NCAA Football

5 Coaches Who Deserved Coach of the Year as Much as Gus Malzahn

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5 Coaches Who Deserved Coach of the Year as Much as Gus Malzahn

gus malzahn
John David Mercery - USA TODAY Sports

Gus Malzahn turned the Auburn Tigers completely around in 2013 and took them from the cellar of the SEC in 2012 the precipice of a BCS National Championship in 2013. That remarkable job earned Malzahn AP Coach of the Year honors and deservedly so. You can easily argue that no coach was more important to the incredibly high level of success that Auburn enjoyed this season.

But the 2013 season was filled with success stories of coaches taking their teams to new heights. Not all of them hit the same highs as Malzahn did with Auburn in 2013, but considering the teams that they had at their disposal and the expectations they carried with them into the season, the jobs they did with their rosters is every bit as impressive. While there is only one Coach of the Year award to go around, there were certainly more than one suitable candidate for the honor.

Across the country, coaches put in work to get the very best out of their teams. Just like Malzahn, they did so beyond anyone's expectation and should be recognized for the effort. From winning conference championships to simply winning record numbers of games, the effort of coaches in 2013 was off the charts. If ever there was a season to break the Coach of the Year trophy into tiny pieces and mail it all over, this was it.

There will only be one trophy, however, and it will go on Gus Malzahn's mantle who deserves it as much as anyone. But there are others who could make a similarly strong argument for as the 2013 Coach of the Year. While we won't try to take away from Malzahn's accomplishment this season, here are five coaches who deserved the Coach of the Year Award just as much.

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5. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State Spartans

mark dantonio
Brian Spurlock - USA TODAY Sports

Nobody seemed to think about the Michigan State Spartans when talking about the best teams in the country this season until they went into the Big Ten title game and knocked off the then-No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes to punch their ticket to the Rose Bowl. Mark Dantonio kept his team on an even keel all season long, leaning on one of the best defenses in the country and getting just enough out of his offense to make an improbable run to Pasadena by ending Ohio State's 24-game winning streak and making Mark Dantonio a worthy candidate for Coach of the Year in the process.

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4. Art Briles, Baylor Bears

art briles
Tim Heitman - USA TODAY Sports

The Baylor Bears have never been considered a "real" football school. For years, they've been an anomaly; a flash in the pan. They rise up momentarily with a flashy offensive attack before crashing back down to earth when they take on a "real" football team and falling short in the Big 12 title race. This year, Art Briles got his Baylor team to finish the season strong, securing their first Big 12 Championship and punching their ticket to a BCS bowl for the first time in school history. Even when they stumbled late in the season, Briles rallied his team and got them to finish the season on a strong note. Anyone who makes Baylor the premier team in Texas deserves strong consideration for Coach of the Year.

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3. George O'Leary, Central Florida Knights

george o'leary
Brad Barr - USA TODAY Sports

Did anyone have the Central Florida Knights penciled into a BCS bowl game back in August? Didn't think so. UCF has exceeded all expectations this season, running their record to 11-1 on the season with a close loss to the No. 8 South Carolina Gamecocks as the only blemish on their record. They showed incredible resiliency going on the road and rallying past the Louisville Cardinals to seize control of the AAC title race. George O'Leary kept his team focused and avoided fumbling the conference away down the stretch (even just barely a few times) to secure a perfect conference record and a BCS berth in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Taking the Knights to those kinds of heights is more than enough for O'Leary to deserve a look as Coach of the Year.

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2. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State Seminoles

jimbo fisher
Jeremy Brevard - USA TODAY Sports

Jimbo Fisher had the unenviable task of taking over for a legend with the Florida State Seminoles and has taken the team back to the top of the college football world in 2013. The Noles have been dominant on both offense and defense this season, finishing as the only team in FBS with a perfect record this season with a margin of victory of over 40 points per game. Fisher has had his team dialed in this season, taking care of business week in and week out to dominate the ACC and make it all the way to the BCS National Championship against Malzahn and the Tigers. If one participant in the national title game was good enough to win it, the other coach with a better record is certainly worthy of consideration as well.

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1. David Cutcliffe, Duke Blue Devils

david cutcliffe
Mark Dolejs - USA TODAY Sports

Last year, the Duke Blue Devils went to a bowl game for the first time in 18 years. This year, David Cutcliffe followed up their historic success with the first 10-win season in school history and making it all the way to the ACC title game. Forget just qualifying for back-to-back bowl games for the first time in a very long time, Cutfliffe took the Duke football program to a new level in 2013. For a basketball school with a long-standing history of football ineptitude, Cutcliffe has done incredible things that are more than worthy of Coach of the Year consideration.