Iron Bowl rivalry all about respect, understanding for Gus Malzahn, Nick Saban

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By Brandon Marcello |

AUBURN, Alabama -- Gus Malzahn is as familiar with Alabama and the Iron Bowl as any first-year coach at Auburn.

And he knows there's plenty of ground to make in the rivalry, which ebbs and flows every few years, it seems. From Auburn winning six straight Iron Bowls, to Alabama winning four of the last five on its way to back-to-back BCS national championships, someone is always trying to land a counter-punch on opposite ends of the state.

"I'll tell you what - and, of course, I was here before so I knew exactly what I was getting into - we're very competitive," Malzahn said last week. "We have high goals and high dreams at Auburn. So I really enjoy it and am looking forward to it."

Malzahn was in the middle of the rivalry for three years as an offensive coordinator, but he has never experienced it as a head coach. He has had a few tastes in the spring and summer during his stops on his Tiger Trek tour -- and the recruiting trail -- but nothing compared to what he will see in late November and what he must do to rebuild and prepare the Tigers for the ultimate rivalry.

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