Gus Malzahn is in the first season of a seven-year, $49 million contract, but with Auburn having fallen out of the top 10 in the national polls, Tigers Athletic Director Allen Greene felt the need to show public support for his football coach.
Despite Malzahn's massive buyout -- $32 million if he is fired after this season with $16 million due within a month -- there was speculation about his job status after Auburn lost at home to Tennessee to fall to 4-3.
SEC TOP TO BOTTOM
1;(1);Alabama;9-0;Tua finally played in fourth quarter at LSU
2;(2);LSU;7-2;Looking to bounce back at Arkansas
3;(3);Georgia;8-1;East champs for second consecutive year
4;(4);Kentucky;7-2;Defense couldn’t slow Swift & Holyfield
5;(5)Florida;6-3;Swamped at home by Mizzou
6;(6);Mississippi State;6-3;Moorhead gets first shot at Alabama
7;(8);Auburn;6-3;Big fourth quarter against Aggies
8;(7)Texas A&M;5-4;Couldn’t hold 10-point lead at Auburn
9;(9);South Carolina;5-3;Muschamp back at Florida
10;(10)Missouri;5-4;Looking to get bowl eligible against Vandy
11;(11);Tennessee;4-5;Beating Kentucky now qualifies as major upset
12;(12);Ole Miss;5-4;Road trip to Aggieland
13;(13);Vanderbilt;4-5;At Mizzou in matchup of academic heavyweights
14;(14);Arkansas;2-7;Only SEC team without a conference victory
PLAYER TO WATCH
Alabama sophomore nose guard Quinnen Williams is having a dominating season, especially for an interior defensive lineman. He has 43 tackles — including for a team-high 12 for losses totaling 49 yards — and 9 quarterback hurries.
The SEC named Williams its defensive player of the week after he had 10 tackles and a career-high 2 1/2 sacks in Alabama’s 29-0 victory at LSU.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Mississippi State at Alabama 2:30 p.m. Saturday (CBS)
WHERE Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
RECORDS Alabama 9-0, 6-0 SEC; Mississippi State 6-3, 2-3
RANKINGS Alabama is No. 1 in the College Football Playoff poll; Mississippi State is ranked 16th.
LINE Alabama by 24 points
Alabama Coach Nick Saban will look to improve on his 15-1 record against Mississippi State. He was 5-0 against the Bulldogs as LSU’s coach and is 10-1 at Alabama. Mississippi State’s only victory over Saban came in his first season at Alabama when the Bulldogs beat the Crimson Tide 17-12 in Starkville, Miss.
South Carolina at No. 15 Florida
WHEN 11 a.m.
RECORDS South Carolina 5-3, 4-3 SEC; Florida 6-3, 4-3
LINE Florida by 6
Vanderbilt at Missouri
WHEN 11 a.m.
RECORDS Vanderbilt 4-5, 1-4 SEC; Missouri 5-4, 1-4
TV SEC Network
LINE Missouri by 17
Ole Miss at Texas A&M
WHEN 11 a.m.
RECORDS Ole Miss 5-4, 1-4 SEC; Texas A&M 5-4, 3-3
LINE Texas A&M by 11 1/2
No. 11 Kentucky at Tennessee
WHEN 2:30 p.m.
RECORDS Kentucky 7-2, 5-2 SEC; Tennessee 4-5, 1-4
TV SEC Network
LINE Kentucky by 6
No. 24 Auburn at No. 5 Georgia
WHEN 6 p.m.
RECORDS Auburn 6-3, 3-3 SEC; Georgia 8-1, 6-1
LINE Georgia by 14
No. 7 LSU at Arkansas
WHEN 6:30 p.m.
RECORDS LSU 7-2, 4-2 SEC; Arkansas 2-7, 0-5
TV SEC Network
LINE LSU by 13 1/2
BY THE NUMBERS
900 — Victories for Alabama after the Crimson Tide won 29-0 at LSU.
87.5 — Percent of made field goals by Georgia’s Rodrigo Barnes (14 of 16).
74-34 — Combined margin of Florida’s losses the last two games to Georgia and Missouri.
— Texas A&M Coach Jimbo Fisher when asked if he’s still behind Kellen Mond — who has struggled the last two games in road losses at Mississippi State and Auburn.
“When the game’s on the line, they find a way to make plays.”
— Florida Coach Dan Mullen on South Carolina being 3-1 in their last four games, all decided by four or fewer points.
“Defensively, it was the worst game we’ve played all year. I think that’s pretty obvious, giving up the amount of rush yards that we did.”
— Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops on Georgia rushing for 331 yards in beating the Wildcats 34-17 to win the SEC East.
The Tigers won their last two games at Ole Miss and over Texas A&M, which somewhat quieted the noise around Malzahn and the program.
Then Greene presumably -- hired 10th months ago from the University of Buffalo -- removed any doubt about Malzahn's status.
"He'll be the coach next year and I'm confident -- he's already proven we can get through adversity," Greene told reporters this week. "Every team has it and I'm looking forward to working with him for a long time."
Malzahn was rewarded with a contract extension after beating Georgia and Alabama last season to win the SEC West.
The Tigers were ranked as high as No. 7 earlier this season before losses to LSU and Mississippi State and then shockingly to Tennessee dropped them from the national polls. The College Football Playoff Committee ranked Auburn No. 24 in its poll released Tuesday night.
"We're having a tough year, but we have the opportunity to finish strong," Malzahn said Wednesday on the SEC coaches' teleconference. "And I will say this, the future is very bright. I'm excited to be the coach here."
Auburn play at Georgia on Saturday night.
"To be honest with you, right now my focus is on Georgia," Malzahn said. "I'm looking forward to playing one of our rivals."
Malzahn is 51-25 in his sixth season at Auburn, won the 2013 SEC championship and is the only current coach in the conference to beat Alabama's Nick Saban who is 2-3 against.
"He's going to continue to be a really good coach for us," Greene said. "And I'm really excited to work with him and to help provide Auburn fans the type of football program that they deserve."
Greene said he understands Auburn fans' frustration with this season.
"When you compete in this league and when you're investing in a football program the way that we have chosen to invest in our football program, you expect to be successful more than a normal team," Greene said. "When that doesn't happen, it's frustrating -- for me, for Coach, our student-athletes, our fans -- because we expect more, and Coach expects more.
"After seeing some games, I know that we're young at some positions and I think there's a lot of talent at those positions. I know Coach is working really hard to recruit, and the staff to recruit additional talent, which I think he'll hit home runs in that regard."
Crockett a leader
Missouri Coach Barry Odom credited running back Damarea Crockett, a junior from Little Rock, with being a team leader after the Tigers' 15-14 loss to Kentucky when the Wildcats scored a touchdown on the game's final play.
"He had a voice in the locker room after the game, and I thought it was a great message," Odom said Wednesday. "Then he and I spoke, and I said, 'We need more of that. Keep coming, keep going, keep pushing and lead our team, because the way that you're playing, you've earned the right to be vocal.' "
Odom said Crockett showed his maturity in addressing his teammates amid the disappointment and frustration of the Kentucky loss.
"It sounded like one of our coaches talking," Odom said. "It was about using that feeling and that moment to fuel your motivation to play better."
The Tigers responded to the Kentucky loss by winning 38-17 at Florida as Crockett rushed 21 times for 114 yards.
"He was looking for me to push the guys and keep everybody's head on straight, keep the team from spreading apart and make them come together," Crockett told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after the Florida game. "When you have a loss like [Kentucky], that's close and really heartbreaking, it's really easy for guys to go separate ways."
Instead, Crockett helped make sure the Tigers pulled together.
What are the odds that two of the four running backs in SEC history to rush for 1,000 yards in their freshman, sophomore and junior seasons were coached by guys who played defense at Iowa?
Pretty good as it turns out.
The four running backs to accomplish that feat are Georgia's Hershel Walker (1980-82), Arkansas' Darren McFadden (2005-07) and Alex Collins (2013-15) and Kentucky's Benny Snell (2016-18).
Snell joined the club last week when he rushed for 73 yards against Georgia to give him 1,003 on the season. He rushed for 1,091 yards as a freshman and 1,333 as sophomore.
Mark Stoops, who played defensive back at Iowa, is in his sixth year as Kentucky's coach and recruited Snell out of Westerville, Ohio.
Collins played at Arkansas for Coach Bret Bielema, who was a defensive lineman at Iowa. He was fired as Arkansas after last season.
"That's a good point," Stoops said Wednesday on the coaches' teleconference of the connection he now shares with Bielema in regard to SEC running backs history. "I had never really looked at it that way. That's kind of ironic, and we'll take it."
McFadden was coached at Arkansas by Houston Nutt. Walker was coached at Georgia by Vince Dooley.
Happens a lot
South Carolina Coach Will Muschamp will go against a team he formerly coached when the Gamecocks play at Florida on Saturday.
In the SEC, it's a frequent occurrence for a coach to face his old team.
Muschamp is the fourth head coach this season for one SEC school to play a school where he previously was the head coach along with Florida's Dan Mullen (Mississippi State), LSU's Ed Orgeron (Ole Miss) and Alabama's Nick Saban (LSU).
SEC coaches who have faced teams this season where they previously were assistants are Auburn's Gus Malzahn (Arkansas), Georgia's Kirby Smart (LSU), Tennessee's Jeremy Pruitt (Georgia, Alabama) and Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher (Auburn, LSU).
When Missouri plays Tennessee on Nov. 17, Tigers offensive coordinator Derek Dooley will face the team where he was the head coach from 2010-12.
Smart will face another of his former teams when Georgia plays Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
Alabama is ranked No. 1 in all of the national polls and has beaten its first nine opponents by an average of 37.2 points, but there is one phase of the game in which the Crimson Tide are struggling.
If only an opponent could make it matter.
Alabama is tied for 118th nationally with Arkansas State University and Coastal Carolina in making extra points at 90.3 percent.
The Tide are 56 of 62 on extra-point attempts. Those six misses match their combined total for the previous eight seasons.
Alabama is the only SEC team to miss more than one extra point attempt this season.
The Tide were 2 of 4 on extra point tries in a 29-0 victory at LSU when Joseph Bulovas missed on one attempt and had another blocked.
"Look, there's no sense in being frustrated," Alabama Coach Nick Saban said after the game. "We just need to get it right. I think the guy is capable."
Alabama's closest game this season has been a 22-point victory over Texas A&M, 45-23, so the extra-point struggles haven't been an issue.
Muschamp hit his quota
Florida Coach Dan Mullen pulled starting quarterback Feleipe Franks and replaced him with Kyle Trask -- both are redshirt sophomores -- in last week's 38-17 loss to Missouri.
Mullen said this week he might play any of three quarterbacks against South Carolina on Saturday: Franks, Trask or true freshman Emory Jones.
Gamecocks Coach Will Muschamp, who was Florida's coach from 2011-14, was asked at his weekly news conference about the Gators' quarterback situation.
"I'm the head coach at South Carolina. Ask Dan," Muschamp said. "Next question. I got asked that question a lot.
"I hit my quota."
Struggles at quarterback were a key to Muschamp being fired at Florida, where he had a 28-21 record.
Another streak to break
Earlier this season Kentucky beat Florida for the first time since 1986 to break a 31-game losing streak to the Gators.
The Wildcats will be looking to break another lengthy losing streak when they play at Tennessee on Saturday.
Kentucky has lost 16 consecutive games at Neyland Stadium since last beating the Vols there 17-12 in 1984.
"I think just beating Tennessee is important to us," Wildcats Coach Mark Stoops said at his weekly news conference. "Whether there's a streak involved or not, why would that make a difference to our team?
"They don't know anything about 34 years ago. To be honest with you, they really don't care. They want to win for their team this year."
Back in July at SEC media days, Florida defensive end Cece Jefferson took a shot at Missouri and its fans when asked his impressions of playing at Faurot Field in 2017.
The Tigers beat the Gators 45-16, but Jefferson said the Missouri crowd was "so quiet" during the game.
"I could hear myself thinking there," Jefferson said. "I'm not used to that, and it's just kind of like that the whole game. You're kind of like, 'Damn, this is boring.' "
Missouri quarterback Drew Lock remembered Jefferson's comments when talking with reporters this week about the Tigers' 38-17 victory at Florida on Saturday,
"[Jefferson] doesn't like quiet stadiums," Lock said. "Which, I guess, we gave him another one of those."
Mississippi State Coach Joe Moorhead, who came to Starkville, Miss., this season after being the coach at Fordham and offensive coordinator at Penn State, will play Alabama for the first time Saturday.
"We talk all the time here in our building with our kids about the term 'championship standard'," Moorhead said at his weekly news conference.. "Quite frankly, this is what we're chasing.
"Alabama is the gold standard in this league. I told our team that no one falls to the top of the mountain. Those guys have worked their tails off and have earned the right to be there and it's our job to try to go up there and knock them off."
• South Carolina receiver Deebo Samuel tied an SEC record when he had his fourth career kickoff return for a touchdown when he went 90 yards against Ole Miss last week. He is among seven SEC players -- including Arkansas' Felix Jones -- with four touchdowns on kickoff returns.
• Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has 27 touchdown passes and needs 4 more to break AJ McCarron's school record of 30 in 2012.
• Georgia has won 13 consecutive games against SEC East opponents.
Sports on 11/08/2018
Print Headline: Malzahn endorsed by his AD