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Paul Finebaum suggested Gus Malzahn may be distracted.

Iron Bowl distraction: Paul Finebaum says Gus Malzahn is ‘close to being offered’ Arkansas job

Gus Malzahn may have tried to squash the rumors of his potential interest in the Arkansas coaching job should it come available after the season, but they’re not going away anytime soon.

On Sunday morning, ESPN’s Paul Finebaum indicated that he believes an offer to be the next Razorbacks coach may soon be on the way to the Arkansas native. During a segment on ESPN’s SportsCenter during which he was asked to describe what he was most looking forward to during rivalry week, Finebaum went to the Iron Bowl– but not for the on-field intrigue.

“It’s the Iron Bowl, obviously. It’s the biggest game in the country,” Finebaum said. “But I’m really interested in what happens with the demeanor of Gus Malzahn. He answered a question yesterday [on coaching rumors]. Bret Bielema is going to get fired at Arkansas. Malzahn is from that state. He went to school there. I think he’s close to being offered that job when Bielema is fired. So how does he deal with that distraction before his biggest game?”

Booger McFarland followed Finebaum’s comment with a concern of his own about the Iron Bowl. This one is probably more palatable to Auburn fans.

“No doubt,” McFarland said in reference to Finebaum’s Malzahn-to-Arkansas distraction. “I agree with you on that, Paul. But I’m going to go on the field. When I look at Iron Bowl, to me, it’s the most intriguing matchup in college football.  The rivalry — everyone knows about that. But for the first time this season, I think Alabama is at their most vulnerable. The defense — injured. The linebacking corp — injured. Nick Saban is going to play the role [of underdog]. But guess what? They started out a 10-point favorite and it’s now down to four. So even Vegas is starting to shift toward Auburn. Auburn is hot right now. I’m going to lean right now —Paul, I know you’re going to look at my crazy — I’m leaning Auburn right now in the Iron Bowl.”

With a trip to the SEC Championship and potentially the College Football Playoff on the line, it’s not exactly the ideal time to be discussing Malzahn’s future at Auburn. But it is becoming increasingly clear that this may be a reality of Iron Bowl week. Will Auburn be able to block it all out and focus on the Crimson Tide? That remains to be seen.