Now that all of the SEC and national coach of the year awards have been doled out, here’s the “official” ranking of the jobs done by the SEC's 12 head coaches this season:
1. Gene Chizik, Auburn: The Tigers are 13-0 and playing for a national championship. What else can you ask for? Plus, Chizik was a rock in managing all the Cam Newton distractions the last month of the season and was able to get his team to focus on the prize that much more during all the controversy.
2. Bobby Petrino, Arkansas: The early-season home loss to Alabama was disappointing, but Petrino kept the team together and saw to it that the Hogs were playing their best football in November. They beat four teams ranked in the top 25 of the final BCS standings and were rewarded with their first-ever BCS bowl.
3. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina: Getting the Gamecocks to their first-ever SEC championship game will only punctuate was what already a Hall of Fame coaching career for the Head Ball Coach. Now, if only the Gamecocks can play well in the bowl game.
4. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State: The Bulldogs were the most improved team in the league from a year ago and won six straight games at one point. They’re playing in their first Jan. 1 bowl since the 1999 Cotton Bowl.
5. Les Miles, LSU: Yes, he got a lot of grief (and deserving) over the near-disaster at the end of the Tennessee game. But let’s give him credit for some gutsy decisions in the wins over Alabama and Florida. He has a chance to win 11 games for the fourth time in his six seasons at LSU.
6. Derek Dooley, Tennessee: The Vols were 2-6 coming out of October and looking very much like the young, inexperienced team that they were. But Dooley made the switch to true freshman quarterback Tyler Bray, leading to a four-game winning streak and a berth in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.
7. Nick Saban, Alabama: The inexperience in the Crimson Tide’s secondary ended up costing them. That and not being able put together a complete game. Consistency has been a hallmark of Saban’s teams. This season was the exception.
8. Joker Phillips, Kentucky: The frustrating thing for Phillips and the entire program is that the Wildcats weren’t able to pull out more close wins. They did have the big second-half comeback against South Carolina, but then lost three of their last four SEC games.
9. Robbie Caldwell, Vanderbilt: Taking over at the last minute following Bobby Johnson’s abrupt retirement, Caldwell walked into an impossible situation. The injuries made it even worse, but the Commodores did win an SEC game, which is something they didn’t do the season before.
10. Mark Richt, Georgia: Forgive Richt if he’s simply ready to get this AutoZone Liberty Bowl behind him and start pointing to next season. It was that kind of year. The Bulldogs were much more talented than they played and didn’t beat anybody of note. In fairness, the A.J. Green suspension was a killer.
11. Urban Meyer, Florida: In retrospect, Meyer should have walked away a year ago when he resigned the first time. It was obvious something was missing all season, and then trying to run the spread offense with John Brantley at quarterback was a complete disaster. Meyer’s a great coach who had a bad season.
12. Houston Nutt, Ole Miss: Speaking of bad seasons, it can’t get much worse than it did for Nutt this season. A lot of people have second-guessed him for bringing in Jeremiah Masoli and what that did to team chemistry. But the real problem was a defense that had a hard time stopping anybody.