Can Dan Mullen win a National Championship at Florida? Let the numbers guide you
Dan Mullen is in year one at Florida and as most new coaches to teams go, the excitement is huge; and it should be. Dan Mullen is a good football coach, as evident to what he was able to accomplish in Starkville, MS at Mississippi State.
Look, you just don’t take the Bulldogs to eight straight bowl games, as he is the only one to ever do that.
But, how good is Mullen and can he win a National Championship at Florida? I’m not one to say someone can’t do something, but considering only four active coaches in Division One football own a National Title, and Mullen is currently rated our 28th best head coach over the last three years, I would say the odds of him pulling this off are slim – very slim.
Cole Cublic, with the SEC Network, who I think does a tremendous job recently said on Head to Head Sports talk with Matt Wyatt and Richard Cross, “Dan Mullen will win an SEC championship and a national championship at Florida. That’s going to happen.”
Now I am not here to debate Cole being right or wrong, but it does bring up an interesting question of can Mullen really do this at Florida? Well, let’s look at the numbers and do some projecting.
Let’s work backwards first and review Mullen’s body of work at Mississippi State, where he annually had a team that ranked in the mid to high twenties in recruiting.
Talent, being one of our three criteria to go along with coaching and quarterback play matters like the rest, so how did Mullen do against teams equally or less talented, and then how did he do against better competition?
In nine years at Mississippi State, Dan Mullen finished 59-18 (76%) against teams equally as talented or teams he was more talented as.
In the nine years in Starkville, Dan Mullen finished 11-29 (28%) against teams he was less talented than on a four year recruiting composite average. His best year was 2014 where he went 3-1 AMT (against more talent), and you can chalk that up to quarterback play from Dak Prescott.
So what does that tell us moving forward? Well, Mullen walks into a more talented program at Florida who ranks 14th in our 2018 three year talent eval. He will kick off 2018 about 11 spots higher on a talent scale at Florida and the Gators have the potential to get be better at recruiting.
The Gators are currently based on our talent rankings, talented enough to get to the National Championship.
But, there is a small caveat here that should be concerning to Gator Fans.
First, Mullen has to get the quarterback situation worked out at Florida, as the Gators were horrendous under Jim McElwain, and with Mullen’s track record you would assume he will within 24 months.
The Gators over the next three years will play schedules where they are the more talented team 72 percent of the time and if we use Mullen’s nine year numbers, Gator Fans should be celebrating eight or nine times a year.
But, that’s not why you are paying Mullen, as the goal is the College Football Playoff. The other 28% of the three year forecast, the Gators will play teams that are currently more talented.
The Gators play LSU and Georgia every year, and right now both squads are more talented than Florida and don’t forget about rival Florida State at the end of the year.
That means if Mullen stays true to form, he will win 28% of these matchups (one a year) and lose two.
And 2019 doesn’t get any easier as the Gators open up with Miami in Orlando, a team that is gaining heavy ground in recruiting under Mark Richt as they are only two spots behind Florida in our three year composites.
So if the Gators, who are currently 16th in the 247sports recruiting rankings don’t find a way to improve their current talent profile, they may walk onto Camping World Stadium the lesser talented team in 2018. Don’t forget again, Georgia, LSU and Florida State in 2019. At Mullen’s current 29 percent victory rate over more talented teams, that’s one, maybe two wins off this slate; good for another 9 or 10 win season, assuming he wins all the other games.
Keep in mind, Tennessee is going to improve from 18th on our metric in talent as will South Carolina, currently at 21.
Dan Mullen is walking into an SEC East that is getting better fast. Georgia is an elite recruiter under Smart and South Carolina, Tennessee, as well as Florida make this a resurgence of sorts for the East.
Mullen himself has to find ways to win big games as he seemed to sleep walk as a coach in several big time games over the last nine years, like Alabama last year in the final five minutes, or Alabama in 2014 or the 2012, 2014 and 2017 Egg Bowls.
While Dan Mullen is a very good coach, for him to win a National Title at Florida a few things will need to happen.
He will have to one, recruit and have an elite level talent at quarterback that just elevates the program to a different standard; or he will have to improve the Gators recruiting profile.
Both can happen, but then there is Mullen himself, who has only one 28 percent of these games against more talented, or rubber meets the road type games. He will have to show he can coach his way through these games.
Gator fans should be excited to have Mullen, but over the next three years it comes down to some simple math.
Win all your other games and then look Georgia, LSU and Florida State in the eye annually. If he can beat those teams, he will have Florida in the College Football Playoff.
But our numbers and trends say a Mullen National Title in Gainesville is highly unlikely. Twenty Eight percent is rarely a good percentage in anything and it sure isn’t when you are talking about your chances to win a football game or games.
Today, based on Mullen's track record, he has a slim to none chance of doing what Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer did, which is bring home a trophy. Twenty eight percent won't cut it and that's the odds on Mullen as of today.