The Student Section Midseason Coach Of The Year: Not Unanimous, But Someone From The SEC

There are 16 weeks in a college football season, though the sixteenth “week” is the Army-Navy reunion and nothing else. After eight weeks, though, a college football fan is entitled to think that the “midseason” has arrived. The editors at The Student Section therefore unveil their selections for the coach of the year in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

We’ll get back to you with our more permanent selections once the next eight weeks have run their course.


Who is your midseason coach of the year?

Matt Zemek:


I’ll be brief.

I saw Dan Mullen flail around for five full seasons in Starkville. You did, too.

I saw Jim Grobe of Wake Forest coach rings around Mullen with a noticeably inferior team in the 2011 Music City Bowl. You did, too.

I saw Mullen leave Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer behind, with results that made him look quite pedestrian as a coach over half a decade, not just one or two isolated seasons at Mississippi State. You did, too.

This year, Dan Mullen has stopped Auburn’s Gus Bus in its tracks. Mullen made Kevin Sumlin look silly. He’s outcoaching quality coaches left and right. He’s also doing it with a complete team, not just offense. Bill Snyder is probably the most amazing coaching figure of the past 25 years — what he continues to do at Kansas State is astounding not because we haven’t seen it before (we have), but because it is so commonplace and, moreover, stylistically consistent. Yet, as great as Snyder has been, Mullen’s “five-dormant-reputation-busting-seasons-and-then-THIS” resurrection is, to me, the best coaching performance of the half-season by a country mile.

Terry Johnson:


With apologies to Todd Graham and Kyle Whittingham, I’ll pick Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss.

Let’s be honest: many people wrote off the Rebels after the season opener against Boise State. Sure, Ole Miss won the game 35-13, but it only led 7-6 heading into the final frame. Given that both Bo Wallace (3 INTs) and the defense (399 yards total offense) struggled in that contest, many in the media dubbed the Rebels as “not ready for prime time.”

However, as the season progressed, things started to change. Wallace has played like a completely different quarterback since the season opener, quietly averaging 288 yards of total offense per game. More importantly, he’s made tremendous strides as a passer, completing 67-of-108 for 948 yards and an amazing 7/0 TD-INT ratio in SEC play this year.

In addition, the talented Rebel defense began to play up to its potential, holding three of its next six opponents to under 200 yards of total offense. That total includes a 104-yard effort against a Memphis offense that lit up UCLA for 469 yards just two weeks earlier.

For the season, Ole Miss ranks eighth in total defense, fifth in turnover margin, and second in scoring defense. Those numbers are more impressive when considering that the Rebels have already faced three of the top offensive teams in the country (Alabama, Texas A&M, and Boise).

The previous three paragraphs demonstrate why Freeze should win coach of the year honors. Ole Miss has come a long way since the season opener and continues to get better each week.

Bart Doan:


There’s a major difference betwixt and between “contrarian” and “outside the box.” I try not to argue just for the sake of arguing but rather get my e-mail addressed to “outside the box” rather than “inbox.” So while it seems as though the easy answer is someone inside the Magnolia state, I depart and say “Mark Richt.”

Contrarian is “Jimbo Fisher.” Outside the box is “Richt.” I’m not sure we knew without a hint of a doubt what Georgia had coming into this year. The SEC East was going to allow anyone that wanted to take it the opportunity to take it.

What we didn’t know was how Georgia would respond to a new defense and without Aaron Murray. We didn’t think we’d need to know how the Bulldogs would respond sans Todd Gurley.

This is where Richt, to me, has inched up for this meaningless and award-less nomination. I hope one Georgia fan passes along that I’m in his corner.

But anyway, how UGA has reset the deck after the Gurley situation is something of legend in the realm of things that really aren’t legend. UGA has looked unbeatable since the Gurley signature story broke, dismantling Missouri and Arkansas, both of which were teams that didn’t come into either game looking like dismantling was going to be an option.

Unless you’re in the specific locker room, you never really know what is said behind closed doors when all of the cameras are off and how a team comes together when no one but the players themselves are able to see it.

It’s a lot like dating, where you really forge the titanium of a relationship not in public on dates or at family gatherings, but during the tough conversations on the couch or the late night drives to nowhere in particular where you get to know one another for good.

However it happened, UGA went from what looked like merely a good team with an above average shot to win a mostly mediocre division on the back of a Heisman candidate to a team that has no Heisman candidate (currently) and somehow has managed to get better.

Where the wheels could have come off in the face of constant wondering about an off-field issue the players had no control over, it has instead galvanized UGA and turned the Dawgs into a team that is almost a lock to win a still mostly mediocre division … but now exists on the outside edge of jumping back into the CFB Playoff race and looking as though it more than deserves to be there.

Real talk right now … what other team could lose its best player at a Heisman Trophy candidate level and get better?

Crickets. Lots of them. That right there is why Richt is the choice here. The deck had to be reset because the cards spilled off the table. No one has played 52 Pickup better.