One of the most widely debated topics this past summer in the SEC was which conference coach was second best? Nick Saban is obviously the best, but who’s next?
Dan Mullen has answered that question definitively in his favor. In fact, through the first three weeks of the 2017 season, what has taken place around the SEC makes it so obvious Mullen is the next best coach in the league behind Saban that it seems foolish in hindsight that there was ever a doubt.
While Mississippi State thrashed a touchdown-favorite LSU team behind another stellar performance from quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, a player Mullen has developed from obscurity while four and five-star prospects elsewhere around the league flounder under center, the other contenders for No. 2 have been stumbling all over themselves.
Gus Malzahn’s offense continues failing spectacularly against elite competition.
Kevin Sumlin authored one of the most historic second-half collapses in college football history and has his players giving the finger to fans at halftime.
Jim McElwain was bailed out from an unforgiveable, last-minute, clock-management gaffe and 0-2 start by a Hail Mary.
Butch Jones continues doing Butch Jones things. (But he does have a trash can. That’s something Mullen can’t match.)
Mississippi State lacks resources. It’s football revenue ranks 13th in the SEC, only ahead of Vanderbilt.
Mississippi State is at a recruiting disadvantage. While the state ranks 13th in a five-year abstract of producing blue-chip talent, that’s only seventh best among SEC states. And remember, MSU must “share” those in-state prospects – to some extent – with Ole Miss while Alabama and LSU also both recruit the state hard from either border.
Mississippi State doesn’t have tradition. There’s no way to sugar-coat this. The Bulldogs only SEC title came in 1941 and, aside from Vandy, has less football history than any other program in the league.
Mississippi State shouldn’t be good. Not only shouldn’t it be good, it should be a bottom-dweller. The Bulldogs should be a “homecoming” opponent, not sand-blasting LSU and heading to Georgia for the SEC’s premier Week 4 matchup.
The reason it is: Dan Mullen.
Dan Mullen does more with less than anyone in the SEC. Maybe more than anyone in the nation.
No, Dan Mullen isn’t Nick Saban, but he’s not Gus Malzahn, Kevin Sumlin, Butch Jones or Jim McElwain either. He’s much better than that.
(You can follow Chadd Scott on Twitter @ChaddScott)
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