Arkansas State vs Auburn – Upset Alert? (Poll)

Red Wolves coach Bryan Harsin

Red Wolves coach Bryan Harsin

Arkansas State vs Auburn – This Game is Big

One of the most interesting games this weekend for the SEC, for the Sun Belt, for Gus Malzahn fans, for Gus Malzahn haters and for the Arkansas State University Red Wolves is the match on field on the plains in Auburn, Ala.

Vegas lines (for those who care) have Auburn favored by as many as 14 points and as few as four. We watched both teams play their season openers and can tell you, this game shouldn’t be a cakewalk for Malzahn, who will be facing the team he left to take the job he now has. Red Wolves coach Bryan Harsin has indicated this is a game his team has had circled on the schedule for some time. This is an opportunity for the Sun Belt Conference champion two-times running to make the national statement administrators and fans say they are ready to make.

Our friends at AState Fan Rules have this game circled and make the case for a Red Wolves win on the plains here.

Here is a current roundup of what’s being said about Arkansas State vs Auburn. We will keep this post updated throughout the week, so check back. Additionally, at the bottom, you will find video highlights of both the Red Wolves victory over UAPB and the Auburn win over Washington State.


Here is audio of Bryan Harsin from the Sun Belt Conference teleconference Monday. In it, he discusses the game with Auburn.

From the Auburn Tigers, Sept. 3, comes this gem (Emphasis added by Sporting Life Arkansas)

Gus Malzahn’s one year as Arkansas State’s head coach taught him what to expect from the Red Wolves this weekend.

“They’re going to play hard, they’re going to play together, and they’ll be disciplined.”

And they’ll play Malzahn’s new team in Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn versus Arkansas State will be a game of emotion, for the new Auburn head coach and the 12 other former Arkansas State staffers who now work in Auburn football; to the players Malzahn left behind in Jonesboro after a 9-3 regular season.

Auburn and Arkansas State each won their season-opener last Saturday. Now, Malzahn calls the Red Wolves “one of the hottest teams in college football.”

“The bottom line is,” he said, “we’re going to have to play better than we did Saturday to beat them.”

It was a big deal in late 2011 for Arkansas State when it hired Malzahn. He is a high school coaching legend in Arkansas and had gained plenty of credibility as a college coach after serving as a record-breaking offensive coordinator at Tulsa and Auburn. Arkansas State wanted him so much that it enlisted the help of one of its alums — Arkansas governor Mike Beebe — to convince Malzahn to return to his home state.

“This is the right place and the right time,” Malzahn said when he was hired there.

Malzahn’s offense put up plenty of big numbers at Arkansas State, just like it had at Tulsa and Auburn. That lasted a season. Auburn called back and offered him the head coach last December. He accepted after learning some of the ins and outs of being a college head coach.

There are no hard feelings in his home state. He was inducted into the Arkansas Coaches Hall of Fame over the summer for his work as a high school coach.

“I care greatly for a lot of their players. Their administration was great to me while I was there,” Malzahn said. “It was a very good experience, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity they gave me. Professionally, you’ve got to flip the switch and once the game starts, you do everything in your power to help your team win. And we’ll definitely do that.”

So advantage, Malzahn? Or Arkansas State?

“It’s a challenge regardless, whether he knows our personnel or not,” Bryan Harsin said. “They’ve got a good football team. That’s more of what the challenge is, is trying to go against the type of players that they have.

“Our players have watched the film, and they know that the opponent they’re going to play against is very good. So we have a big challenge on top of that, along with the knowledge that he knows these players and they know he’s been around them and so he understands them.”

From Track’em Tigers:

This Saturday will be no push-over when Arkansas St. comes calling. The Red Wolves made easy work of Arkansas Pine-Bluff 62-11 in its opener. They set an NCAA record with four players rushing for more than 100 yards in the game. Their defense may be the best in the Sun Belt Conference.

Offensively, look for more of the same, with Arkansas St. trying to take advantage of Auburn’s secondary. They are led by Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year and Phenix City native J.D. McKissic, who caught 103 passes for 1,022 yards and five touchdowns last year.

Saturday’s game kicks off at 6:30 p.m. CT and will be televised by Fox Sports South.

From College and Magnolia:

On Arkansas State offense

“You know they’re a very good team; we’ll have to play better than we did tonight. They’re a very good team and I know they will be very well prepared.”


Auburn coach Gus Malzahn didn’t get a chance to coach Arkansas State in Alabama last season. The Red Wolves played in Mobile’s Bowl without their former head coach. On Saturday, he’ll at least get to coach against them when they visit Auburn, and it can be warm and fuzzy now that the Tigers have won their debut under Malzahn.

Games against former employers aren’t unusual for college head coaches. In Auburn’s case, Tommy Tuberville faced Ole Miss annually, and Pat Dye invited East Carolina in for a couple of paydays and the accompanying whoopings.

From War Eagle Extra:

Which Tiger is primed for a big performance: The Red Wolves don’t have any glaring weaknesses defensive, with a stout defensive line led by sleeper All-American candidate Ryan Carrethers and a secondary that returns players who multiple games at both corner and safety positions. The one question mark is at a pair of its linebacker positions alongside Quashaun Lee. So look one of the Tigers’ trio of running backs — Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant — to see if they can put pressure on the back end of the Red Wolves’ untested front seven.

Which Red Wolf could give the home team fits: After Auburn allowed 344 passing yards to Washington State, Red Wolves wide receiver (and Phenix City native) J.D. McKissic could be a thorn in the Tigers’ side this Saturday. He had a fantastic season last year, winning the Sun Belt Conference’s Freshman of the Year award after catching 103 passes for 1,022 yards and five touchdowns.

Extra point: Two of Division I’s five active coaches who haven’t been part of a losing season as a head coach or full-time assistant (minimum three years of experience) will stand across the sidelines from one another this Saturday in Malzahn and Harsin. The other three? Southern California’s Lane Kiffin, Nebraska’s Bo Pelini and West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen.

From the official Auburn website:

AUBURN, Ala. – Gus MalzahnRhett Lashlee and J.B. Grimes helped create a monster, and now they have to deal with it.

A year ago, Malzahn was the head coach at Arkansas State, Lashlee was the offensive coordinator, and Grimes the offensive line coach. They weren’t thinking about going anywhere. Just more than three months later, they had moved to Auburn. Along the way, they helped the Red Wolves win their last eight games and a Sun Belt Conference championship.

Saturday, the Red Wolves will visit Jordan-Hare Stadium, no doubt with aims to spoil the day for the coaches who left town.

Auburn opened the Malzahn era last Saturday night with a 31-24 victory over Washington State. In Jonesboro, Ark., Arkansas State overwhelmed FCS foe Arkansas-Pine Bluff 62-11 for its ninth consecutive victory. That’s the fourth longest winning streak in the FBS.

“They have a lot of good players,” Malzahn said. “They are a very good team. They have a lot of confidence. We’re going to have to play better than we did tonight to beat them. We’ll be ready, and it will be a good one.”

Dozens of players will see Malzahn, Lashlee and Grimes for the first time since last December. Two coaches – co-offensive coordinator Elijah Drinkwitz and defensive coordinator John Thompson – were on Malzahn’s Arkansas State staff. Drinkwitz was a graduate assistant at Auburn in 2010 and 2011 when Malzahn was offensive coordinator. He has a national championship ring.

Competing against friends, Lashlee said, is no fun. But at gametime, friendships and relationships are put aside.

“You don’t like playing players and guys you are close to,” Lashlee said. “At the same time, when the game kicks off, trust me, you want to kick their tails and they want to kick yours.”

Lashlee said the Red Wolves will come to town ready to give maximum effort.

“There are some really good kids on that team,” Lashlee said. “Those guys are going to fight, and they are guys that know how to win. We’re going to have our hands full.”

In Saturday’s victory over defending Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the debut for head coach Bryan Harsin, the Red Wolves dominated from start to finish.

Arkansas State rushed for 509 yards and became just the seventh school in FBS history to have four 100-yard rushers in the same game.

Tennessee transfer David Oku, once a priority Auburn recruit, had 124 yards on 16 carries. Sirgregory Thornton had 112 yards on nine carries. Michael Gordon had 102 yards on four carries. Fredi Knighten had 101 yards on just three carries.

“Today was all about us going out there and doing our jobs,” Harsin said Saturday, “really just taking everything we’ve done through spring ball, summer, and fall camp into tonight’s game. I’m really proud of our coaches and the effort they put in preparing the players.”

Arkansas State’s defense held Arkansas-Pine Bluff to 12 yards rushing and 161 yards passing.

Will Arkansas State beat Auburn? Give us your prediction in the poll and please tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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