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Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Take Two: SEC's best coaching job

By Chris Low & Edward Aschoff

Gus Malzahn, Gary Pinkel
Both Gus Malzahn and Gary Pinkel have produced amazing turnaround seasons so far.


Who’s done the best coaching job in the SEC to this point?

Depending on your locale, you probably have a pretty strong opinion, but the two frontrunners right now for coach of the year honors in the league are Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Missouri’s Gary Pinkel.

We at the SEC blog understand that the landscape can change over the next several weeks, but Edward and I will tackle the Malzahn vs. Pinkel debate in our Take Two forum. We'll let you decide who's right.

Today’s Take Two topic: Who’s the SEC Coach of the Year at this point, Malzahn or Pinkel?

Take 1: Chris Low
Considering the way both of these programs finished last season, Malzahn and Pinkel have both done bang-up jobs. I’m going with Malzahn because it’s his first season, and it’s always harder to get your infrastructure in place, establish the kind of culture you want in your program and get the players to buy in totally when you’ve only had eight months to do all of that. Usually, it takes a little bit longer for a first-year coach to cover all those bases. Malzahn, however, seems to have everything pointed in the right direction on the Plains, and his football team is improving on a weekly basis. The grit Auburn showed last week in winning at Texas A&M tells you everything you need to know about the mindset of that program.

One of the smartest things Malzahn did was hire a veteran staff with gobs of SEC experience. He hasn’t been hesitant to lean on that staff, either. On the field, you can see Malzahn’s imprint all over this team. For one, the Tigers (6-1, 3-1 SEC) can run the football, and they’re also plenty physical on both sides of the ball. Sure, Malzahn likes to spread it out on offense and wants to play at a head-spinning pace, but there’s a reason his teams always have success running the ball. He’s committed to it, and Auburn leads the SEC right now in rushing offense with an average of 300.1 yards per game.

Several of Auburn’s younger players on defense are growing up, and this is a team that’s playing with a tremendous amount of confidence right now. Malzahn has done a terrific job of pressing all the right buttons and helping to heal all the emotional bruising this program suffered a year ago in a forgettable 3-9 campaign. It’s not out of the realm that the Tigers could win 10 games this season, and that Iron Bowl date on Nov. 30 on the Plains looks a little more interesting each week.

Take 2: Edward Aschoff
When it comes to figuring out who is currently the coach of the year in the SEC, I have to go with Pinkel. He entered the season on the hottest coaching seat in the SEC and was coming off of a season in which his team was ravaged by injuries and went 5-7. The more the injuries piled up, the more confidence that team lost. He had a quarterback controversy in the spring, and no one was quite sure what to expect from the Tigers this fall.

Now look at his team. Pinkel can smile now as his Tigers are 7-0, have beaten Georgia and Florida in consecutive games (by a combined 34 points no less) and own one of the country's best offenses, averaging more than 500 yards and 44 points a game. And the defense isn't half bad either. The Tigers lead the SEC and rank fifth nationally with 23 sacks. Oh, and his backup quarterback stepped right in and threw for 295 yards on Florida's top-ranked defense.

The biggest thing for Mizzou is that it's healthy and confident. Players bought in this year when it would have been easy to coast with a coach teetering on the edge. Pinkel rallied his guys and is now a win away from basically locking up the SEC Eastern Division and could make a legitimate run to a national championship.