Two masterful coaching jobs are happening in the SEC this season. Both Nick Saban and Will Muschamp have their teams at the top of the college football world and are pushing toward a huge clash in the SEC title game.
With both teams doing so well in the same conference, you have to wonder who is the better SEC coach so far this season.
The standard blueprint for success is defense with Florida and Alabama playing better than most every team in the country. They are both Top 10 defenses and will finish the season that way. It has been a big year for the Gators and the Tide.
Breaking down the performances of Florida and Alabama through the first half of the season, you can find the separators between Saban and Muschamp. It is a fine line that separates these two coaches, but there is a winner in this battle.
The Tide and Gators are two of the top defenses in the country for 2012.
Alabama is ranked No. 1 in total, passing, rushing and scoring defense. Florida is ranked as the No. 4 scoring, No. 7 total, No. 10 rushing and No. 20 pass defense in the country.
Defense wins championships, and with two national titles under his belt in three years, Nick Saban is proving that. Will Muschamp is building on the same blueprint and ensuring that the Florida defense is among the nation’s best.
Both coaches have recruited the top defensive talent in the country, and along the way they have coached that talent into performers on game day. The way these two defenses have marked the landscape this season is nothing short of impressive. Both coaches deserve a hat tip for the performance.
Winning championships relies on powerful defense, and both these teams boast big-play defenses.
Neither team is prolific offensively, but Saban and Muschamp get the results they need from the offense.
The key has been the rushing attack. Alabama and Florida enjoy running the football, and they are chopping up enough yards to make it an offensive focus.
The Crimson Tide is the No. 20 rushing attack in the country, and the Gators are the No. 25 rushing unit. Alabama uses a tandem of backs while Florida relies heavily on senior Mike Gillislee.
With both units gaining more than 200 yards a game, the offense has been able to rely on ground production. A solid ground game opens up easy throws for the quarterback, leading to fewer turnover opportunities for opposing defenses.
This strategy has paid major dividends for these two coaches and will push them into the elite coaching discussion for this season. This is nothing new for Saban, but Muschamp is landing in new company.
Alabama has faced a very easy schedule to start the season, but Florida has a handful of tough tests that it has already pushed through.
The Gators have defeated Texas A&M, LSU and South Carolina. They face off with Georgia this coming Saturday. The Crimson Tide’s toughest game has been against Michigan, with contests against Ole Miss and Tennessee being the other mentionable matchups.
The Tide have a tough three-week stretch ahead with games against Mississippi State, LSU and Texas A&M all coming consecutively starting this Saturday.
It won’t be easy for Alabama to make it through the next three weeks unscathed, but if they do it will be an impressive run. It will match the Gators' October gauntlet.
At this point the edge goes to Muschamp for coaching through the tougher games. Nick Saban has led his team through tough games in the past no doubt, but so far this season it has been a cake walk for the Tide.
Being able to match or exceed expectations speaks volumes for a college football coach. The pressure in the SEC to succeed is monumental. That pressure provides a separation of bad, good and great coaches.
Right now, Nick Saban is matching expectations. It is tough to exceed them at Alabama where every season is expected to be a title-winning one, but right now they haven’t faced a big enough challenge to expect a possible hiccup.
Will Muschamp is blowing his expectations out of the water. At this point, Muschamp has led an overachieving Florida squad to a No. 2 ranking and possible BCS title-game berth for the 2012 season. No one expected that to happen—probably not even in Gainesville.
It is no fault of Nick Saban that he is expected to win at this point in his career at Alabama, but just keeping up with the expectations is impressive. Unfortunately for Saban, the rise of Will Muschamp exceeds maintaining the norm.
Looking at the coaching performances through the first half of the season, the obvious pick is Will Muschamp for best coaching performance to date.
Nick Saban has continued to plow through his schedule and build a top football program at Alabama, but the leap that Florida has taken this season has been very impressive. To start the year there was a quarterback controversy; now the Gators are No. 2 in the country.
Things could change. There is a lot of football that remains to be played, and Nick Saban has a tougher finish to the season than Muschamp.
The easy conclusion is that both of these coaches are leading the two top teams in the country and are the elite of the coaching community through the first half of 2012.