FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Bret Bielema has talked throughout the preseason about his increased comfort level at Arkansas, and how he expects that to translate to a better team on the field.
The second-year coach won't have to wait long now to test just how far the Razorbacks have come since last season's disaster.
After a winless run in the Southeastern Conference, the first for Arkansas since joining the league in 1992, Bielema hopes to snap a nine-game losing streak when the Razorbacks open the season at No. 6 Auburn on Saturday.
Last season's highlights were far and few between for Arkansas, whose 3-9 record marked the first losing season of Bielema's head coaching career.
The former Wisconsin coach has continually praised the progress of the Razorbacks during preseason camp, and he hopes an opening conference game will add to the urgency for a team desperate to rebound from last season. Even if that opening game comes against the Tigers, who reached the national championship game last season before losing 34-31 to Florida State.
"I think it allows you to focus a little bit early on," Bielema said. "Now, at the time this was scheduled, they weren't the defending SEC champs and they didn't come within a hair of chinny-chin-chin of winning the national championship."
Bielema and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn's careers have intersected since the day they were both hired into the SEC following the 2012 season — and not always because of on-the-field events. The two engaged in a bit of back and forth regarding player safety in an up-tempo offense prior to last season, and their opposite opinions were once again in the news this offseason thanks to a debate over whether to bar offenses from snapping the ball before 10 seconds had elapsed on the play clock.
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