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. 9.
9. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
Record: 36-28 overall (Spent past five seasons with Bulldogs; went 7-6 overall last year and 3-5 in SEC play)
National championships: 0 (Was offensive coordinator for Florida when Gators won BCS titles in 2006 and 2008)
SEC championships: 0 (Was offensive coordinator for Florida when Gators won SEC crown in 2006 and 2008)
SEC division titles: 0 (Was offensive coordinator for Florida when Gators won Eastern Division in 2006 and 2008)
Mississippi State is a historically tough job. But Mullen has done about as good a job one could expect.
He's 4-1 against Ole Miss, only the second time since 1950 that Mississippi State has topped its arch-rival four times in a five-game span. Every bit as important, the Bulldogs have gone to a bowl in four straight seasons, the first time in program history that feat has been accomplished. Aside from his five-win debut campaign in 2009, Mullen has posted winning records each of the past four years, topped by a 9-4 effort in 2010.
Of course, there is still room for improvement. Mullen is just 16-24 against SEC opponents and has never finished better than .500 (4-4) in a single season.
That might change this season. The Bulldogs bring back one of the league's best signal-callers in Dak Prescott as well as six of their top seven pass-catchers from last season. Mississippi State should also be quite stout defensively. A unit that finished fourth in the SEC and 18th in the country in total defense (349.3 yards per game) last season has 22 players returning.
What's more, their non-conference slate should add up to four easy wins in the form of Southern Miss, Alabama-Birmingham, South Alabama and Tennessee-Martin, which means the Bulldogs will only have to snag two wins in conference play to gain bowl eligibility. Obviously, the Bulldogs' goals are much higher than that.
On paper, this could be one of the best teams Mullen has had in Starkville. Whether it adds up to another low-tier bowl appearance — or something more — will hinge on whether he can get over the hump and post a winning record against SEC competition.