John Clay

Ranking the SEC's football coaches one through 14: Where does Mark Stoops fit?

University of Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops will try to coach the Wildcats to a third straight bowl game in 2018.
University of Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops will try to coach the Wildcats to a third straight bowl game in 2018. cbertram@herald-leader.com

With SEC Football Media Days a month away, now is a good time to rank the league's coaches, top to bottom, heading into 2018.

Ready, set, go:

1. Nick Saban, Alabama: It's not even close, of course. The mighty Saban has won six national titles, including five in his 11 Tuscaloosa seasons. This year's Tide could win it again. And at age 66, Saban is showing absolutely no signs of letting up.

2. Kirby Smart, Georgia: We know, Smart has only been a head coach two seasons. Last season, however, the Bulldogs finished 13-2, reaching the national title game before losing a heartbreaker to Alabama in overtime. Smart is going gangbusters in recruiting. A monster in the making.

3. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M: It's been five years since Fisher won a national title at Florida State. Now he's switched schools. The Aggies have yet to fully capitalize on their ample resources. After a disastrous 5-6 season last year at FSU, maybe Jimbo is the guy to make that happen.

4. Gus Malzahn, Auburn: Malzahn went 23-16 in the three seasons after his Tigers lost to Florida State in the 2013 national title game. Last year was a nice rebound, however, as Auburn went 10-4 and won the West Division. This year, Malzahn has the league's best quarterback in Jarrett Stidham.

5. Dan Mullen, Florida: Says here Mullen is set to succeed in Gainesville. He knows the lay of the land having been Urban Meyer's offensive coordinator. And he can coach, having gone 69-46 with eight bowl trips in nine seasons at Mississippi State. In two years, Mullen could easily be in the top three.

6. Mark Stoops, Kentucky: After three years laying a foundation, Stoops has taken the Cats to back-to-back bowls. On paper, his 2018 team should make it three straight. The next step is to start beating the big boys and post a winning conference record.

UK-South Carolina FB06
Kentucky will try to win five in a row over South Carolina on Sept. 29 at Kroger Field. Ken Weaver

7. Will Muschamp, South Carolina: Why is Muschamp behind Stoops? His 0-2 record vs. UK as South Carolina coach. The Gamecocks did go 9-4 last season and could challenge Georgia in the SEC East. So far, looks like Coach Boom has learned from his first ill-fated head coaching stint at Florida.

8. Barry Odom, Missouri: The second-year coach seemed gone, gone, gone before a course correction produced six straight wins. Can Mizzou keep the momentum going? Having Drew Lock back at quarterback will help.

9. Ed Orgeron, LSU: Starting his second season as the "permanent" head coach after eight games as the "interim" head coach in 2016, Coach O will start facing pressure to produce. The Tigers were 9-4 last year. Tigers fans won't put up with that for long.

LSU Florida Football.JPG
Ed Orgeron is 15-6 with two Citrus Bowl appearances in one partial season and one full season as head coach at LSU. John Raoux AP Photo

10. Chad Morris, Arkansas: Morris did a decent job at SMU, where he went 14-23 in three seasons. His hire seemed a letdown, however, after the Hogs made a failed Malzahn run. After Bret Bielema's 29-34 record his five years in Fayetteville, Morris has nowhere to go up but up.

11. Matt Luke, Ole Miss: Luke did a terrific job holding the alma mater together as interim head coach last season. Now that he's really the one in charge, Luke has to navigate a tough NCAA probation. Won't be easy.

12. Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee: The guess here is that the former Florida State, Georgia and Alabama defensive coordinator will do a fine job in Knoxville. But that's just a guess. Pruitt has yet to experience his first college game as a head coach. Tennessee hasn't finished a season in the AP's top 10 since 2001.

13. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: The former Stanford defensive coordinator had tough shoes to fill succeeding James Franklin and he's had a tough time filling them. Mason is 18-31 in four seasons with one bowl trip.

14. Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State: I actually liked this hire. Moorhead impressed as offensive coordinator at Penn Sate. His northeast background makes him unique in the SEC. He's never been an FBS head coach, however. And he's never coached in the SEC.

A.J. Rose rushed for 134 yards and three touchdowns as the Blue (offense) beat the White (defense) 45-32 in the Kentucky football team’s annual Blue-White Game.

Kentucky football 2018 schedule

DateOpponentSite
9/1Central MichiganHome
9/8FloridaAway
9/15Murray StateHome
9/22Miss StateHome
9/29South CarolinaHome
10/6Texas A&MAway
10/20VanderbiltHome
10/27MissouriAway
11/3GeorgiaHome
11/10TennesseeAway
11/17Middle TennesseeHome
11/24LouisvilleAway
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