College football: Malzahn says Auburn’s slate is country’s toughest
Gus Malzahn and Auburn are taking on all comers in 2018, but the degree of difficulty in the Tigers’ upcoming schedule might be even stronger than expected.
Jul 19, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Auburn Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn talks to the media during SEC football media day at the College Football Hall of Fame. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Auburn begins the season against Washington, the Pac-12 champion last season, and plays LSU in September. The final month of the season, which always ends with an Iron Bowl rivalry game, brings trips to Alabama and Georgia, the teams that played for the national title in January.
“It’s a man’s schedule. Once again, I feel like we have the toughest schedule in college football,” Malzahn said at SEC Media Days in Atlanta on Thursday. “To win the (SEC) West, you’ve got to beat (Alabama). That’s just part of the job description at Auburn.”
Malzahn felt like Auburn was “very close” to being in college football’s final four last season — beating a pair of No. 1-ranked teams, Georgia and Alabama, but history doesn’t remember near misses. “There is a fine line between winning a championship and almost winning a championship,” Malzahn said.
—Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables agreed to a five-year, $11.6 million contract, pending approval by the university board of trustees.
Venables would become the second-highest-paid college football assistant coach, trailing LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda (four years, $10 million). The 47-year-old would make $2 million annually, plus a $200,000 retention bonus in the first two years and a $400,000 retention bonus in the final three years.
Since Venables’ arrival at Clemson in 2012, the Tigers have won at least 10 games each season. In 2016, Venables won the Frank Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach.
Lewis, a five-star recruit in 2016, was arrested in February on a separate domestic violence charge and suspended from football-related activities. The 18-year-old is on probation after pleading no contest to the previous charge and spent 21 days in jail. Included in the sentence for two counts of domestic battery with an injury was a judge’s order to undergo domestic violence treatment for one year.
Lewis caught four passes for USC as a true freshman last season but was erased from the roster during spring practice.