Yesterday I received my ballot for Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year. This morning I submitted it. Now, in an effort to be transparent, I'm going to reveal how I voted.
First, the finalists:
- Michigan's Brady Hoke. Went 10-2 in his first season, increasing the team's win total by three from the year before. The Wolverines beat Ohio State for the first time since 2003, made a quantum leap defensively, and advanced to a BCS game for the first time since 2006.
- Kansas State's Bill Snyder. The Wildcats were picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 and finished second — and eighth in the BCS standings. They are 10-2 entering in what I anticipate to be a fun match up against Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. Snyder is a tremendous coach. Once upon a time Kansas State was the worst team in college football. In his third year of his second tour of duty at KSU, he's once again showing he's one of the premier coaches in college football.
- Clemson's Dabo Swinney. In his third season, Swinney led the Tigers to their first ACC championship since 1991 and a match up against West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. Twice, his team smashed Sugar Bowl qualifier Virginia Tech.
- LSU's Les Miles. The Tigers are 13-0 heading into a rematch against Alabama in the BCS national championship.They've beaten the following teams in the top 25 of the BCS, and all, with the exception of Alabama, were decisive: #5 Oregon (neutral), #23 West Virginia (road), #25 Auburn (home), #2 Alabama (road), #6 Arkansas (home) and #16 Georgia (neutral).
- Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy. His team won the Big 12 outright for the first time ever and was a double-overtime loss to Iowa State from being undefeated and going to the BCS title game. Led by a prolific passing game, Gundy has built a juggernaut in Stillwater.
Now, my vote, in reverse order.
To date, Miles' team has enjoyed arguably the best season in college football history, and therefore I picked him over Hoke. The closer race, in my mind, was between Hoke, Gundy and Snyder. The way LSU consistenly devoured good teams — rarely with the assistance of a home crowd — is remarkable. Some may argue "LSU was ranked fourth in the preseason. They were supposed to be good." Well, a couple of things: I don't vote based on how a team does relative to outsider's expectations for them. Given that logic, Andrew Luck would be disqualified from winning the Heisman Trophy. Secondly, no team is supposed to go undefeated, particularly in the SEC. Miles was forced to deal with distractions all season long, whether it was losing his quarterback and others in fall camp to a bar fight arrest or suspending his star defensive back for testing positive for synthetic marijuana. In my opinion, it's obvious — The Hat wears The Crown for this season's best coach.