Auburn's Gus Malzahn Is Confident He Can Beat Alabama, and That's Refreshing

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJanuary 31, 2014

AP Images

There's a difference between confidence and arrogance. Confidence is having faith in your ability, while arrogance is having an exaggerated sense of that ability.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn is confident, not arrogant.

The second-year head coach of the Tigers took the mic at halftime of the Auburn/Alabama basketball game last night for a presentation of the Foy-ODK Sportsmanship Trophy, which is annually awarded to the winner of the Iron Bowl during halftime of the home men's basketball game between the two in-state rivals.

Fireworks ensued, according to Justin Hokanson of

Gus Malzahn on accepting the Iron Bowl trophy: "This trophy, it's going to be around here for a while."

— Justin Hokanson (@JHokanson) January 31, 2014

Out of bounds? Not at all. In fact, Malzahn's candor is refreshing.

First, consider the setting. This in front of a partisan crowd at an essentially-full basketball arena, and many of those fans were in attendance for the "Kick Six"—the iconic 109-yard missed field goal return for a touchdown by Chris Davis with no time on the clock to win the Iron Bowl 34-28.

They want to get excited during the trophy presentation, and while seeing the "Kick Six" for the 482nd time does it, Malzahn taking the matter into his own hands isn't out of bounds.

Besides, he has every reason to be confident.

His offense put 296 rushing yards up against Alabama—a team that gave up 106.23 rushing yards per game on the season—in the Iron Bowl. Counting his three seasons as Auburn's offensive coordinator from 2009-11, he posted a 2-2 record against the Crimson Tide, he has been to as many BCS National Championship Games during those seasons and has won one more SEC title.

He's winning with X's and O's—his X's and O's.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn
Auburn head coach Gus MalzahnKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

While Auburn has recruited well, Alabama has had more talent up and down its roster than the Tigers. Despite that, an out-manned Auburn took undefeated and eventual national champ Alabama to the brink in 2009, dug out of a 24-point hole with Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton in 2010 and then sputtered in 2011 after Malzahn's up-tempo offense was slowed mid-year to protect the defense.

That game, coupled with Oklahoma's 45-31 win over the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl, forced some offensive changes at Alabama. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier left for the same job at Michigan, and former USC and Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin came in to help the offense take the next step.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn
Auburn head coach Gus MalzahnKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

That step may include some elements of what makes Malzahn's offense so dangerous—the no-huddle.

“We practiced the no-huddle, then when we got to the game it was like coach didn’t want us to do no-huddle,” former quarterback AJ McCarron said Thursday on The Dan Patrick Show, via CollegeFootball “Sometimes I was a little lost and didn’t get everything, but coach Saban’s the best in the business for a reason so I just trusted in him.” 

Saban sometimes comes off as stubborn, but he recognizes where football is headed. The rise in popularity of hurry-up, no-huddle offenses won't slow down until rules limit their effectiveness, which relegates defenses to simply focusing on getting lined up rather than scheming to stop them.

Malzahn's success is a big reason why they're becoming more popular.

How long will the Foy-ODK Sportsmanship Trophy be in Auburn? "A while" could mean anything from 12 months to four years or longer. That's not the point.

Malzahn got where he is as a head coach because he believed in himself and his system, and that system is working at the top level of college football.

That's not arrogance, it's confidence. And it's refreshing.


*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All statistical information courtesy of