback Chandler Cox, and running back Kam Martin due to nagging injuries, and starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham participated in a seven-on-seven prior to the spring game. Without those notable offensive players, Auburn got a chance to give some other players some playing time to help improve the depth of the team.

“It was good to see those guys out in front of a crowd,” Malzahn said. “Overall, both sides of the football got after it and had fun out there playing in front of our home crowd.”

Auburn still has a pair of practices before calling it a spring. After winning the SEC West in 2017, Auburn looks to become the first team in the division besides Alabama to win back-to-back SEC West Division titles.