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Hands Down, Miles Is The SEC’s Coach Of The Year

Regardless of what happens tomorrow at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, the SEC’s Coach of the Year honors should go to the man in the hat… LSU’s Les Miles.

Rather than simply giving your our take on the jobs each of the league’s coaches did this year, as usual we wanted to start with some data.  So, just to create a starting point for our rankings of the league’s best coaches, we came up with a way to give coaches’ points for their work in 2011.

It’s a simple formula — and no, it’s not perfect.  If a coach beat an FBS team, he got credit for all of that team’s wins (meaning a win over Alabama would be worth 11 points while a win over Ole Miss would be worth 2 points, for example).  If a coach lost to an FBS team, he was docked a point for each of the opponent’s losses (meaning a loss to Ole Miss would be worth -10 points while a loss to unbeaten LSU wouldn’t result in a deduction at all).

Coaches got a 1-point bonus for beating an FCS team and a 12-point deduction for losing to an FCS squad (but that didn’t happen in the SEC this season).

Yes, this means that a team beating Western Kentucky would get credit for 7 points as opposed to just 6 for beating Florida, but we were only looking for a place to start anyway.

Below are the coaches’ scores through today.  With more games to be played this weekend, these scores can still rise and fall a bit.  We’ve also included each man’s best win and worst loss on the season (by won/lost numbers):

Coach Total Points Best Win Worst Loss
L. Miles, LSU 79 Alabama (11pts) None
N. Saban, Alabama 61 Arkansas (10pts) LSU (-0pts)
S. Spurrier, S. Carolina 50 Georgia (10pts) Auburn (-5pts)
M. Richt, Georgia 47 Ga. Tech (8pts) S. Carolina (-2pts)
B. Petrino, Arkansas 46 S. Carolina (10pts) Alabama (-1pt)
G. Chizik, Auburn 24 S. Carolina (10pts) Clemson (-3pts)
D. Mullen, MSU 9 La. Tech (8pts) Auburn (-5pts)
W. Muschamp, Florida 7 Vanderbilt (6pts) Auburn (-5pts)
J. Franklin, Vanderbilt 2 W. Forest (6pts) Tennessee (-7pts)
D. Dooley, Tennessee 0 Cincinnati (8pts) Kentucky (-7pts)
J. Phillips, Kentucky -9 W. Kentucky (7pts) Florida, MSU, Vandy (-6pts)
H. Nutt, Ole Miss -31 Fresno St. (4pts) Kentucky (-7pts)

So that’s our starting point, now let’s show you how we ranked these guys and why:

1.  Les Miles, LSU (12-0 overall, 8-0 SEC)

Miles — already a national championship-winner on The Bayou — had his best season in 2011.  He managed to keep his Tigers focused despite: the NCAA hitting LSU with two-years probation, the NCAA asking questions about Willie Lyles, the NCAA suspending Russell Shepard, a bar brawl on the eve of the season, starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson’s arrest and suspension and eventual return, and a last-minute switch in coaching duties when new offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in August.  In spite of all those land mines, Miles successfully led his team to wins over Oregon, West Virginia and Alabama away from Tiger Stadium.  Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Miles gambled a lot less in 2011 than he has in previous years.  There were no Mad Hatter moments — good or bad — that drew national attention.  Hands down, no one has done a better job than Miles in the SEC this season.  No one even comes close.


2.  Mark Richt, Georgia (10-2 overall, 7-1 SEC)

Yeah, yeah, some can keep barking about the so-called easy schedule, but Richt has no control over the SEC’s schedule rotation or the fortunes of other programs.  He can only beat the teams on his docket and for 10 consecutive weeks he did just that.  Regardless of schedule, if you run off seven straight wins in the SEC, you’ve done some heavy lifting.  But Richt moves all the way up to #2 on our list for the pressure he, his coaches and his team had to overcome.  The coach came into the season on the hot seat.  After an opening loss to Boise State and then a sloppy loss to Carolina — a game UGA coulda/shoulda won — most wrote off the coach for dead.  He and his team responded by getting better as the season played out.  His reward is a date with a #1 team that’s kicked around just about everybody not named Alabama, but win or lose tomorrow, Richt’s work in 2011 is praise-worthy.

3.  Steve Spurrier, South Carolina (10-2 overall, 6-2 SEC)

The Ol’ Ball Coach created a bit of his own mess this season with his odd handling of eventually-dismissed quarterback Stephen Garcia over the summer and into the fall.  Then he had to overcome the midseason loss of Carolina’s far-and-away best player, Marcus Lattimore.  The Cocks caught some breaks on the schedule late (Tennessee with a first-time starter at quarterback, The Citadel, a Florida team with zero offense), but bottom line is this: 10 wins for just the second time in school history.  Slice it anyway you like, 10-2 in the SEC is a darn good year.  Spurrier’s recruiting is clearly paying dividends now and his selection of Ellis Johnson as his top defensive aide continues to pay off as well.  He won’t win a championship in 2011, but his has been some of Spurrier’s best work.

4.  Nick Saban, Alabama (11-1 overall, 7-1 SEC)

Alabama had the more veteran team and the home field advantage in Game of the Century Part I.  But Saban didn’t have the best special teams — and knowing that points would be at a premium — he continued to trot them out for long field goal attempts.  That’s about the only mistake Saban has made this year.  His defense has lived up to its billing and his running game has been dominant.  He also kept his team focused despite the heartbreaking OT loss to LSU on November 5th.

5.  Bobby Petrino, Arkansas (10-2 overall, 6-2 SEC)

The Razorbacks withstood some big injuries on the defensive line and broke in a new quarterback in 2011.  They also made due without preseason All-SEC back Knile Davis who went down with a season-ending injury before the first game of the year.  If not for LSU and Alabama both beating dominant, Petrino would have his Hogs back in a BCS bowl this year.  Fine work.  He just needs to work on his defense.

6.  James Franklin, Vanderbilt (6-6 overall, 2-6 SEC)

The numbers aren’t really in Franklin’s favor.  His wins came over Elon, UConn, Ole Miss, Army, Kentucky and Wake Forest with Wake being the only team in that bunch with a winning record.  He also inherited a veteran team with 37 juniors and seniors (28 of whom also had the benefit of a redshirt year).  But the fact is, we’re giving Franklin such a bump because of hype.  The hype he’s created in Nashville.  Not only did he go bowling with a team that was 2-10 last year, but he’s got people talking about Vandy.  Other teams are complaining about dirty hits.  Recruiting gurus are wowed by his commitment list.  And his name is popping up in connection with jobs at Penn State and North Carolina.  Real or imagined, a one-year blip or the start of some real magic, Franklin may not be the SEC’s Coach of the Year, but he’s definitely a man to watch moving forward.  A great find by VU’s David Williams.

7.  Gene Chizik, Auburn (7-5 overall, 4-4 SEC)

Tiger fans don’t want to hear it, but the preseason rankings they’d complained were disrespectful actually gave AU too much credit.  You can argue that Chizik should have had a better quarterback waiting in the wings, but when you look at the number of stars and contributors he lost from 2010 to 2011, it’s hard to imagine him leading Auburn to a much better record than he did.  But he should be glad he nipped Utah State and Mississippi State in the season’s first two week or, whoa, buddy, he’d be hearing it right now.

8.  Dan Mullen, Mississippi State (6-6 overall, 2-6 SEC)

Now we’re into the area where there’s just not much good to say.  Mullen had his team claw back to achieve bowl eligibility after a disappointing start.  He also happens to oversee a program that was trying to climb in what was the toughest division in college football this year.  Still if he doesn’t eventually beat a West Division team not named “Ole Miss,” he’ll stop seeing his name tied to higher-profile gigs like Miami and Penn State.

9.  Will Muschamp, Florida (6-6 overall, 3-5 SEC)

Florida’s first-year coach inherited an offensive roster built to play in a totally different system.  But he and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis tried to turn Urban Meyer’s speed-based squad into a pro-style, power-team anyway.  And it didn’t work.  The program is also hemorrhaging transfers at the moment.  Muschamp’s biggest job is on the recruiting trail.  He’s got to find the guys to fit his system… and then he’ll need to grow them up fast.  Coaches don’t get much time for turnarounds in Gainesville.

10.  Joker Phillips, Kentucky (5-7 overall, 2-6 SEC)

The difference between the #10 coach and #11 coach was a head-to-head victory in Lexington last Saturday.  Phillips’ program seems to be going in reverse but that could be a product of Rich Brooks simply knowing when to pull the rip cord and exit.  The Cats lost a five-year bowl streak and a four-year win streak over Louisville this year.  But last week, Phillips ended a 26-year losing streak to Tennessee.  That’s enough to earn him our 10 spot.

11.  Derek Dooley, Tennessee (5-7, 1-7 SEC)

There are legitimate reasons for Dooley’s struggles this year: thanks to attrition from two coaching changes his team was made up almost entirely of freshmen and sophomores, he played five of the Top 15 teams in the country, and his two best players on offense were lost to injuries for much of the season.  But.  The Vols quit on Dooley last week at Kentucky and some players even admitted as much after the game.  The current turmoil surrounding the UT program is approaching the meltdown stage achieved once before when Lane Kiffin departed unexpectedly after just one season in Knoxville.  Next year is do or die for Dooley.

12.  Houston Nutt, Ole Miss (2-10, 0-8)

At this point, saying much about the Nutt situation just feels like piling on.  You can almost discard the last three losses because many times do go belly-up when their coach gets smoked with weeks remaining in the season.  Nutt’s failure — ironically enough — was on the recruiting trail.  He signed 37 players one year and always outranked MSU in the recruiting rankings, but he had way too many wash-outs to build a stable program.  In that end, it’s the reason his run in the SEC ended after 14 seasons, 10 bowl games, and 99 wins.

 


16 comments
Chris Humpherys
Chris Humpherys

Those behind the BCS have to be hoping and praying LSU pulls this one off tomorrow.

Would the world implode if that happened?

Rob
Rob

My top 6 (bottom 6 are the same)

1. Miles
2. Saban
3. Petrino
4. Franklin
5. Richt
6. Spurrier

Rob
Rob

I have to post again because I'm so stunned that you would put Richt and Spurrier at 2-3. If either of them had faced Alabama and LSU, their records would be 8-4 right now, and you have to know that, but I forget that schedules don't matter to you.

Since schedules don't matter to you, I bet you love Boise.

Rob
Rob

I strongly disagree with your rankings John. I can understand putting Miles first, after all he's done, but Richt at #2? Spurrier at #3?

We all know that Richt doesn't choose Georgia's conference schedule, but it was still Georgia's conference schedule. He does deserve to be somewhere in the upper half, but #2 for finally having a good season with all that talent and doing it against the easiest schedule in the conference? The argument that he doesn't choose Georgia's conference schedule is one of the most ridiculous arguments that I can remember, because it's totally irrelevant. I don't know if you're a Georgia fan, but regardless, you come across as a huge Georgia homer while making that argument.

Spurrier deserves the upper half also, but how does a coach who arguably finishes worse then expected deserve to be ranked #3? In contrast, Arkansas arguably finished better then expected, but you have Petrino #5 and that despite dominating South Carolina, while trailing the Gamecocks in recruiting. What gives?

As much as I hate to admit it, Franklin also deserves to be ranked higher.

William Steiner-Lynn
William Steiner-Lynn

Franklin deserves to be COTY. A blind, deaf, dumb goat could have coached LSU to an undefeated season.

Evan
Evan

John you're too kind to Dooley. He deserves to be ranked 13 out of 12. Losing on the field is one thing, losing the lockeroom is quite another.

robin
robin

I had #1 and #7-12 just like you. But based on what these teams had going into the year, and what was expected, and how long they had been at the program ... I think Franklin deserved a higher ranking (I had him #3) ---- first year coach at Vandy, takes them to a bowl, lots of very close losses, has improved recruiting and totally changed the perception of Vanderbilt football (he should be ranked above Spurrier, Petrino, and Richt). And yes he had some veterans, but he also instituted a whole new system ... and these are "Vanderbilt veterans" we're talking about.

AJ
AJ

If UGA wins the SEC tomorrow Richt should be the COY period ..

Willy McGee
Willy McGee

Thanks John. I see the dysfunction at UT as something that makes Dooley's performance much worse than even his 11-14 record would suggest. As for injuries, all teams have injuries. As for recruiting, UT is ranked sixth in the SEC right now according to Rivals so he's not recruiting well or re-stocking the cupboard, to my mind. Plus, when he does leave, many of the recruits he does get will transfer. I agree with you that two years is normally not long enough, but in this case I think it is. We see what happens next year.

Willy McGhee
Willy McGhee

John, do you think Dooley should stay at UT this year even if he doesn't fire any of the assistant coaches that have done so poorly? TIA.

Travis
Travis

You could make a case that Chizik has overachieved all 3 years based on the "experts" predictions.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

robin...

You tell any coach in the country if he's got one year to coach that he can have a team of veterans or a team of youngsters, he'll take the veterans. A 22-year-old's body and experience level are a lot different than those of an 18-year-old.

I think Franklin did a great job and I boosted him despite the fact that -- by the numbers -- he really only beat one good team all year and that was Wake Forest. He did make Vandy more competitive, but Bobby Johnson and Gerry DiNardo did the same on occasion.

I think Franklin did a super job, but I can't ignore the fact that he didn't upset top competition and that he had one of the oldest teams in the league.

No insult toward him. I think VU is in good hands and that they are wise to lock him up with an extension.

Thanks for reading,
John

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Willy McGee..

Good to know you, uh, value you my opinion.

Thanks for reading,
John

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Willy McGhee...

Yes. Only programs like Memphis and Kansas fire coaches after two years. Dooley may not be able to win at UT, but he's recruiting well and re-stocking the cupboard. Vol fans should focus on the long-term (the roster) and not the short-term (Dooley's weak record in this first two years.)

Besides, Dooley's 11-14 record isn't that far off from most media projections upon his hiring that UT would be about .500 over his first two years due to the state of the program and its roster. If they had known he'd also lose his quarterback and star receiver for much of one of those seasons, the projections might have been for a little under .500.

I don't think Dooley or Joker Phillips at Kentucky, for that matter, are long-term solutions at their schools. But both men deserve ample time to prove me and everyone else wrong. Two years is not long enough. Unless folks want to drive their programs down to the level of Kansas and Memphis.

Thanks for reading,
John

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Travis...

Actually, the "experts" picked Auburn to be a Top 25 club this year, they just didn't have them in the Top 10 or 15 as Tiger fans had wanted when the season began. I don't think I'd describe this year as an overachievement.

Thanks for reading,
John

Willy McGee
Willy McGee

Just because I asked for your opinion doesn't mean I'm going to accept it. By the way, I don't value your opinion over anybody else's.



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