The Maxwell Club has announced their three finalists for their Coach of the Year Award. The finalists are Gus Malzahn at Auburn, David Cutcliffe at Duke and Gary Pinkel at Missouri. Two of the candidates actually play each other for the SEC Championship while the third is making history at a school most known for basketball, preparing for the ACC Championship.
Malzahn and Auburn are coming off of one of the most incredible finishes in the history of college football, but it is important to remember where the Tigers were last year, which prompted them to fire Gene Chizik and hire Malzahn in the first place. Auburn was not projected to win the SEC West by most anyone and were expected to finish in the basement behind teams like Alabama and LSU. LSU is their one loss from this year, but the turnaround has been impressive and Auburn has a chance to win the SEC and potentially contend for a National Title.
Pinkel has been at Missouri for quite a while and had some big seasons with Chase Daniel when this brand of Tiger were in the Big XII. Missouri struggled after initially moving into the SEC East and were another team expected to finish low in the standings. They won the SEC East with their lone loss in double overtime against South Carolina. The Tigers have won with two different quarterbacks this season in James Franklin and Maty Mauk. They now can win the SEC and are the least talked about team that could be in the National Title game.
Cutcliffe has done a remarkable job at Duke. A team with little or no star power that most any college football fan could pick out, they win on toughness, grit and execution. After going to a bowl game last year, which is notable for Duke, they are now preparing to play in the ACC Championship against Florida State. Largely, Duke has won anonymously this year and their clinching of the ACC Coastal Division came as a surprise to many, seeming to sneak up on it.
All three candidates are well deserving for the jobs they have done this year, so it is difficult to choose one over the others. They have all done a terrific job with their respective programs this year and have a chance to go further this season.