The race for the Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year award will be interesting in 2013. There seem to be two candidates: Gary Pinkel of the Missouri Tigers and Gus Malzahn of the Auburn Tigers. Both coaches have had their teams exceed expectations this season, which is usually a strong reasoning for the coaching award.
However, while looking at the two situations, they are distinctly different. Last season, Missouri made the move from the Big 12 Conference to the SEC. During its first season in the nation’s best football conference, Missouri went 5-7 overall and 2-6 in the league. These Tigers were hampered by injuries all season long, so no one really got to see how a fully healthy Missouri team might do in conference play.
On the other hand, Auburn was dreadful last year. The Tigers lost seven of their first eight games, finishing 3-9 overall and 0-8 in SEC play. After the season, Gene Chizik was fired as head coach and Malzahn, after one season as head coach at Arkansas State, was hired as his replacement. Malzahn brought his high-tempo offensive game, as well as quarterback Nick Marshall, with him to the Plains, and it has made a world of difference.
After Saturday’s 45-10 win over Florida Atlantic, Auburn is now 7-1 this season, and still in the hunt for the SEC Western Division crown. If the Tigers can win out, and if their arch rivals, the Alabama Crimson Tide, can do the same, that would mean that the Iron Bowl on November 30 would be for the SEC West title. And that would be fun.
While arguments could be made for either of these coaches, Malzahn gets the edge here, for two reasons. One, Auburn had a much tougher road back to prominence than Missouri did. And two, the fact that Malzahn started from scratch, while Pinkel’s staff basically remained the same, gives the Auburn head man a slight edge.
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.