FOX Sports South takes a numbers-based stab at ranking the SEC's current lot of head coaches -- with the caveat of only factoring in the last five football seasons (2009-13). The primary components include: Head-coaching record, top-5/top-10/top-20 finishes, road record, bowl victories, league titles, national championships and the four-year mark of a particular program -- before the current coach, or savior, arrived on campus. (Photos: Kim Klement/Spruce Derden/Crystal LoGuidice-USA TODAY Sports)
#14 -- Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
5-YEAR RECORD: 0-0 ... FINISHES: Zero top 5/zero top 10/zero top 20 ... ROAD: 0-0 ... VANDY'S 4-YEAR RECORD BEFORE MASON'S ARRIVAL: 26-25 ... BOWL WINS: 0 ... LEAGUE TITLES: 0 ... NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 0 ... EXTRA CREDIT: Defensive coordinator for Stanford's back-to-back Pac-12 titles (2012/13) ... SKINNY: Mason's in a tough spot for this countdown, serving as the conference's only new kid on the block and being the only one without any prior head-coaching experience. Plus, he has been assigned the nearly impossible task of following up on James Franklin's unprecedented success with Vandy, which included three straight bowl berths (two victories) and a 16-4 record since midway through 2012. (Only Alabama has a better 20-game spurt, among SEC teams.) (AP)
#13 -- Mark Stoops, Kentucky
5-YEAR RECORD: 2-10 ... FINISHES: Zero top 5/zero top 10/zero top 20 .. ROAD: 0-4 ... KENTUCKY'S 4-YEAR MARK BEFORE STOOPS' ARRIVAL: 20-30 ... BOWL WINS: 0 ... LEAGUE TITLES: 0 ... NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 0 ... EXTRA CREDIT: None ... SKINNY: In Stoops' first season, the Wildcats were competitive just six times -- middling victories over Miami of Ohio (0-12 season) and Alabama State and then four defeats to Western Kentucky, Louisville, South Carolina and Mississippi State. Of course, Kentucky had a large cluster of freshmen and sophomores logging time on the field, so growing pains (read: taking it on the chin against top-notch competition) were fully expected during SEC play. In 2014, Stoops' sizable strides with recruiting may begin to pay off, on both sides of the ball.
#12 -- Butch Jones, Tennessee
5-YEAR RECORD: 39-23 (three total years at Central Michigan, Cincinnati) ... FINISHES: Zero top 5/zero top 10/two top 20 ... ROAD: 13-14 ... TENNESSEE'S 4-YEAR MARK BEFORE JONES: 23-27 ... BOWL WINS: 1 ... LEAGUE TITLES: 1 (Big East) ... NATIONAL TITLES: 0 ... EXTRA CREDIT: None ... SKINNY: College coaches are normally sticklers for consistency. But for Tennessee, the days of finding silver linings from a 5-7 record -- the Volunteers' mark for four of the last six seasons -- should be over. Tennessee hasn't enjoyed a quality road win since 2009 (Kentucky); and in terms of slaying a big-name dragon on the road ... that drought dates back to '06, when the Vols toppled Georgia and South Carolina. Bottom line: We think Jones has the stuff to bring UT back to prominence. He just doesn't have the track record of a long-term savior.
#11 -- Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
5-YEAR RECORD: 25-14 (1 year with Arkansas State) ... FINISHES: Zero top 5/zero top 10/zero top 20 ... ROAD: 6-8 ... MISSISSIPPI'S 4-YEAR RECORD BEFORE FREEZE: 24-26 ... BOWL WINS: 2 ... LEAGUE TITLES: 1 ... NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 0 ... EXTRA CREDIT: None ... SKINNY: Freeze has the capacity to move up two, three or even four spots later this fall, given the vast potential of Rebels QB Bo Wallace and his trio of super sophomores -- LB Robert Nkemdiche, WR Laquon Treadell and OT Laremy Tunsil. These are the upwardly mobile perks reserved for bright coaches with one league title (Sun Belt), two bowl victories and wins over Auburn, Texas, Mississippi State and LSU already in the bank.
#10 -- Will Muschamp, Florida
5-YEAR RECORD: 22-16 ... FINISHES: Zero top 5/one top 10/zero top 20 ... ROAD: 5-7 ... FLORIDA'S 4-YEAR MARK BEFORE MUSCHAMP: 43-11 ... BOWL WINS: 1 ... LEAGUE TITLES: 0 ... NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 0 ... EXTRA CREDIT: None ... SKINNY: It's very easy to buy what Muschamp's selling at Florida, in terms of doing everything in his power to rectify last year's 4-8 disappointment (including a season-ending seven-game slide) and how this year's Gators stand as the most balanced team of his Gainesville tenure. But let's be honest: Florida will need luck to survive the body punches of Alabama (road), Tennessee (road), LSU, Missouri and Georgia from Sept. 20-Nov. 1; and that doesn't include a brutal finishing kick against South Carolina and defending champion Florida State. For this countdown, Muschamp is the most noteworthy victim of circumstance.
#9 -- Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
5-YEAR RECORD: 36-28 ... FINISHES: Zero top 5/zero top 10/one top 20 ... ROAD: 11-13 ... MISSISSIPPI STATE'S 4-YEAR MARK BEFORE MULLEN: 18-30 ... BOWL WINS: 3 ... LEAGUE TITLES: 0 ... NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 0 ... EXTRA CREDIT: None ... SKINNY: Mullen has the chops to hold a top-three coaching ranking in any other conference but the SEC. He has three bowl victories in five years, three straight home wins against heated rival Ole Miss and a slew of program-altering victories that aren't prefaced with the words "Egg" and "Bowl." But to reach that next level, he'll need to end the cycle of losing to Alabama and LSU in the same season; and for future sake, it would probably serve Mullen and the 'Dogs well to avoid scheduling South Alabama and Tennessee-Martin in the same campaign. Ugh.
#8 -- Bret Bielema, Arkansas
5-YEAR RECORD: 43-22 (4 years with Wisconsin) ... FINISHES: Zero top 5/two top 10/one top 20 ... ROAD: 11-13 ... ARKANSAS' 4-YEAR MARK BEFORE BIELEMA: 33-18 ... BOWL WINS: 1 ... LEAGUE TITLES: 2 ... NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 0 ... EXTRA CREDIT: None ... SKINNY: Bielema gets a relative free pass for the 0-8 SEC debut in 2013, given his sublime track record in the Big Ten (back-to-back Rose Bowls for the 2010/11 seasons) and difficulty of transforming the Razorbacks from a pass-heavy finesse club to a power-driven group. That courtesy may not be extended next year, if Arkansas doesn't make great strides on both sides of the ball. That aside, Bielema is a prototypical coach for the SEC West; and his recruiting inroads to the Midwest and fertile grounds of south Florida will pay dividends -- sooner than later.
#7 -- Gus Malzahn, Auburn
5-YEAR MARK: 21-5 (1 year with Arkansas State) ... FINISHES: One top 5/zero top 10/zero top 20 ... ROAD: 7-3 ... AUBURN'S 4-YEAR MARK BEFORE MALZAHN:... 33-19 ... BOWL WINS: 0 ... LEAGUE TITLES: 2 (Sun Belt, SEC) ... NATIONAL TITLES: 0 ... EXTRA CREDIT: O-coordinator for Auburn's BCS title team (2010) ... SKINNY: Things get tricky here: If we're going to reward Malzahn for his integral role on Auburn's national-title team in 2010 (led by Cam Newton), serving as Gene Chizik's offensive coordinator ... then we have to reward Chizik for recruiting a good chunk of the players from Malzahn's 2013 squad, which captured the SEC title. That aside, it's hard to fathom any defense stifling Malzahn's offensive system, especially with a returning lot that includes QB Nick Marshall, star receivers Sammie Coates, Ricardo Louis and four O-linemen.
#6 -- Gary Pinkel, Missouri
5-YEAR RECORD: 43-22 ... FINISHES: One top 5/zero top 10/one top 20 ... ROAD: 13-10 ... MIZZOU'S 4-YEAR MARK BEFORE PINKEL: 22-24 ... BOWL WINS: 2 ... LEAGUE TITLES: 0 ... NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 0 ... EXTRA CREDIT: Won SEC East in Year 2 ... SKINNY: Missouri knocked this hire out of the park back in 2001, a time when the Tigers were pedestrian assets in a highly competitive Big 12. Of course, Pinkel needed three seasons to boost Mizzou's national profile in the Big 12, compared to only two SEC campaigns to beat Georgia, Florida and then claim the East title (2013). Here's another reason to support Pinkel at No. 6: Of his 10 road losses since 2009, there's only one bad apple in the bunch -- when Missouri fell to a Baylor team that was reeling from the loss of QB Robert Griffin III (season-ending knee injury).
#5 -- Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
5-YEAR RECORD: 47-18 (3 years with Houston) ... FINISHES: One top 5/zero top 10/two top 20 ... ROAD: 20-9 ... TEXAS A&M'S 4-YEAR RECORD BEFORE SUMLIN: 26-25 ... BOWL WINS: 2 ... LEAGUE TITLES: 0 ... NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 0 ... EXTRA CREDIT: None ... SKINNY: It wasn't easy to separate Sumlin from Pinkel, although the fomer has enjoyed a better overall record, greater success on the road and one more top-20 ranking since 2009. Both coaches also boast two bowl victories in this five-year survey -- with one Cotton Bowl win apiece. Plus, neither coach has experienced the SEC meat grinder for all five years. Close call, but Sumlin -- one of three coaches to beat 'Bama in Tuscaloosa this decade -- gets the nod at No. 5.
Derick E. Hingle
#4 -- Mark Richt, Georgia
5-YEAR RECORD: 44-23 ... FINISHES: One top 5/zero top 10/zne top 20 ... ROAD: 13-10 ... 4-YEAR RECORD BEFORE RICHT: 35-13 ... BOWL WINS: 2 ... LEAGUE TITLES: 0 ... NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 0 ... EXTRA CREDIT: Back-to-back SEC East titles (2011/12) ... SKINNY: In a perfect world, we'd give Richt extra credit for presuming that Georgia would have easily handled Notre Dame in the 2013 BCS championship, if the Bulldogs hadn't fallen to Alabama in that season's exhilarating SEC title game. Instead, we'll point to Richt's strong overall record, above-par road success and two bowl victories over five years. It's also worth noting: Of Richt's 23 losses since 2009, only five occurred against teams that didn't finish with nine or more wins that particular season; and just one defeat came against an eventual below-.500 squad (Colorado, 2010).
#3 -- Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
5-YEAR RECORD: 49-17 ... FINISHES: One top 5/two top 10/one top 20 ... ROAD: 13-11 ... SOUTH CAROLINA'S 4-YEAR MARK BEFORE SPURRIER: 25-22 ... BOWL WINS: 3 ... LEAGUE TITLES: 0 ... NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 0 ... EXTRA CREDIT: None ... SKINNY: If this countdown only tracked three years, Spurrier (11-2 from 2011-13) would be an easy choice for No. 2. From a five-year standpoint, though, he falls a little short of the SEC West titans. Regardless, Spurrier should be celebrated for bringing an unprecedented level of success to the Gamecocks program. Just two 'bad' losses since '09 ... a win over No. 1 Alabama (2010), three victories over Georgia and five straight triumphs over Clemson. As such, there is a clear line of demarcation between Spurrier and the 4-5-6 coaches.
Joshua S. Kelly
#2 -- Les Miles, LSU
5-YEAR RECORD: 53-13 ... FINISHES: One top 5/one top 10/three top 20 ... ROAD: 14-7 ... LSU'S 4-YEAR MARK BEFORE MILES: 40-12 ... BOWL WINS: 2 ... LEAGUE TITLES: 1 ... NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 0 ... EXTRA CREDIT: None ... SKINNY: How good has Miles been over the last five seasons? His, uh, rock-bottom campaign from 2009 (9-4 overall) entailed quality losses to Ole Miss (9-4), Penn State (11-2), Florida (13-1) and national champion Alabama (14-0) -- by an average differential of 5.8 points. Going further, his current five-year winning percentage of .803 easily trumps Nick Saban's five-year run in Baton Rouge (.750 percentage). For good measure, Miles is just one of three coaches to beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa this decade. He was also the only conference coach to knock off Auburn last year.
#1 -- Nick Saban, Alabama
5-YEAR RECORD: 60-7 ... FINISHES: Three top 5/two top 10/zero top 20 ... ROAD: 19-3 ... ALABAMA'S 4-YEAR MARK BEFORE SABAN: 26-24 ... BOWL WINS: 4 ... LEAGUE TITLES: 2 ... NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 3 ... EXTRA CREDIT: None ... SKINNY: OK, so there's no drama here with the top spot. But that's also a fitting way to characterize how the rock-steady and maniacally prepared Saban goes about his business of dominating opponents, claiming championships and crushing the recruiting trail like no one else in today's game. Sixty wins in a five-year period? Three national titles? A 19-3 road record? We're talking about perhaps the greatest coach of all time ... and that includes any of his Crimson Tide predecessors. For good measure, since 2009, Saban owns more SEC titles (two) and bowl victories (four) than any other SEC coach.