In & around SEC football

By Cole FrederickBy Cole Frederick

SEC coach rankings

1. Nick Saban, Alabama. As the only active coach with four national championships, Saban easily has been the most dominant college football coach of the 21st century. He is 72-9 in the last six seasons at Alabama, with three national titles and two SEC championships. Since becoming the head coach at UA, Saban has put together the nation’s top recruiting classes. Alabama lost several key starters from last season’s team, but the Crimson Tide is still favored to win the national title due to Nick Saban’s coaching and recruiting ability. 

2. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina. Spurrier has coached in the SEC for over two decades and might be the most influential coach in the league’s rich history. While coaching at Florida, Spurrier’s “Fun ‘n’ Gun” offense was revolutionary for the conference, as he was the first coach to have success implementing a pass-oriented offense. While in Gainesville, Spurrier won a national championship in 1996 and captured six conference titles in a 10-year span. This will be Spurrier’s 10th season in Columbia, and he’s had more success with the Gamecocks than any other coach in school history. Before Spurrier, South Carolina had never won 11 games in one season. During his tenure, the Gamecocks have accomplished that feat in three consecutive seasons. 

3. Les Miles, LSU. If coaches were ranked solely on who had eaten the most grass at each SEC stadium, then Miles certainly would top the list. However, Miles’ resume at LSU is almost just as impressive. In nine seasons with the Tigers, Miles has won at least 10 games in seven of those years. Miles also won a national championship in 2007, as LSU became the only two-loss team to win a BCS title. LSU has won two SEC championships under Miles and made it to another BCS championship game in 2012. 

4. Mark Richt, Georgia. Richt currently is the longest tenured coach in the SEC, and his consistency at Georgia has been impressive. Since 2000, Richt has led the Bulldogs to 126 wins and two SEC titles. Georgia has made a bowl game in every season under Richt and has posted a losing record only once. 

5. Gus Malzahn, Auburn. Malzahn has only been a coach in the SEC for one season, but it was one of the most memorable seasons in Auburn history. The Tigers won the SEC championship in 2013 and defeated rivals Georgia and Alabama with miraculous plays to end the game. Malzahn faces higher expectations in his second season, and has a chance to add to a remarkable first season as a SEC head coach. 

6. Gary Pinkel, Missouri. Missouri failed to reach a bowl game in its inaugural season in the SEC, but the Tigers fared much better in Year 2. Pinkel led UM to a 12-2 record and an SEC East title. Whether Pinkel’s Tigers can sustain that success remains to be seen, but playing for a SEC championship is still an impressive feat for Missouri. The Tigers aren’t as talented this year but could still make some noise in the East Division. 

7. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M. Texas A&M recently gave Sumlin an extension and raised his annual salary to five million dollars, yet the Aggies are coming off of a nine-win season. The Aggies have faith in Sumlin, however, and while he was 20-6 the last two seasons, he accomplished that success with Johnny Manziel as his quarterback. Sumlin has recruited exceptionally well, but the College Station squad might struggle to reach a bowl this season.Sumlin’s coaching abilities will be put to the test over the next couple of years. 

8. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State. Mullen probably isn’t going to win a SEC championship at Mississippi State. But Bulldog fans have to be pleased with his consistency in Starkville. The Bulldogs finished with a losing record just once in Mullen’s five-year tenure, and that was his first season. This year is Mississippi State’s best chance since 2010 to reach 10 wins. If Mullen can knock off Ole Miss again, his job will be safe in Starkville for quite some time. 

9. Hugh Freeze, Mississippi. Freeze inherited a rough situation in Oxford after the Houston Nutt era, but he’s quietly turning the Ole Miss football program around. Some consider the Rebels a dark horse to win the SEC West this season, but talent-wise they’re still at least a year away. Nevertheless, Freeze has the Rebels on the rise in the division.

10. Will Muschamp, Florida. Two seasons ago, Muschamp led the Gators to 11 wins and a Sugar Bowl appearance. Last year was one of the worst seasons of Florida football history, however, as it was the first time since 1979 that the Gators finished a season with a losing record. Florida should bounce back relatively well this year. If they don’t, Muschamp will be on the hot seat. 

11. Butch Jones, Tennessee. Tennessee finished 5-7 last season, but it looks like Butch Jones has the Volunteers headed in the right direction. Tennessee has an impressive recruiting class coming in this year thanks to Jones. While the Vols are still a few years away from competing for a SEC title, they’re closer now than they’ve been under the previous two coaches. 

12. Bret Bielema, Arkansas. Bielema’s first season was unsuccessful, but he has proven that he is capable of winning in a major conference. Bielema was 68-24 at Wisconsin, although his first season in Fayetteville resulted in only three wins. A bowl berth in 2014 would be a major step in the right direction for Bielema and the Hogs. 

13. Mark Stoops, Kentucky. In his first season at Kentucky, Stoops led the Wildcats to just two wins. However, his first recruiting class was notable for Kentucky, and expectations are slightly higher for the Wildcats. Kentucky’s ceiling in 2014 is probably six victories, but that mark will be a challenge for Stoops and the Wildcats. 

14. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt. Mason has yet to coach a game in the SEC, so his coaching ability still remains unknown. Mason is inheriting a Vanderbilt team that has won back-to-back bowl games in consecutive nine-win seasons. The SEC East should be improved this year, so Ma-son’s first season will be especially challenging.

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