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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.

SEC rolls out four-day media day schedule

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The SEC may be packing up their media day extravaganza and moving from Alabama to Atlanta, but this year’s media day schedule shows the SEC will still carefully roll out plenty of storylines over the course of a four-day love fest for the conference.

The SEC is setting up shop at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, which feels like a great landing spot for the new media day fun for the SEC. The conference has established Atlanta as a destination point for the end of the regular season and the city just played host to the first College Football Playoff national championship game between two teams from the same conference, the SEC (Alabama and Georgia). So why not kickstart a new football season with the media in Atlanta too?

New Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher will be the headline act for the first of the four media days for the SEC. Fisher will make his SEC Media Days debut as head coach of the Aggies on Monday, July 16. Other coaches speaking that day will be LSU’s Ed Orgeron and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops. Day 2 will be an interesting one with Georgia’s Kirby Smart in the spotlight coming off the SEC championship last fall and new Florida head coach Dan Mullen addresses the media for the first time as the Gators coach, although the former Mississippi State head coach is no stranger to the SEC media day circuit by now. Day 2 will also be the first SEC Media Day introduction for new Arkansas head coach Chad Morris and second-year Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke (Luke took over as head coach in Oxford after SEC Media Days last summer following the removal of Hugh Freeze not long after media days).

But when is Alabama head coach Nick Saban speaking, you ask? Day 3 (Wed., July 18 for those keeping track). Saban headlines the third day of the media day event for the SEC. Two other coaches speaking that day will be new head coaches in the SEC with former Saban assistant Jeremy Pruitt representing Tennessee and Joe Moorhead of Mississippi State stepping to the SEC podium for the first time. Missouri’s Barry Odom is also scheduled on day three. Day 4 will feature Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, South Carolina’s Will Muschamp, and Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason.

Player representatives for each school in addition to any other speakers will be announced at a later time.

Report: Gus Malzahn agrees to new deal to stay at Auburn

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Sorry, Arkansas. It looks like your head coaching search may have to turn elsewhere. According to a report Sunday evening, Gus Malzahn has agreed to a new contract to stay at Auburn.

As originally reported by Brandon Marcello of Auburn Undercover, the new contract will extend Malzahn’s stay at Auburn for five years with a raise that could reach $7 million. Nothing official has been announced by Auburn and Malzahn was reluctant to address his coaching future during a conference call for the Peach Bowl.

Malzahn’s reluctance to address his future at Auburn was seemingly suggesting he was keeping his options open for a possible move to Arkansas, but given the latest development here, it would seem Malzahn was waiting for the news to become official from the university standpoint. And with lawyers involved to make sure everything is good to go, that may not have been completed just yet.

Auburn won the SEC West Division this season and came up short of an SEC championship, but the Tigers defeated two No. 1 teams in the final month of the regular season with wins at home against Georgia and Alabama. Both Georgia and Alabama are heading to the College Football Playoff, with Auburn preparing to take on UCF in the Peach Bowl.

Malzahn, who was reported to be the number one target for Arkansas following the dismissal of Bret Bielema, spent one season as the head coach at Arkansas State before returning to Auburn. In five years with the Tigers, Malzahn has coached the program to a record of 45-21 with a BCS National Championship Game appearance (where Auburn lost to Florida State) and the Sugar Bowl last season. Malzahn has increased Auburn’s win total each of the past two seasons and is hoping to pick up his second bowl victory at Auburn (Malzahn is 1-3 in bowl games with the lone win coming in the Birmingham Bowl).

Auburn AD Jay Jacobs sets retirement date amid flurry of scandals in Auburn athletics

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With the basketball program connected to a scandal that drew the attention of the FBI, Auburn Athletics Director Jay Jacobs is resigning from his position at the school by June 1, 2018. According to Brett McMurphy, via Twitter, Jacobs may resign sooner if Auburn can find a suitable replacement to take over as AD for the school moving forward.

Jacobs was hired as Auburn’s AD  in December 2004 after a long career working at Auburn University for the previous two decades. It was Jacobs who hired two separate football coaches for the program, first with the hiring of Gene Chizik in 2008 from Iowa State and later with the hiring of current Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. Jacobs also made a change at the head coach of the men’s basketball program as well, and it is the basketball program that may have been the last straw for Jacobs as AD at Auburn, although Auburn’s other sports programs have not been without their own incidents as well.

As far as the football program is concerned, there should be no reason to expect drastic changes any time soon with the Tigers. Malzahn seems to be firmly in place for a while at Auburn and there are no reason to believe any changes would be upcoming for the football program unless Malzahn, for whatever reason, were to leave on his own. That does not mean there is a lack of pressure on Malzahn and Auburn football though. Donors expect the Tigers to be on the same level as Alabama and compete for SEC titles somewhat regularly, and that has not quite been the case under Malzahn, and by extension, Jacobs. Chizik did take Auburn to a BCS national championship though, and Malzahn coached the Tigers to another BCS Championship Game appearance. Auburn has yet to reach the College Football Playoff, while Alabama has been the only SEC school to reach the four-team postseason format each of the three years it has been conducted.

This also means Auburn could be on the prowl for an AD near your favorite program, so be warned. The rumors should start swirling.