Editor's note: Bryant. Vaught. Jordan. Dooley. Neyland. These are just a handful of the coaches (among many others) who have come to define the Southeastern Conference due to their dynamic personalities and remarkable success on the field. But who are the top coaches roaming the sidelines of SEC schools today? Ryan Black gives his take, counting down from 14-1. Today, the series moves on to No. 4.
4. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Record: 21-5 overall (9-3 in one season at Arkansas State in 2012; Went 12-2 overall and 7-1 in SEC play last year in first season with Tigers)
National championships: 0 (Lost to Florida State 34-31 in 2014 BCS national championship game; offensive coordinator for Auburn when Tigers won 2010 national title)
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SEC championships: 1 (2013)
SEC division titles: 1 (Western Division champions in 2013)
Thirteen seconds is all that separated Malzahn from topping off one of the most incredible debut seasons in history.
And that's not speaking strictly in college football terms. What Malzahn accomplished last year was one of the most magnificent turnarounds in the annals of sport.
You know the story by now, but let's rehash it one more time.
Auburn goes 3-9 in 2012. Gene Chizik is let go. Malzahn, the offensive mastermind of the 2010 BCS title squad, is hired away from Arkansas State in order to help the Tigers "regain" their edge. Malzahn gets into a tiff with Arkansas coach Bret Bielema at SEC media days, arguing over the dangers (or lack thereof) posed by up-tempo offense. Auburn starts 3-0 before it suffers its first loss, a 35-21 road defeat to LSU. Tigers go on to win their next nine games, including a last-minute win at Texas A&M and a routing Tennessee on the road. Oh, and don't forget "The Miracle in Jordan-Hare" (Ricardo Louis' tipped, go-ahead touchdown catch versus Georgia) and the "Kick Six" (Chris Davis' game-winning field goal return in the Iron Bowl). Auburn then won the highest-scoring SEC championship game ever (59-42 over Missouri) and took a 21-3 against Florida State in the BCS championship before the Seminoles rallied for a 34-31 victory.
But as noted on previous occasions, Auburn's season was anything but "lucky." A team doesn't lead the nation in rushing because of good fortune. The Tigers were simply that good. That shouldn't change this season, with Nick Marshall and a host of others back as well as a young defense that's only going to get better. And at the pace the Tigers are recruiting at right now, the future looks every bit as bright.
With Malzahn's innovative mind leading the way, Auburn won't be going anywhere any time soon..