How do you even begin to try to measure college football coaches against their peers?
It’s a complicated discussion to have because of the abundance of variables unique to one particular job that could impact a coach’s overall performance. Some of which are even measurable.
But in what was undoubtedly a monumental undertaking, Athlon Sports’ Steven Lassan attempted the impossible. He evaluated and ranked all 128 FBS head coaches.
Lassan shared an explanation of his methodology in the preamble to a lengthy write-up on each coach as he worked his way from Bowling Green’s Mike Jinks at No. 128 all the way to Alabama’s Nick Saban at No. 1.
This is not simply a list of coaches ranked by accomplishment or wins. While those aspects are important, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Alabama is different than winning 10 games at Kentucky. Also, every program has a different amount of resources available. Hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. It’s always easier for programs with more built-in advantages to contend for a national title on a more consistent basis.
Keeping that in mind, here’s a look at where he ranked the 14 SEC head coaches:
85. Barry Odom, Missouri
84. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
83. Mark Stoops, Kentucky
79. Will Muschamp, South Carolina
54. Kirby Smart, Georgia
37. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
30. Jim McElwain, Florida
29. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
25. Les Miles, LSU
23. Butch Jones, Tennessee
20. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
18. Bret Bielema, Arkansas
17. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
1. Nick Saban, Alabama
Fresh off a national championship win, Saban was crowned the king of college football coaches over former Florida coach and current Ohio State boss Urban Meyer. Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh checked in at No. 3 on the list after just one season with the Wolverines.
Saban was the SEC’s lone representative in the Top 10, with Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze checking in next at No. 17 following a Sugar Bowl-winning season which produced three first-round draft picks.
Les Miles, who has a BCS national championship win to his credit, ranks just fourth in his own division. Coming off a SEC East title in his debut season, Florida coach Jim McElwain barely cracks the Top 30 on the list.