Unless your team is Alabama, you probably expect to go into the fall with a couple games where you’ll just be outclassed, and hopefully a few more where you destroy a weaker foe. What separates no bowl from bad bowl, or mediocre bowl from big-time bowl, are those close games. So who wins them and who chokes in them? We let the numbers talk, and there were some surprises. We look at each coach’s record at his current school (and in the cases of Ed Orgeron and Will Muschamp, we considered their previous SEC gig as well) and stacked the results by winning percentage. So who wins close (one-score margin) games?

1. Jim McElwain (7-1, .875 winning percentage)

Sure, it’s a fairly small sample size for the Gators head man. But his teams usually rely on a strong defense and an offense that doesn’t beat itself. In a close game, the results are inarguable.

2. Kirby Smart (5-3, .625)

Now this does seem surprising. For a coach who is rumored to be in over his head, Smart’s close game record is impressive. Or maybe it isn’t. For the coach at Georgia to be in eight one-score games out of 13 total is a little scary. For perspective’s sake, Nick Saban has been in 34 close games in 10 years — that’s less than half the rate of Smart. Still, give Kirby some credit — and keep an eye on this season’s close games.

3. Gus Malzahn (14-9, .609)

Granted, much of this was built on Malzahn’s exceptional 2013 team, but the Auburn head guy is no slouch in a close game. He does coach a lot of them — 23 in four years.

4. Dan Mullen (18-13, .581)

Not at all surprising. Mullen is a good season away from being second on this list, and considering his success in doing more with less at State, that sounds about right. He is almost the coach with the most close game wins, but he is just behind …

5. Nick Saban (19-15, .559)

In his defense, if Saban’s awful 2007 team is taken out of the equation, he would be 15-9, which would tie him for second place behind McElwain. It is worth pointing out that his Alabama teams play very few close games — 24 in the last nine seasons. Still, who expected him to be fifth in the SEC?

6. Mark Stoops (9-8, .529)

A strong 2016 season moved Stoops from near the bottom of the list into the middle. Given the depth issues at Kentucky, if he wants to continue to be successful, he’ll need to keep winning close games.

7. Kevin Sumlin (12-11, .522)

Decent, unexceptional work by the A&M head man in close games.

8. Will Muschamp (13-12, .520 — 4-2 at USC, 9-10 at Florida)

Admittedly, most of what Muschamp is evaluated on here is his Florida work, so if you’re an optimistic Gamecocks fan, you notice that he was 4-2 last year, which would place him second if we judged him solely on that number. That said, a middle of the pack ranking feels about right for Muschamp.

9. Derek Mason (7-7, .500)

Glass half full, glass half empty. That’s Mason, who is at exactly .500. Much like Stoops, his number improved last year, and if Vandy wants to return to a bowl, it will need to continue to improve.

10. Butch Jones (8-11, .421)

Jones’s close game record is exactly the same as Hugh Freeze’s from his time at Ole Miss. If this number doesn’t improve, you’d have to figure Freeze won’t be the only one out of a job come December.

11. Ed Orgeron (7-10, .412 — 0-1 at LSU, 7-9 at Ole Miss)

He wasn’t great at Ole Miss, and he lost a close game to Florida in his brief tenure last year. Maybe Orgeron is going to make a lot of skeptics look real dumb. Or maybe not.

12. Bret Bielema (6-11, .353)

The only guys below him have coached zero and three close games. This is a big problem for a coach at a second-tier West school. If Bielema can’t handle close games, how can he and Arkansas hope to compete?

13. Barry Odom (1-2, .333)

Really too early to know much, but not an especially encouraging start for Missouri’s Odom in close games. Or overall, for that matter.

14. Matt Luke (0-0)

Well, Hugh Freeze was 8-11, so it’s not like he has big shoes to fill at Ole Miss.