Coach Comparison: Muschamp, Richt meet in lopsided Cocktail Party
In anticipation of Saturday’s showdowns between Auburn and Ole Miss as well as Florida and Georgia, Saturday Down South takes a closer look at the coaching matchup in each game. This week’s matchups include Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze against Auburn’s Les Miles, and Florida head coach Will Muschamp against Georgia’s Mark Richt.
- Record as FBS head coach: 25-19 (all at Florida)
- Previous coaching stops: University of Texas (defensive coordinator, linebackers coach), Auburn University (defensive coordinator, graduate assistant), Miami Dolphins (associate head coach, defensive coordinator), LSU (defensive coordinator, linebackers coach), Valdosta State (defensive coordinator), Eastern Kentucky University (defensive backs coach), University of West Georgia (defensive backs coach).
- Achievements as coach: One co-SEC East title (2012)
Breakdown: Muschamp is essentially a lame duck coach at this point in the season, as his termination seems imminent in the midst of another disappointing campaign in Gainesville. The Gators are a mere 3-3 on the year and just 2-3 in the SEC, and their last time out they were embarrassed 42-13 by a Missouri team that mustered less than 120 yards of total offense. Worse yet, the game was Florida’s Homecoming game, so it’s easy to see why the UF fan base was upset by the Gators’ poor showing. As a result of his unofficial lame duck status, we don’t know how Muschamp’s players will respond to their head coach the rest of the season, which is an interesting wrinkle in Saturday’s game against Georgia.
- Record as FBS head coach: 132-46 (all at Georgia)
- Previous coaching stops: Florida State (offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, graduate assistant), East Carolina (quarterbacks coach).
- Achievements as coach: Two SEC championships, six SEC East titles, two-time SEC Coach of the Year.
Breakdown: Richt has done a masterful job of navigating Georgia through its SEC schedule without star tailback Todd Gurley, and he’ll need to continue working his magic without Gurley Saturday against Florida. The Bulldogs came in at No. 11 in the first College Football Playoff Top 25 rankings, and with one loss they control their own destiny to win the SEC championship and earn a spot in the playoff. The Dawgs have much tougher tests ahead of them than the game against Florida, but if Richt has proven anything in his tenure in Athens it’s that his teams rarely fall victim to a trap game. Expect Richt to have his team fired up on Saturday, and expect Georgia to play with purpose when it takes the field against Florida.
Who has the edge: Richt has the edge. Every coach to oppose Muschamp the rest of the year will have an edge, if only because those coaches will have job security while Muschamp does not. It is hard enough to coach in the SEC, but it seems almost impossible to do so knowing you’ll almost certainly be fired in a month’s time. Richt has been one of the best coaches in the SEC for more than a decade, while Muschamp is in jeopardy of falling short of a bowl game for a second straight year at one of the nation’s more storied programs. Furthermore, Richt is 3-0 against Muschamp since he arrived in Gainesville four seasons ago. It’s easy to see why Richt has an edge in this matchup, and he’ll prove why once and for all on Saturday.
- Record as FBS head coach: 32-14 (22-12 at Ole Miss, 10-2 at Arkansas State)
- Previous coaching stops: Arkansas State (head coach and offensive coordinator), Lambuth (head coach), Ole Miss (tight ends coach, recruiting coordinator), Briarcrest High School (head coach, offensive coordinator, defensive backs coach).
- Achievements as coach: Sun Belt Conference championship, two Tennessee high school state championships, four-time Associated Press high school coach of the year.
Breakdown: Freeze is coming off one of his worst coaching performances as Ole Miss’ head coach in last week’s loss to LSU. The Rebels botched two late game drives to lose by three points on the road, and now they face a potential elimination game against a top 5 team and defending conference champion in Auburn. Freeze’s quarterback, Bo Wallace, deserves his share of the blame for the loss, but ultimately Freeze was the one who mismanaged the clocked and called some questionable plays as Ole Miss fell short in Death Valley. Both Ole Miss and Auburn were ranked in the Top 4 of the CFP Poll, indicating both are in control of playoff spots until their next loss, which for one team will have to come on Saturday. However, the Rebels didn’t have long to recover from the loss to LSU, so it will be interesting to see how Freeze and his team approach this game at home on Saturday.
- Record as FBS head coach: 27-6 (18-3 at Auburn; 9-3 at Arkansas State)
- Previous coaching stops: Arkansas State (head coach), Auburn University (offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach), Tulane University (co-offensive coordinator, assistant head coach, quarterbacks coach), University of Arkansas (offensive coordinator, wide receivers coach), Springdale (Ark.) High School (head coach), Shiloh (Ark.) Christian School (head coach), Hughes (Ark.) High School (head coach, defensive coordinator)
- Achievements as coach: SEC championship, SEC West title, SEC Coach of the Year, Paul “Bear” Bryant Award, AP Coach of the Year, Home Depot Coach of the Year, Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year.
Breakdown: Malzahn and his Tigers survived a scare from South Carolina last week in winning a 42-35 shootout on the Plains, but now they must turn their attention to their biggest game of the year to date, a tough road test against Ole Miss in Oxford. As previously stated, the loser of this game will likely be eliminated from playoff contention, so there’s little margin for error for Malzahn on Saturday. The Auburn head man loves to work in unorthodox ways, as evidenced by his unique spread rushing attack, and he’ll surely have a few tricks up his sleeve on Saturday. Malzahn is 17-2 in regular season games at Auburn, but his team hasn’t had the same magic it did last year in wins over Georgia and Alabama, so Saturday could be a wake up call for Auburn in Year 2 of the Malzahn era.
Who has the edge: There are positives and negatives behind both coaches entering Saturday’s game, but the edge goes to Freeze based on where he has Ole Miss trending. Malzahn’s Tigers are good, but not as good as last season, and they may have run out of luck after last year’s repeated late game heroics. Freeze, meanwhile, has consistently moved Ole Miss forward over the last three seasons, and seems to have hit his stride in Year 3 in Oxford. Both are incredible coaches who are less than a decade removed from coaching at the high school level, but Freeze hadn’t cost his team a game as a head coach until last week. Perhaps the Rebels’ mistakes against LSU will mark the beginning of a tailspin in Oxford, but more than likely they’ll serve as a wake up call for Freeze and company, who will have an edge at home this weekend.