You could easily argue that no major headlines came out of the SEC’s four-day Media Days event last week from Hoover, Ala. That being said, one observation stuck out to SEC Network host Paul Finebaum — Auburn coach Gus Malzahn appears to have a renewed sense of confidence heading into fall camp.
During his weekly appearance on 94.5 FM WJOX radio show The Opening Drive, Finebaum was asked to share his thoughts on the Tigers. It’s pretty clear Finebaum is among the crowd buying into the Auburn preseason hype.
“I was very impressed,” Finebaum said. “I was on the SEC Network set when Coach Malzahn showed up and he sat next to me, you guys know him a lot better than I do, but I saw something I had not seen from him in a very long time — and that was confidence. Coaches always try to downplay, he did not, he embraced it. He welcomed the attention and Al, I don’t see Gus Malzahn as the type of football coach who walks in a room with 1,000 reporters and starts boasting about something he doesn’t feel like he can backup.”
So why is Malzahn so eager to hype up his team when so many others attempt to downplay expectations in Hoover? Finebaum did his best to answer that question.
“I think he realizes it doesn’t make much difference what he says in July. He put all the chips on the table because if he does lose to Georgia and Alabama and LSU and maybe another game, all of this won’t make any difference. I think fans get tired of ‘We’re young, we are really weak at that position, we’ve had some bad luck.’ He basically said ‘Listen, this is my fifth year, let’s roll the dice.’ I like it. I think it gives him hope for the future because if he goes 10-2 and he loses those two games we’ve already said he can’t afford to lose (home games vs. Georgia and Alabama), he can probably get away with it.”
Finebaum has publicly been down on Tennessee coach Butch Jones for taking the opposite approach, something the SEC Network host alluded to when discussing Malzahn’s appearance at Media Days.
“This is what a coach is supposed to do entering his fifth season,” Finebaum continued,” saying ‘We are ready to roll. We are not young and this is not a transitional year,’ like a couple of other coaches have tried to make it out to be.”
The Tigers have a very tough road game early in the season with a trip to the ACC’s version of Death Valley at Clemson. Considering the defending national champions open the season at home against Kent State, the Tigers look to be facing a team riding the title game momentum into Week 2.
So which team will be more dangerous in that matchup? Finebaum’s answer is Auburn. Dethroning the defending champs on the road could potentially set up for a huge season on the Plains. Of course, a loss could kill the program’s momentum heading into SEC play. Either way, Malzahn seems to like his team’s chances heading into the season, something Finebaum considers his main take away from last week’s events in Hoover.
Source: Saturday Down South