Ranking SEC Coaches: Saban, Pinkel square off for supremacy in Atlanta
Ranking coaches based on their 2014 season, here’s our final regular-season ranking in the SEC:
5. HUGH FREEZE, OLE MISS: An unbeaten rise to No. 3 didn’t last long once the Rebels fell victim to LSU at Death Valley, but Freeze’s team rebounded nicely from a devastating loss to Auburn with an Egg Bowl victory, their ninth of the regular season. The resume’ includes a win over top-ranked Alabama, the Crimson Tide’s only loss this season. By all accounts, most would consider Freeze one of the nation’s top coaches who did a commendable job in Year 3 in Oxford.
4. BRET BIELEMA, ARKANSAS: This season appeared to be another disappointing one for the Razorbacks before an upset win over LSU sparked hope in Fayetteville. Arkansas followed that up with a blanking of Ole Miss to become ‘the five-loss team’ everybody’s talking about in the SEC West. Looking at this team play, despite their 6-6 record, reveals a program in the midst of a turnaround under their second-year coach. Bielema’s instilled a winning mentality and has the Razorbacks thinking division title contention next season if a few key pieces return.
3. DAN MULLEN, MISSISSIPPI ST.: The runaway favorite for SEC Coach of the Year before Mizzou’s late surge under Gary Pinkel, Mullen fueled Mississippi State’s unbeaten push to the program’s first No. 1 ranking before it all came crashing down over the final three games of the season — a win over Vandy sandwiched between losses to Alabama and Ole Miss. The Bulldogs gained national respect after becoming the first team to win three straight games over teams ranked in the Top 10, sparked by a Heisman candidate at quarterback, Dak Prescott. Mullen has kept this team hungry throughout the fall and now has a chance to win his 11th game during bowl season.
2. GARY PINKEL, MIZZOU: The new favorite for the league’s top coach depending on what happens Saturday, Pinkel’s done more with less this season playing under the cloak of anonymity while others watched Georgia, Florida and South Carolina’s demise in the Eastern Division. The Tigers sidestepped a 34-0 home loss to the Bulldogs to win their final six games, enough to clinch another division championship. How did that happen for a team that lost to Indiana? Coaching.
1. NICK SABAN, ALABAMA: On the cusp of another national championship game appearance with two more wins, Saban’s done a masterful job this season leading a team that lost quarterback A.J. McCarron and change its offensive scheme completely under Lane Kiffin. College football’s top puppeteer, Saban has a final regular-season show in Atlanta on Saturday before the real fun begins in the Playoff. Is there a single coach in the country you’d rather have directing your program?