Before Missouri, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Arkansas fans get angry and upset as to why Mssrs Pinkel, Sumlin, Freeze and Smith aren’t on the list, it’s because none of them have had SEC coaching game under their belts so they are going in the N/A category.

But for the other 10, here’s the SEC Football Blog’s ranking of the conference’s coaches.

Tell us what you think – as we’re sure you will- if you disagree…

1. Nick Saban (Alabama)

There are those who love him (Alabama fans, his family) and those who hate him (Other SEC fans, Miami Dolphins fans), but there’s one thing for certain: Nick Saban is the best coach in the SEC – and in college football generally. Saban not only has won three National Championships, but he’s also won the SEC three times and the SEC West five times. The good players who play for him (the list is long and distinguished) generally go as high drafts in the NFL, and everyone will tell you that there’s a frightening drive towards success. And if you come against Voldemort as a recruiter, then be afraid. Oh, and he’s 5 ft 6, by the way.

2. Steve Spurrier (South Carolina)

Spurrier’s won as a player in the SEC, and he’s won as a coach in the SEC. He’s loved by fans from Florida and South Carolina, and hated by just about everyone else (because he beats them and taunts them – especially if you’re Florida State). Spurrier’s so good because his offensive schemes are fun and interesting, he’s not afraid to use a trick play or two or three (watch the Georgia vs South Carolina game in 2011 for details), and his teams win. If Marcus Lattimore hadn’t been hurt early last season, Carolina could well have won the SEC East and taken Georgia’s place. Oh, and he’s also one of the best recruiters in the land.

3. Gene Chizik (Auburn)

This was a toss-up between Chizik and Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, but we gave Chizik the edge because in his first season, Chizik won the Crystal Trophy. Say what you want about Cam Newton (And no, we don’t think the arguing over this will ever be over), but Chizik and Gus Malzahn’s offense – backed by a healthy ‘D’ featuring one of the nastier players in college football in Nick UN-Fairley – didn’t ever give up in 2010, and to come back from deficits almost every week takes a good coach. Chizik – like Spurrier and Saban before him – has also recruited well, but the real test of his excellence will be the 2012 season, which will feature a new team and a new offensive co-ordinator now Malzahn’s at Arkansas State.

4. James Franklin (Vanderbilt)

His 6-6 record may not be anything special, but if you consider where Vandy teams have come from in the past, that’s pretty special. And if you look at the games Vandy lost last year, only the South Carolina and Alabama games would be considered blow-outs, while the other four could only be described as heart-breaking. We can only think that if the Commodores had more belief, they would probably have gone 8-4 last year. Franklin’s been a great seller of the school (his coaches must have amazing wives (we joke!)), and he’s got a steady list of recruits. And the better the school gets, the more good recruits he will get – if they can keep up with the bright students.

5. Les Miles (LSU)

Why so low for a National Championship-winning, unbeaten-in-the-regular-season-of-2011 coach? Firstly, you never know what you’re going to get with the ‘Mad Hatter’. Either you’re going to get the brilliant defensive and special teams performances that were the highlight of his 2011 teams, or you’re going to get ¬†baffling sideline decisions and bad clock management. And Les Miles also rides his luck a lot – but it’s better to be lucky than good, sometimes.

6. Mark Richt (Georgia)

Last year’s 10-2 season (which included a 4-0 record against Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia Tech) masked the fact that Georgia didn’t play well against good teams, and haven’t done for a while. That’s not players, it’s coaching. Look, we know that there’s no issue in the recruiting department – Richt can recruit with the best of them – but Georgia hasn’t won a National Championship since 1980 – but will simply winning the SEC a few years really going to be enough for the starved Dawg Nation?

7. Dan Mullen (Mississippi State)

Slowly but surely, Dan Mullen’s turning this former footballing backwater into a viable project again. The Bulldogs hung with LSU for most of their game with the Tigers, and it was only at Arkansas that MSU was truly uncompetitive. As an offensive co-ordinator, we know how good Mullen was at UF, so we look forward to seeing the roll-out of Experiment Cowbell with him in charge. He’s already loved in Starkville.

8. Will Muschamp (Florida)

Texas’ favorite coach-in-waiting couldn’t wait around for Mack Brown to decide when to retire, so he opted Urban Meyer’s job at Florida. His first season was – we’ll put this kindly- mixed. While Muschamp’s team certainly retained its famous speed, the vaunted ‘D’ of the Meyer days wasn’t great, and offensively, the Charlie Weis experiment simply didn’t work out – even if his quarterbacks were injured. Listen, we know that Muschamp’s a good recruiter and this Florida experiment’s going to take some time, but if the Gators aren’t in the running for the SEC East, the Gainseville train will leave without him.

9. Derek Dooley (Tennessee)

For large parts of his time in Knoxville, Dooley has looked completely clueless, and there won’t be an outpouring of sympathy for him if he’s booted out of Neyland at the end – or even during – the 2012 season. Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter (who was injured mid-season) are going to have to play out of his skin if UT is going to get his coach out of this mess.

10. Joker Phillips (Kentucky)

Frankly, it’s going to be a race between him and Dooley as to who lasts the least long in their relative positions. Harsh to say, but when Kentucky fans are writing articles such as: “Three reasons to give Joker Phillips a break”, you know a coach is in trouble.


1. Gary Pinkel (Missouri)

Two big, big, glasses of wine apart, Pinkel’s been brilliant for the University of Missouri. Under him, the Missouri Tigers have had just one losing season in 12 years, and Columbia is a frightening place to go to for an away game (SEC East rivals aren’t going to like the cold in November, we can tell you!). If James Franklin returns, Mizzou could be an outside bet for the SEC East.

2. Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M)

In Kyle Field, Texas A&M has had a SEC-type stadium. But in 2011, A&M had a defense that we can only describe as being goddawful. Look, we hope the experiment goes well – Sumlin had an excellent track record at Houston – but will he be good enough for the most competitive division in college football in the SEC West?

3. John L. Smith (Arkansas)

If the ‘etiquette lessons’ are anything to go by last week, Coach Smith is trying to help the team do some right after a brutal off-season involving arrests of both players and Petrino. He knows Petrino’s system after being a special teams coach, so Razorbacks fans will be telling him: Don’t mess with anything!

4. Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss)

In his first full season as a coach at Arkansas State, he scored a 10-2 record and scored his first Sun Belt conference. And although his love of Oxford is well-documented, how’s this going to translate into taking Ole Miss out of the SEC basement?


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