The college football has a new ruler, as the LSU Tigers outlasted the reigning champs Clemson Tigers 42-25 in the National Championship Game. Louisiana State won its fourth title and first since 2007. Coach Ed Orgeron got his place in LSU’s history, as well as quarterback Joe Burrow who had five TD passes against Clemson in another spectacular outing.
For the third time over the last five years, the SEC West team has won the championship. After winning it all in 2016 and 2018, the Alabama Crimson Tide had to settle down with a victory in the Citrus Bowl. Texas A&M beat Oklahoma State in the Texas Bowl, while Auburn lost to Minnesota in the Outback Bowl. Mississippi State lost to Louisville in the Music City Bowl, while Ole Miss and Arkansas were bowl ineligible, but it was another successful season for the SEC West in general. The upcoming 2020 season will be a joy to watch with three new faces around including Mike Leach who took over at Mississippi State.
7. Sam Pittman (Arkansas Razorbacks)
What can we say about the Arkansas Razorbacks who sacked Chad Morris after eight losses in the first ten games? It was expected, as Morris recorded only four wins in 18 games as Arkansas head coach. The Razorbacks won two of their first three games in 2019, beating Portland State 20-13 and Colorado State 55-34, but the rest of the season was pretty much a catastrophe. After a couple of narrow losses to San Jose State and Kentucky, the Razorbacks have dropped five straight games by an average margin of 34.8 points. They finished 124th in the country in points allowed per game (36.8) and 110th in points scored per contest (21.4).
The 58-year-old Sam Pittman will try to bring Arkansas back to the winning path. He spent the last four years as the offensive line coach at Georgia, and he was the associate head coach in 2019, too. Pittman had a three-year spell with the Razorbacks and won the 2014 Texas Bowl and 2016 Liberty Bowl as an assistant head coach and offensive line coach under Bret Bielema. Sam has a reputation as one of the best offensive line coaches and recruiters in the country, so the Razorback hope for better days.
6. Lane Kiffin (Ole Miss Rebels)
The Ole Miss Rebels went 4-8 in 2019 in the third season under Matt Luke. They were 6-6 in 2017 and 5-7 in Luke’s second season, so 2019 was a bad year for the Rebels who haven’t appeared in the postseason since 2015. I have to mention that the Rebels’ strength of schedule was pretty tough. They lost to Memphis 15-10 and California 28-20 in the non-conference play, while the Bulldogs were inferior in meetings with heavyweight teams in the SEC. At least, they scored 37 points against the LSU Tigers and were so close to upset the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the ultimate week of the regular season, but they lost 21-20.
The youngest head coach in the NFL modern era, Lane Kiffin, will lead the Rebels next season. Back in 2007, the Oakland Raiders hired the 31-year-old Kiffin on a two-year deal, but Lane suffered 15 losses in 20 games before losing his job. Kiffin was the offensive coordinator at Alabama from 2014 to 2016, while he spent the previous three years as a head coach of the Florida Atlantic Owls and won a couple of C-USA championships in that span. It would be interesting to see if Kiffin is capable of transforming the Rebels’ offense while battling against some of the best teams in the country.
5. Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M Aggies)
Jimbo Fisher earned the second bowl win in his second year with the Texas A&M Aggies. They went 8-5 overall and 4-4 in the conference play, enough for the fourth spot in the SEC West. The Aggies can be pleased with Jimbo’s work, as all their five losses came against the top-10 teams, while four of those five defeats came against top-4 schools.
Fisher and his boys battled bravely in a 19-13 loss at No. 4 Georgia and a 24-10 defeat at No. 1 Clemson, but they were helpless in a 50-7 loss at No. 2 LSU. The Aggies finished 61st in the country in points scored per game (30.0) and 37th in points allowed per game (22.7). Don’t be surprised if the Aggies make a breakthrough in 2020 under Jimbo who’s one of the most interesting coaches in recent history. He won the national championship with Florida State in 2013.
4. Gus Malzahn (Auburn Tigers)
Gus Malzahn did a solid job in his seventh season with the Auburn Tigers, but a 31-24 loss to Minnesota in the Outback Bowl is a disappointment, for sure. The Tigers are only 2-4 in bowl games over the last six years, but Malzahn is 3-4 against Alabama as Auburn’s coach. Also, Gus is the only active coach in the SEC to beat Nick Saban more than once. Auburn defeated Alabama in 2019, but the Tigers lost to Florida, Georgia, and LSU. They finished third in the SEC West, going 5-3 in the conference play and 9-4 overall.
From this point of view, the Auburn Tigers could be a pleasant surprise in 2020. All their three losses this past regular season came against the top-10 teams including a narrow 23-20 defeat at LSU. QB Bo Nix had a nice freshman season, as well as sophomore RB JaTarvious Whitlow and WR Seth Williams. Also, Auburn will play seven games at home in 2020 including matchups with Alabama and LSU.
3. Ed Orgeron (LSU Tigers)
Ed Orgeron is a great football coach. But he’s also a very interesting person with a strange sense of humor. Everyone who saw Coach O’s interviews will probably say he’s a unique person who loves his job. Ed Orgeron dominated his colleagues in 2019, and he did it in style. His Tigers went 15-0 including five wins over top-10 teams in the regular season.
Joe Burrow won the Heisman Trophy, becoming one of the most dominant quarterbacks in college football history. Orgeron’s Tigers were completely unstoppable offensively, while their defense did just enough in every single game. LSU thrashed off Oklahoma by 35 points in the semis and beat Clemson by 17 in the championship game, and that tells a lot about their strength.
Therefore, it’s no strange Ed Orgeron won the 2019 Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award. He was a great example and a true leader of one of the most dominant teams in this century.
It’s tough to say what can we expect from Ed Orgeron and LSU Tigers next season. They will try to become the first team in the College Football Playoff era to defend the title but will lose plenty of their key players including Joe Burrow. The bookies consider LSU as a +650 fave to win back-to-back, and four teams have better chances than Coach O’s Tigers.
2. Nick Saban (Alabama Crimson Tide)
After four straight appearances in the National Championship Game and four SEC titles over the last five years, the Alabama Crimson Tide and Nick Saban finished second the SEC West with an 11-2 record. It was a disappointing year for the Crimson Tide who lost to LSU at home and Auburn on the road in the ultimate week of the regular season.
Still, Nick Saban had a lot of injury worries in his 13ts season with Alabama. His starting QB Tua Tagovailoa missed four games including the last two games against Auburn and Michigan. However, Alabama’s defense was inconsistent and Nick Saban looked helpless on the sidelines. For many years, the Crimson Tide’s D was a dominant force in college football. This time, they were surrendering 18.8 points (15th in the country) on 318.8 total yards per game (18th).
The 2019 season is undoubtedly a setback for both Nick Saban and the Alabama football program. Still, the Crimson Tide’s recruitment always finds the best replacements, and the 2020 class won’t be different. Alabama is a +450 favorite to win the championship game next season. Don’t be surprised if Nick Saban makes it happen again. He’s won five national championships with Alabama and is No. 1 in the SEC West, do doubt.
1. Mike Leach (Mississippi State Bulldogs)
If you pay attention to this website or Sports Gambling Podcast or The College Experience, you should already know we’d put our guy Leach in the top spot … even if Saban and Orgeron have more “mainstream cred.” Last year, Colby Dant made an excellent case for Leach as the best Power 5 coach.
Washington State appeared in six bowl games under Mike Leach, recording two wins and four losses. However, Leach led the Cougars to the 2018 Pac-12 North title while winning the AFCA Coach of the Year award. Also, he was the Pac-12 coach of the year twice in 2015 and 2018. Last year, the Cougars finished first in the country in passing yards per game (444.3), way ahead of the LSU Tigers, while they were 10th in the nation in points scored per contest (39.2). The Bulldogs, on the other side, leaned more on their ground game while scoring 27.6 points per game, so we can’t wait to see Mike’s influence on their game.
Plus, no other coach can rank mascots like Leach does: