Arkansas, Auburn rivalry personal for Malzahn and Bielema
For as long as Gus Malzahn is at Auburn and Bret Bielema is at Arkansas, the game between the two schools will be one to look out for each and every year. Much has been made of the disdain between the two coaches in the past, but going into the latest contest, what are the coaches saying about the game?
Malzahn of course got his start in high school coaching in Arkansas and the Razorbacks gave him his first job at the collegiate level. His one-year stint as Arkansas State's head coach still rubs many in Jonesboro the wrong way.
“It’s always different. That’s where I grew up,” Malzahn said of returning to Arkansas. “I spent 15 years coaching high school football there. My family’s there. A lot of my best friends are there. But you have a job to do. It’s a very tough place to play. Our guys will be ready and be looking forward to it.”
Malzahn has cautioned his team not to underestimate the Hogs based on their record. Despite having the better record, as of Wednesday Auburn is nearly a touchdown underdog to Arkansas.
“Very deceiving. They’ve played two Top 10 teams and played them very well,” Malzahn said. “They are a good team, and I think everybody knows that. They have a high talent level. I think they are solid in all three phases. They have a quarterback (Brandon Allen) with quality experience.”
Bielema on the other hand has been openly critical of Malzahn's up-tempo offense and his belief that it leads to more injuries. Being a newcomer to a state ruled by Malzahn's high school teams for many years has also appeared to create some animosity between the two.
While he may not be a fan of Malzahn, Bielema apparently respects the opinion of Auburn's defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.
“I asked Will Muschamp to come and join us at Bowl Practices last year for an extra set of eyes,” Bielema said. “(Muschamp) said 'I don't think I will be doing that Coach I am going to work in your division.' That's when I found out he was going to Auburn.”