The SEC returned to the top of the college football world in 2019, and there was a different face leading the charge. Ed Orgeron led LSU to its first national championship since 2007 and first win over Nick Saban and Alabama since 2011 during one of the most magical seasons in college football history. That season erased any stigma left over stemming from the disastrous 10-25 record Orgeron compiled at Ole Miss from 2005-07, but was it enough to vault Orgeron over some of the nation's heavy-hitters?
On the other side of the SEC equation, there are four new coaches to rank, two of whom bring significant experience to the conference. Lane Kiffin has taken over at Ole Miss and Mike Leach is in control of intra-state rival Mississippi State. Eliah Drinkwitz took over for Barry Odom at Missouri after just one successful season at Appalachian State, while Sam Pittman is leading the program at Arkansas after a successful stint as an SEC offensive line coach.
Let's break down how CBS Sports ranked the SEC coaches from top to bottom as we enter the 2020 season.
|Nick Saban (1 overall): Of course Saban is the top coach in the conference, and second place isn't even close. Despite not having a national title since 2017, Saban boasts a 243-65-1 overall record, has six national championships and hasn't finished worse than second in the SEC West since 2010. His LSU stint from 2000-04 brought the Tigers back into the national spotlight with conference titles in 2001 and 2003, with the '03 season concluding in Saban's first national title victory. It's going to take a very long time -- or Saban's retirement -- for any coach in the conference to match him. Last Year: 1 in the SEC|
|Ed Orgeron: (4 overall): It's been a meteoric rise for the Louisiana native. He wasn't exactly celebrated when he got the LSU job on a full-time basis leading into the 2017 season but has progressively built LSU into a monster. His Tigers won 10 games and made the Fiesta Bowl in 2018, and then ripped off a 15-0 season in 2019 en route to the national championship. What's more impressive is that Orgeron recognized that his outdated offense needed to be changed and he transformed LSU's attack into a wide open, spread system that was nearly impossible to stop. Roster and coaching turnover will make the 2020 season very interesting, but credit where credit is due. Last Year: 6|
|Kirby Smart (6 overall): Smart came within an eyelash of the 2017 national title and has led the Bulldogs to de facto national quarterfinals in the SEC Championship Game in three straight seasons. But there's still plenty to be desired. Smart hasn't led Georgia to the ultimate prize, but being in the mix to make the College Football Playoff in December is something that nearly every team in the country dreams about. Turnover along the offensive line, running back corps and quarterback will make this season both very interesting and very telling. Last Year: 3|
|Jimbo Fisher (7 overall): Fisher went 9-4 and 8-5 in his first two seasons in Aggieland after coming over from Florida State, which hardly justifies that $75 million contract. He likely has to improve upon those records this season considering the Aggies have an SEC-best 16 returning starters while the other heavy-hitters in the division are loaded with questions. The 2013 national title with the Seminoles earned him plenty of respect, though. Last Year: 2|
|Dan Mullen (8 overall): Mullen doesn't have a division championship on his record ... yet. He did, however, lead Mississippi State to eight straight bowl games after the program appeared in just 13 postseason games prior to his arrival. His two-year stint at Florida has resulted in a 21-5 record, two New Year's Six bowl wins and newfound hope for the future in Gator National. Next stop: SEC East title. Last Year: 4|
|Gus Malzahn (18 overall): It's been a rollercoaster for Malzahn since taking over for Gene Chizik prior to the 2013 season. He has two SEC West titles, one conference title and three wins over rival Alabama. That said, he's only been to three major bowl games and finished in the top 10 just twice in seven seasons. Malzahn has had more success against Alabama than anybody not named Dabo Swinney, but hasn't been able to take that next step. Last Year: 5|
|Mark Stoops (22 overall): Stoops either matched or improved upon his season win total from 2013-18, when he posted the first 10-win season Kentucky has had since 1977. His Wildcats regressed to an 8-5 record in 2019. Think about that for a second. His team "regressed" to an eight-win mark that hasn't happened at Kentucky since 2007. That speaks volumes to his success as a head coach. Last Year: 8|
|Mike Leach (27 overall): Leach's success at Washington State and Texas Tech speaks for itself. He has a 139-90 overall record and is one of the pioneers of the spread offense that has become commonplace in today's college football landscape. It's going to be a new challenge for Leach in the SEC -- especially in the rough-and-tumble SEC West. Will his unique style translate to the success that he had in the Pac-12 North and Big 12? If it does, Leach will shoot up these rankings next season. Last Year: N/A|
|Lane Kiffin (35 overall): Kiffin is the second-winningest coach in FAU history after posting a 26-13 record and two double-digit win seasons with the Owls. Yes, he was a bit of a laughing stock at USC after going 28-15 and being fired on a tarmac five games into the 2013 season. But his three-plus seasons in Los Angeles weren't that bad considering how things have gone since his departure. It's going to be so much fun to see if Kiffin's offensive wizardry can get the Rebels back to a New Year's Six bowl game. Last Year: N/A|
|Jeremy Pruitt (38 overall): Losses to Georgia State and BYU to open the 2019 season left Pruitt fighting for his job after just 14 games at the helm. What did he do? Rip off six straight wins to close out the season and prove to the college football world that he's able to handle the pressure of the SEC in just his second season as a head coach. The expectation on Rocky Top should be an eight or nine-win season in 2020. Can Pruitt continue his progression? Last Year: 11|
|Will Muschamp (45 overall): Muschamp got the dreaded "vote of confidence" in mid-November last season and enters 2020 on the hottest seat in the conference. The 26-25 record in four seasons at South Carolina and 4-8 mark one year ago doesn't sit well with a fanbase that was conditioned to expect relevancy under former coach Steve Spurrier. If Muschamp hadn't topped Georgia last season, he might not have been eligible for this list this season. Last Year: 7|
|Eliah Drinkwitz (59 overall): Drinkwitz led Appalachian State to a 12-1 record and a berth in the New Orleans Bowl in his first season as a head coach. That was enough for Mizzou to tab him as Barry Odom's replacement. Does the former NC State and Boise State offensive coordinator have what it takes to orchestrate a turnaround with the Tigers? One season isn't a big resume ... but it gives them hope. Last Year: N/A|
|Derek Mason (60 overall): Mason had big shoes to fill after James Franklin led the Commodores to two straight nine-win seasons before departing for Penn State. He hasn't filled them. The Commodores haven't had a single winning campaign in any of his six seasons and is coming off a 3-9 season in which they finished in the basement of the SEC East. It's nearly impossible to win at a consistent level at Vanderbilt, but Mason needs to get back to a bowl game sooner rather than later. Last Year: 12|
|Sam Pittman (65 overall): Pittman not only ranks last in the SEC, but last overall among Power Five coaches. No, that's not a slight to Pittman himself or his ability to coach. But when you haven't been a head coach since 1993 -- and have only been a head coach at the junior college level -- you don't get the benefit of the doubt. With that said, Pittman has proven himself to be a relentless recruiter as an assistant coach in the SEC and will bring the talent to Fayetteville. Last Year: N/A|