Monday Musings From The Plains
Could a game with Auburn be in Notre Dame's future? (photo: getty images)
With SEC Media Days in the rear view mirror, we can officially say football season is here. Auburn football camp begins in less than two weeks. And Gus Malzahn said he’s excited about his fifth team.
That in itself is not surprising, but the fact that he compared this bunch to a SEC Championship Team is: “They’re hungry and they’ve got something to prove,” said Gus. “The last time I felt this was 2013. So that’s a good comfort for me.”
The reason for his enthusiasm may be more than just a coach’s preseason optimism. With an experienced roster and the addition of Jarrett Stidham, the Tigers have their best depth since Auburn played in the Coliseum for the national championship.
Maybe that’s why Nick Saban dissed the Tigers in Hoover when he named nine different SEC teams as some of the league’s best while omitting Auburn. He even had Miss State and Vandy on his list but no Auburn. Don’t believe for a moment it wasn’t intentional. Nick’s a smart guy and he knows what Gus has to work with this year—despite the omission.
When the Tigers take the field against Georgia Southern on September 2, there will be a new coach on the sideline. Well not actually new, but one with a new responsibility.
Strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell will be charged with grabbing Gus Malzahn’s belt, preventing him from going on the field to argue with refs during the game. And it will be an important assignment too! SEC Coordinator of Officials Steve Shaw said last week a new rule goes into effect this year calling for a 15-yard penalty against coaches who storm the field to argue officials’ calls.
As probably the strongest coach on the staff, Russell is the right guy for the job. Malzahn has certainly had to be restrained before, but it will be interesting to see how evenly the new rule is applied. What will happen the first time Saban argues with a ref? No one has been more guilty of the practice than the Tide skipper.
Last week’s statement by Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick saying he would like to schedule a game with Auburn is good news. If it could happen, it would be an historic occasion as the two power-five schools have never met on the gridiron.
According to Gary Stokam, president of the Peach Bowl and the Chick-fil-A game, bowl officials came close to matching the two in the 2018 Kickoff Classic before scheduling conflicts brought about a contract with Auburn and Washington.
While a Tigers-Irish match up would be a welcome event for the fans, it would also be a one-and-done game, something that has all too often become the norm in recent years.
Programs just don’t want to commit to home-and-home series. That’s a shame because it would be cool to play the Fighting Irish in South Bend and then have Notre Dame make the return trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium a year later. It now looks like the two may get together, but it could take three to four years (or more).
Who knows what each program will look like four seasons from now. Let’s hope the coaching staffs remain the same—four seasons is an eternity in football years.
Until next time…