There’s been a lot of great coaching jobs in 2013. Here’s a look at the top five contenders for national Coach of the Year honors:
1. Gus Malzahn, Auburn — At 9-1, the Tigers have already won as many games this season as they lost last season, when they finished 3-9. Malzahn has turned Auburn around in his first year on the Plains despite starting a junior college transfer at quarterback and a bevy of freshmen on defense. Few thought it was possible, but when the Tigers take on Alabama, it will likely be for the SEC West title.
2. David Cutcliffe, Duke — The Blue Devils will be going to a bowl game for their second-consecutive season, the first time that’s happened in school history. And, at 7-2, Duke has a chance to win nine games for the first time since 1941. It’s a remarkable job by Cutcliffe, who has won more games in his six seasons at Duke than the previous coaches before him won in 13.
3. Art Briles, Baylor — Before the season, there were some who thought Baylor was a dark horse contender for the Big 12 title. Hardly anyone thought the Bears would be ranked fourth in the nation heading into the second week of November. That’s the highest ranking for Baylor since 1953. The offense is one of the most prolific in the history of college football and Briles is its mastermind. If he gets through the season unscathed, he might be at the top of this list.
4. Gary Pinkel, Missouri — Missouri was picked by the media to finish next to last in the SEC East, but the Tigers are the favorite in that division heading into the home stretch of the season. The Tigers have done much of this despite playing a backup redshirt freshman quarterback. Less than two seasons after switching over from the Big 12, Pinkel has made sure that Mizzou is no afterthought in the SEC.
5. Urban Meyer, Ohio State — Winning 21 games in a row has to count for something. Ohio State came into the season with inexperience in its front seven on defense and then faced adversity when quarterback Braxton Miller went down for three games with an injury. But Meyer overcame those challenges and has his team playing at a very high level. There’s a good chance the Buckeyes end the season on a 25-game win streak.
Honorable mention: Curtis Johnson, Tulane; Nick Saban, Alabama; Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State; George O’Leary, UCF; Rod Carey, Northern Illinois