Chasing Saban: Who is the second-best coach in the SEC?
The SEC has lost a bit of its luster lately. Clemson beating Alabama in the national championship game didn’t help. But another reason for the perceived dip is the lack of great coaching outside of Nick Saban.
The numbers are jarring. No current SEC coach has beaten him on more than once. Only two have beaten him, period.
Current SEC Head Coaches with a win vs Nick Saban at Alabama:
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) July 21, 2017
Bret Bielema’s record at Wisconsin was super, but his conference record at Arkansas is abysmal. Butch Jones hasn’t gotten over the hump at Tennessee. We haven’t seen enough from Kirby Smart at Georgia, even though his Bulldogs were picked to win the SEC East in his second year.
There are only four candidates who have accomplished enough to be considered for the SEC’s second-best coach.
McElwain, one of many former Saban assistants, has an impressive resume in two years at Florida.
He has won the SEC East twice and won 19 games. McElwain also owns a 13-3 regular season conference record as Florida’s coach, including 3-1 against rivals Tennessee and Georgia. Besides the wins, numerous Gators have landed in the NFL, though McElwain inherited them.
He’s built on what he accomplished at Colorado State, where his teams improved each season and went 10-2 in his final year.
Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire could be the key ingredient McElwain has been missing at Florida since the Will Grier debacle: a play-making quarterback. If Zaire produces, McElwain might elevate as the second best coach, but time will tell.
Two of his regular-season SEC losses have come at the hands of West opponents, and his teams were blown out in both championship games. It might be plausible to think he might not have the same success if he coached a team in the West.
Mullen arguably has the most difficult college to recruit to in the SEC West, but his Bulldogs still find a way to win.
He has compiled a 61-42 record, with five bowl wins and only two losing seasons. The Bulldogs achieved a No. 1 ranking under Mullen’s guidance. Some people label him as “the quarterback whisperer” because of how good his quarterbacks develop under his tutelage (Dak Prescott, Nick Fitzgerald in Starkville, Alex Smith and Tim Tebow before.)
It also helps your reputation in Starkville when you have a winning record against your hated rival. Mullen is 5-3 against the Rebels.
Mullen’s coaching prowess is sometimes overblown because of Mississippi State’s coaching history. While Mullen is a good coach let’s not forget that he is 29-35 in the SEC.
Sumlin has shown flashes of brilliance. It takes a great mind to enter Tuscaloosa and ride out victorious. That is exactly what the Aggies did in 2012.
He is 44-21 since taking over the program. Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, stud NFL wide receiver Mike Evans and Myles Garrett, the 2017 NFL No. 1 overall pick, have been some of his best players. On top developing those great athletes, Sumlin had the keen sense to lure John Chavis away from LSU, a phenomenal defensive coordinator.
Before arriving in College Station, Sumlin was tearing up teams with his high-powered offense as the coach of Houston. His Cougars went 12-1 in 2011 before he accepted the Texas A&M job.
His teams have a history of starting strong and fading fast. The Aggies have had three consecutive 8-5 seasons without contending for a SEC West title. He’s 21-19 in the SEC. For him to keep his job, that has to change.
Malzahn has accomplished a number of good things at Auburn, but none bigger than beating Alabama in 2013, capturing the SEC West title en route to winning the SEC title.
No other coach vying for No. 2 can claim that. Not only did they win the SEC Championship that season, they played in the BCS National Championship.
Quarterback play has been spotty at times, but Malzahn still has one of the best offensive minds in football, the primary reason he is 18-14 in SEC games.
Arkansas State was his launching point, going 9-3 as a first-time head coach.
Besides Mullen’s recruiting difficulties, Malzahn might face the most hardships with Alabama competing in the same state. The pressure to beat the Crimson Tide is never-ending.
Coaches are paid to win titles. McElwain has, but in a weaker division.
Malzahn achieved the impossible, beating Alabama to win the SEC West. McElwain is 0-2 against his old boss.
In the race for second-best, the edge has to go to Malzahn.