The SEC-champion Auburn Tigers have been perhaps the most pleasant surprise in college football this season after earning the opportunity to play Florida State in the BCS National Championship Game. Because of that, it is only fitting that head coach Gus Malzahn has been named the Home Depot Coach of the Year.
According to Gracie Blackburn of ESPN MediaZone, Malzahn will officially be honored on Thursday night, Dec. 12, at the Home Depot College Football Awards.
The announcement isn't particularly surprising considering how big of a turnaround the Tigers have experienced this season. After going 3-9 with no SEC wins in 2012 under Gene Chizik, Auburn is now 12-1 with an opportunity to end the season as the best team in the country.
The nine-win improvement is the best in the FBS this season, and a win in the national championship game would make Auburn the most improved team from one season to the next in FBS history, according to Blackburn.
Auburn has experienced a culture change since Malzahn's return. He served as the team's offensive coordinator from 2009 through 2011 before becoming the head coach for Arkansas State in 2012. Malzahn had a great deal of success with the Red Wolves, and it has clearly translated.
The Tigers offense has been something special this season as running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Tre Mason as well as quarterback Nick Marshall have given Auburn the No. 1 rushing offense in college football.
With this award, Malzahn is also in line for a sizable bonus, according to Mike Szvetitz of the Opelika-Auburn News.
All that matters to Malzahn right now in all likelihood, though, is winning the national title.
According to Charles Goldberg of AuburnTigers.com, Malzahn takes a great deal of pride in how well his team has progressed in order to reach this point.
"I don't know if I've ever had a team come as far as we have," Malzahn said after the Tigers officially received their BCS invitation. "The very first game, we were an average-at-best team. We were a work in progress probably the first half of the season."
In order for Auburn to complete its magical season, it must go through the steamroller that is Florida State. The Seminoles have been dominant this season as evidenced by the fact that they are No. 2 in the nation in scoring and No. 1 in total defense.
Auburn is no stranger to slaying Goliath, though. The Tigers had to defeat Alabama in the Iron Bowl in order to reach the SEC Championship Game, and they had to take care of Missouri in that game as well.
Malzahn's squad has seemingly done the impossible on several occasions this year, and it will have to do something similar against Florida State and leading Heisman Trophy candidate Jameis Winston.
If the offense continues to hum as it has been, though, the Coach of the Year may fittingly hoist the BCS Coaches' Trophy at season's end.
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