SEC Football: Who's the SEC Coach of the Year?

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterNovember 30, 2012

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin
Texas A&M head coach Kevin SumlinThomas Campbell-US PRESSWIRE

The regular season has come to a close, and the postseason award circuit is about to kick into high gear.

One hotly-contested award to keep an eye on is SEC Coach of the Year.

Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin is the odds-on favorite. The first-year head coach of the Aggies has led the program to a 10-2 record, won on the road at Alabama and will likely play in a traditional New Year's Day bowl.

But Sumlin has competition.

In his second year at Vanderbilt, James Franklin led the Commodores to an 8-4 record. Eight wins. AT VANDERBILT. After a slow start, his offense kicked it into high gear down the stretch, winning its last six games and topping the 40-point plateau in four of those contests.

Will Muschamp should get consideration as well. After posting a 7-6 record last season, the second-year head coach of the Florida Gators led his team to an 11-1 season, the No. 4 spot in the latest BCS Standings and what will probably be a BCS bowl game.

First-year Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze probably won't win it, but he absolutely should get consideration. Nobody expected the Rebels to be bowl eligible this season, but here they are at 6-6, with state power back in their corner and looking like the best is yet to come.

Not to mention Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Georgia head coach Mark Richt, one of which will walk out of the Georgia Dome on Saturday as the SEC Champion with a trip to Miami in his future.

But with apologies to all of the contenders, this award is Sumlin's to lose—and he's not going to lose it.

When he took over as the head coach in College Station, he inherited a team that lost its quarterback and had a reputation of folding down the stretch. He brought in his offensive system, named a redshirt freshman as his starting quarterback and hired Mark Snyder to change the defensive scheme from a 3-4 to a 4-3.

Oh, and there was that pesky transition to the SEC, a conference that has won six straight national titles.

Despite all of those hurdles Texas A&M posted its first double-digit win season since 1998, will finish in the top 10 if it wins its bowl game, and unless something changes, quarterback Johnny Manziel will be the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy in college football history.

He came to College Station with the reputation of running the air raid offense. But thanks to Manziel and a veteran offensive line, he altered his offensive approach from his time at Houston to emphasize the specific strengths of the players on his roster.

That's strong—really strong.

It also deserves the recognition being SEC Coach of the Year.

Considering the contenders, it will be a major accomplishment for whomever takes home the hardware.