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Insider

Auburn's Malzahn decries SEC 'disadvantage'

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Managing high expectations

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn discusses how he manages a team with high expectations, his confidence in QB Jeremy Johnson and landing Will Muschamp to be the defensive coordinator.

BRISTOL, Conn. -- As an SEC coach sat down with me Tuesday, he joked that the league’s “bigger personalities” had already visited ESPN the previous day. Alabama’s Nick Saban and LSU’s Les Miles were part of the group he was referencing.

“We’re the guys who don’t say as much in meetings,” the coach said, referring to the eight SEC coaches at ESPN on Tuesday.

Of those eight, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn is the most understated and reserved. But he was plenty vocal during his time in Bristol.

Of note, he was firm in saying that the College Football Playoff should be expanded to eight teams because it would “guarantee” entry for two SEC teams.

He also agreed with the idea that the SEC is at a disadvantage in the playoff because of the rigors of its conference schedule, even though other power conferences already aren’t happy that the SEC plays eight league games as opposed to nine.

“Compared to everyone else? Yeah [we’re disadvantaged],” Malzahn told me. “Look at the SEC West. All of the teams are in the top 25. What other conference can say that? Then, if you win that, you’ve got to play another really good team from the East. And then you’re in the [playoff] semi, having to win two more games. That’s why I think it’s critical that we move to eight teams [in the playoff].”

Malzahn isn’t the first person to put this thought out there. ESPN analyst and former Ohio State standout Chris Spielman mentioned this last fall, noting that teams such as Florida State and Ohio State had a chance to be fresher in the playoff because of easier conference schedules.

Fans of other conferences, of course, didn’t like Malzahn’s way of thinking. They already think the SEC complains too much.

Head coaches in other Power 5 leagues weren’t exactly in agreement with Malzahn, either.

“I think that’s the most absurd thing I have ever heard,” one said. “Isn’t there a month at least between the regular season and the playoff, anyway, to rest and recover? Wouldn’t you want to play against the top competition to prepare yourself for the playoff?”

Here are some other takeaways from conversations with SEC coaches this week.