This year might not have been a total sea change for SEC football, with Alabama heading to the conference championship and likely heading to the College Football Playoff. Still, it was a very good year for some teams that entered with very muted expectations.
Arkansas had bottomed out about as badly as one program could under Chad Morris. The team posted back-to-back 2-10 seasons with 0-8 conference records. The hire of Sam Pittman was not the most popular of the offseason, but he clearly lit a fire under the Razorbacks program, going 3-7 with an All-SEC schedule with wins over Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Tennessee. In a normal year with four non-conference games, Arkansas might’ve been a bowl team, or close.
Mizzou wasn’t coming from quite as dire a place, but its improvement has also been pretty impressive. Off of a 6-6 (3-5) season, the team hired Appalachian State’s Eli Drinkwitz, who has the Tigers playing some fun football. The team is 5-4, with another potential win coming up against Mississippi State.
Like many others, Paul Finebaum is weighing both of those coaches as his conference Coach of the Year. He also thinks that Nick Saban should be involved, with his undefeated record. Ultimately, he’s going with Drinkwitz for the award though.
Finebaum was a guest on Pat Dooley’s “Another Dooley Noted Podcast” on Monday. During the show, he gave his case for Drinkwitz, and weighed in on the SEC Coach of the Year race.
Via Saturday Down South:
“Just when you’re about to hit the lever for Drinkwitz, he gets just destroyed on Saturday,” Finebaum said. “If you really wanted to pick the guy who’s done the best job, it’s Nick Saban.”
“I’m going to vote for Drinkwitz because I think he did a lot with very little, as you know,” Finebaum said. “I mean that program really took it on the chin a year or two ago with the NCAA. I think it says a lot about the SEC this year, Pat, when the winner of the Arkansas-Missouri game should be awarded the Coach of the Year. Because both programs were so bad, and they both at least have a life, a pulse now, and I think that matters.”
Mizzou got rocked by Georgia on Saturday, as Finebaum mentions, but that shouldn’t take too much away from the job Drinkwitz has done this year.