Since entering the SEC, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema has been blasting the hurry-up, no-huddle, fast-paced style of play as dangerous to players and a source of injuries.
Gus Malzahn, the new head coach of Auburn, said he initially thought his rival coach could not be serious when asked about the comments at SEC Media Days.
“When I first heard that, to be honest with you, I thought it was ajoke,” he said. “As far as health or safety issues, that’s like sayingthe defense shouldn’t blitz after a first down because they’re a littlefatigued and there’s liable to be a big collision in the backfield.”
He went on to argue that defenders faking injuries to slow down the pace of the game was a more significant problem facing college football.
Bielema, of course, countered.
“All I know is this,” Bielema continued. “There are times when anoffensive player and a defensive player are on the field for an extendedperiod of time without a break. You cannot tell me that a player afterplay five is the same player that he is after play 15. If that exposeshim to a risk of injury, then that’s my fault.”
However, Malzahn stuck to the point that the integrity of the game is at stake in this debate, and that it is up to the coach to determine what strategies to use in stopping fast paced offenses.
The rivalry between Auburn and Arkansas and, by extension, Malzahn and Bielema will likely play a significant factor in the landscape of the SEC. Both are in new positions, have opposite styles of play, and are looking to remain relevant in a loaded SEC West. Results will be expected quickly, and the length of their respective tenures could be determined by how they fare against one another in the battle to get into the top four in their division.
Auburn and Arkansas will face off on November 2nd in Fayetteville. Neither team is expected to enter the game as contenders for a division title, but a victory for the Tigers or Razorbacks would provide a significant boost to the victor and go a long way toward winning this argument.