Following months of speculation, the athletic department heads at Arkansas and Auburn announced new coaching hires within hours of each other.
Arkansas shocked the college football universe in hauling in one of the kings of the Big Ten for more than a half-decade. Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema had spent seven seasons in charge of the Badgers’ football program, after having been hand-picked by Barry Alvarez to succeed the school’s all-time winningest coach.
Bielema expanded upon the traditions begun when Alvarez took over in 1990.
When Bielema took over, the program had only won 11 or more games one time in the program’s history. Bielema reached the 11-win plateau three times himself in compiling an impressive 68-24 overall record.
The Badgers are headed to the Rose Bowl for the third consecutive season, a feat not accomplished by any Big Ten team since Michigan in the ’70s. Not too shabby.
Bielema grew up on a farm in Illinois, played some rough-and-tumble football while at Iowa, and coached the same way in Madison.
His teams have always been known for possessing a strong run game — it was never hard to recruit several mammoth cheeseheads around the state every year to plug into his dominant offensive lines. Those big boys bulldozed the way for Montee Ball, Bielema’s star running back that recently set the record for most touchdowns scored in the history of college football.
Again, not too shabby.
But is his hiring at Arkansas better than Auburn’s hiring of Gus Malzahn?
[Haterade Cooler >> Bret Bielema is going to be a perfect fit in Fayetteville (Photo)]
Malzahn is also known for the type of offense he will be bringing to his new program, but what Auburn will be running is nearly the polar opposite of Bielema’s ground-and-pound type of playcalling.
Before going much further, understand that Auburn is not a ‘new’ program for Malzahn. He earned a familiarity with the school and its rabid fan base as he helped the program win the 2010 BCS National Championship.
Malzahn was the offensive coordinator at Auburn from 2009-2011, and his wide-open spread offense was tailored perfectly to the talents of Cam Newton, who blew away the rest of the nation in winning the Heisman Trophy in War Eagle’s 2010 title season.
In his three years as Auburn’s offensive coordinator, the Tigers won 30 games, scored 33.6 points per game and averaged 424.9 yards of offense, including 227.8 on the ground, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Yes, he is offensively inclined, but he now also has a year of head coaching under his belt. He spent the 2012 season leading the Arkansas State Red Wolves to a 9-3 record and a Sun Belt title.
Ready for more numbers?
We thought you might be.
In the process, the Red Wolves have remained on pace to break several school records as they head into their bowl game:
- Currently 40 yards shy of tying the school record for total yards in a season (currently at 5,782).
- Currently averaging 481.8 yards per game, which is on pace to break the school record of 447.8 set last season.
- Totaled 437 points this season, 19 shy of the school record.
Malzahn was the offensive coordinator when Newton won a Heisman.
[Take a closer look at Malzahn's hiring]
Bielema was the head coach in Montee Ball’s 2011 Heisman Finalist campaign.
Both have experience coaching in BCS bowls, Malzahn in the BCS National Championship as the offensive coordinator and Bielema having led his squad into the program’s third-straight Rose Bowl.
Now, both will be butting heads with one another and with the likes of Nick Saban, Les Miles, Will Muschamp, and Steve Spurrier in the Southeastern Conference.
That, of course, will be no easy task.
Both believe they are obviously up to such a challenge, but what do you think?
Will Bielema and Malzahn both find success against the elite of the elite?
You have seen the numbers, the wins and losses and NFL-bound players both have helped to mentor and grow into dominant talents.
Now take the power into your own hands and SETTLE IT!
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