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Does the SEC Have Any Good Closers?

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The final month of the football season is the most important. As any cliched headline will tell you, it's when championships are won.

Often times, folks will quote guys' records in November and December as proof of coaching prowess (or a lack thereof). Other times coaches will be called "good closers" if they have nice marks down the stretch. So, I decided to look at the 10 SEC head coaches with more than a season of I-A experience to see if any qualify as a good closer.

I looked at only their records at I-A teams, so Houston Nutt's and Bobby Johnson's experience on the I-AA level aren't included. For convenience's sake, I'll be using the phrase "November record," but it includes regular season (i.e. not bowl or conference championship) games played in December as well. I wanted to see if there was a noticeable difference between these guys' November records and their overall records.

Here's the tale of the tape:

Coach November Rec. Pct. Overall Rec. Pct. Difference
Gene Chizik 2-5 .285 5-19 .208 .077
Houston Nutt 33-16 .673 89-58 .605 .068
Bobby Petrino 15-3 .833 41-9 .820 .013
Urban Meyer 26-5 .839 83-17 .830 .009
Rich Brooks 36-42-1 .462 124-149-4 .455 .007
Nick Saban 30-14 .681 110-50-1 .686 -.005
Les Miles 21-10 .677 70-32 .686 -.009
Steve Spurrier 46-21-1 .676 169-62-2 .730 -.054
Mark Richt 22-8 .733 82-22 .788 -.055
Bobby Johnson 3-21 .125 27-56 .482 -.357

The overall records do not include any results from this season.

Amazingly, only two coaches had more than a 10 seven percentage point difference between their November records and their overall records. Even so, there are mitigating factors with them. Gene Chizik's two total years of experience screams "sample size issue," and Bobby Johnson's Novembers always include playing conference heavyweights Florida and Tennessee (not to mention Kentucky, who has been having consistently better records than Vandy has in recent years).

The only other coach who was at least five percentage points better than his overall record in November was Nutt. He was helped out by having Mississippi State and more often than not a non-conference tomato can in his Arkansas Novembers, and his 4-0 record at Ole Miss last year gave him a boost.

The only two coaches who were more than five percentage points worse (other than Johnson) were Steve Spurrier and Mark Richt. Spurrier was right on track with his overall record prior to arriving in Columbia, but his 6-9 November record at South Carolina has dragged it down. As for Richt, all of his Novembers have included Auburn (who's been a good team for most of Richt's tenure) and several have included Florida as well. Six of his eight losses came to the two of them. Scheduling is the culprit in his case.

In closing, the SEC doesn't really have any closers. Just about everyone's November records track very closely with their overall coaching records. Anyone who had a large difference had mitigating factors. I'd be willing to be that most coaches are like that.

As it turns out, the best coaches in November are the best coaches during the rest of the year too.