In anticipation of Saturday’s showdowns between Ole Miss and LSU as well as Auburn and South Carolina, 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 LSU’s Les Miles, and Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn against South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier.

HUGH FREEZE

  • Record as FBS head coach: 32-13 (22-11 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 has led Ole Miss to its second-ever 7-0 start to a season and its first since 1962, relying on the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense to carry the team to the No. 3 ranking in this week’s national polls. The Rebels are one of three remaining unbeatens among the power five conferences, which is incredible considering the year before Freeze arrived in Oxford (2011) the Rebels failed to win a single SEC game. He has been one of the nation’s best recruiters since taking over at Ole Miss, and those recruits have already translated to wins on the field. Ole Miss is a legitimate national championship contender, and it’s all thanks to Freeze’s revitalization of the program.

LES MILES

  • Record as FBS head coach: 129-47 (101-26 at LSU; 28-21 at Oklahoma State)
  • Previous coaching stops: Oklahoma State (head coach, offensive coordinator), Dallas Cowboys (tight ends coach), University of Michigan (offensive line coach, graduate assistant), University of Colorado (offensive line coach).
  • Achievements as coach: One national championship, two SEC championships, three SEC West titles, Associated Press College Football Coach of the Year, AFCA FBS Coach of the Year, Walter Camp Coach of the Year.

Breakdown: Miles is in his 10th year at LSU since taking over for Nick Saban, and he’s experienced nothing but success as head coach of the Tigers. Even after LSU spiraled out of the rankings during a two-game losing streak earlier this season Miles righted the ship, leading LSU back into the rankings following a 41-3 rout of Kentucky last week. He’s put 18 players into the NFL the last two seasons alone, and his current LSU team is beginning to look like the most dangerous spoiler in college football. Miles somehow found a way to replace a ton of departed talent, and it’s safe to say no one is eager to face the Mad Hatter at this point in the season.

Who has the edge: Freeze has the edge, as there’s been no hotter coach in America than the Rebels’ head man the last three seasons. Miles has had sustained success for a decade, but his current Tigers, albeit on a two-game winning streak, are still rather raw and inexperienced. Freeze’s Rebels, however, are a veteran team that has grown as Freeze has grown since 2012. Ole Miss has gone from bad to good to great to now elite during his brief tenure, and in a battle of two tremendous head coaches there’s no reason to believe Freeze won’t rise to the occasion.

GUS MALZAHN

  • Record as FBS head coach: 26-6 (17-3 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’s Tigers lost to Mississippi State their last time out, but after a week off last week they’re rested and ready to return to action. Auburn is quietly putting together another championship-caliber season under Malzahn’s leadership, thanks to his famous spread rushing attack and a freakishly athletic defense allowing fewer than 20 points per game. Like Freeze, Malzahn has experienced nothing but success at Auburn, and the Tigers remain a threat reach the inaugural College Football Playoff as one of the top 5 teams in this week’s polls.

STEVE SPURRIER

  • Record as FBS head coach: 223-82-2 (81-42 at South Carolina, 122-27-1 at Florida, 20-13-1 at Duke)
  • Previous coaching stops: Washington Redskins (head coach), University of Florida (head coach, quarterbacks coach), Duke University (head coach, offensive coordinator), Tampa Bay Bandits (head coach), Georgia Tech (quarterbacks coach).
  • Achievements as coach: One national championship (1996), one ACC championship, six SEC championships, eight SEC East titles, two-time ACC coach of the year, seven-time SEC coach of the year.

Breakdown: Spurrier is a coaching legend, but his team has struggled to a 4-3 record this season and he has made questionable decisions in each of those three losses. The Gamecocks began the year ranked in the top 10 in the nation, but they’re currently unranked altogether and boast the SEC’s worst defense. Furthermore, the Gamecocks have already blown two double-digit fourth quarter leads this year to Missouri and Kentucky, and Spurrier’s play-calling has been the subject of major criticisms following those losses in particular. Spurrier hasn’t won an SEC championship since arriving at South Carolina, and we’re all beginning to wonder if his best years in Columbia are behind him.

Who has the edge: Malzahn has the edge due to his recent success in the SEC. Spurrier has had the more illustrious career to this point, but Malzahn has only lost two regular season games in 18 tries as coach of the Tigers. For context’s sake, Spurrier has lost two games in the last four weeks alone, which includes a bye week. If this game were played 5-10 years ago Spurrier would be licking his chops awaiting a matchup with an inexperienced head coach like Malzahn. But in 2014, Malzahn is the better head coach, and he will be leading the better team on Saturday.