With all due respect for everyone else, there are two viable candidates for the National Coach of the Year - Auburn's Gus Malzahn and Duke's David Cutcliffe. Here's how we the case for (and against) each coach.
First, their respective schedules:
vs. Washington State - Win, 31-24
vs. Arkansas State - Win, 38-9
vs. Mississippi State - Win, 24-20
at LSU - Loss, 35-21
vs. Ole Miss - Win, 30-22
vs. Western Carolina, Win, 62-3
at Texas A&M - Win, 45-41
vs. Florida Atlantic - Win, 45-10
at Arkansas - Win, 35-17
at Tennessee - Win, 55-23
vs. Georgia - Win, 43-38
vs. Alabama - Win, 34-28
vs. North Carolina Central - Win, 45-0
at Memphis - Win, 28-14
vs. Georgia Tech - Loss, 38-14
vs. Pittsburgh - Loss, 58-55
vs. Troy - Win, 38-31
vs. Navy - Win, 35-7
at Virginia - Win, 35-22
at Virginia Tech - Win, 13-10
vs. N.C. State - Win, 38-20
vs. Miami - Win, 48-30
at Wake Forest - Win, 28-21
at North Carolina - Win, 27-25
The Case For: Malzahn
Turning 3-9 to 11-1 just isn't supposed to happen. The same team that lost to Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama to close their SEC slate by a combined 150-21 just beat all three of those teams and will now head to the SEC title game. Again, a team that went 3-9 a year ago has a chance to win the national championship this season. This turnaround job is completely unprecedented in college football history.
The Case For: Cutcliffe
Cutcliffe's team is ranked nationally by every poll that matters, won 10 games for the first time in school history, will play for the ACC title on Saturday and, with a win, heads to the Orange Bowl, perhaps to play Alabama. It's Duke. There's really nothing else that needs to be said.
The Case Against: Malzahn
No. 4, No. 7, No. 10 and No. 8. That's how Rivals.com ranks Auburn's last four recruiting classes. Last year's collapse notwithstanding, this is how a team with four consecutive top 10 classes should play. What other coach steps into a roster with that much talent and, obviously, has talent specifically recruited to play in their system?
The Case Against: Cutcliffe
You know who isn't surprised by Duke's performance this season? David Cutcliffe. The sixth-year Devils coach will tell you (however irrationally) that this is where his program should be at this point. With six wins last season, it's not as if this year's showing has come completely out of nowhere. And have you seen that schedule? Duke's best win is against either Virginia Tech or Miami, and neither team is ranked. A compelling argument can be made the only reason Duke will play for the ACC title is due to their good fortune of missing both Florida State and Clemson from the Atlantic Division.
Though we may be in the business of handing outcoachingawards, this isn't our score to settle. How would you settle this debate?