Auburn's Malzahn says Arkansas State is one of the nation's hottest teams

Auburn's Gus Malzahn is gearing up to face Arkansas State, the team he and some of his assistants led to a Sun Belt title in his one-year stopover. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Auburn coach Gus Malzahn might as well be singing his own praises when he calls Arkansas State "one of the hottest teams in college football."

Malzahn led the Red Wolves through most of their current nine-game winning streak and to a Sun Belt Conference championship last season, so he knows about their personnel and personality going into Saturday night's game.

"They know how to win, and they expect to win," Malzahn said.

That's the mentality he's trying to cultivate for his new team, too.

The Tigers (1-0) and Arkansas State (1-0) both are led by coaches who made their reputations as offensive coordinators, Malzahn at Auburn and Tulsa; Arkansas State's Bryan Harsin at Texas and Boise State.

Malzahn calls Harsin "one of the better offensive minds in all of college football." He said he and Harsin visited to talk offense in 2007, when Malzahn was at Tulsa.

Nevertheless, both relied heavily on the running games instead of new starting quarterbacks in their openers.

Malzahn, Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee and offensive line coach J.B. Grimes helped recruit some of those Arkansas State players.

The familiarity goes both ways. Red Wolves co-offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz was a Malzahn assistant.

"They've got very good players on their side," Harsin said. "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.

"But the biggest thing is just the one-on-one battles and the opponent that we have to play. We've got a big challenge ahead of us."