LSU’s Les Miles or Michigan’s Brady Hoke for Coach of the Year?

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Today, the Football Writers Association of America announced five finalists for the 2011 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award.

In alphabetical order, the finalists are: Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State), Brady Hoke (Michigan), Les Miles (LSU), Bill Snyder (Kansas State), and Dabo Swinney (Clemson).

I’m pretty sure it’s down to the Mad Hatter of the LSU Tigers and Michigan Man Hoke for the Wolverines. And here’s why:

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The fact that Swinney was unable to keep his team from quitting in week 12 (the 37-13 loss to a much less talented NC State team) eliminates him. Sure, they already had the ACC title game appearance wrapped, up, but if they actually tried that game, and showed they cared- they could have at least entered the one-loss team national conversation. The lackluster interest carried over the next week, when they got waxed 34-13 by South Carolina.

Mike Gundy certainly has a case as his Cowboys posted an 11-1 regular season and won their first Big 12 Conference title in history after a 44-10 demolishing of their hated rival Oklahoma Sooners to close the regular season. The conference title in football was the first outright for the Cowboys since winning the Missouri Valley in 1948. This is the second straight season the Oklahoma State coach is a finalist for the award. But I can’t vote for him due to two words: Iowa State.

After coming back from retirement, Bill Snyder of Kansas State accomplished a lot. And it’s taken only three seasons to reach double-digit wins again in Manhattan. The Wildcats surprised experts by losing only two games during the regular season – to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State – and will play Arkansas in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. Usually I have a strict policy about not mentioning stadium/bowl corporate names, but if it’s a company I own stock in- then I’m cool with it. And yeah, Snyder hasn’t done enough to get this award.

So when I cast my FWAA ballot this year, which I will keep secret, it will between Miles and Hoke.

Miles’ Tigers are 13-0 and ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings after winning the Southeastern Conference title last Saturday, overwhelming Georgia, 42-10. The nation’s only unbeaten team will meet Alabama on Jan. 9 for the BcS National Championship in a de facto home game at the Superdome. Miles is in his seventh season at LSU, where he has already won a national title (2007). The “Mad Hatter” just seems to win on a wing and a prayer, or piss and vinegar, or guns and butters sometimes. We don’t know how he does it, he just does it. They lost CB Patrick Peterson to the NFL, and yet somehow his defense and secondary got better.

They have had issues at the most important position of QB, yet they’ve been rolling up huge numbers of points on everyone. Previous LSU teams have won fluky; these guys by contrast win dominant!

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Qualifying for a BCS bowl in his first season in Ann Arbor was probably not in Hoke’s thoughts when he moved over from San Diego State. His 10-2 Wolverines are headed to the Sugar Bowl (although plenty of Michigan fans themselves will admit they don’t truly belong there at all) to play Virginia Tech. That, plus beating Ohio State to break a seven-game losing streak to the Buckeyes, makes the former Michigan player a worthy candidate.

Hoke was UM’s third choice at least (behind Jim Harbaugh and Pat Fitzgerald from Northwestern) but he ended up being the perfect diamond in the rough. Lots of credit goes to defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who should no doubt get the coordinator of the year award. That defense has done a complete 180 from the train wreck of last year under Greg Robinson.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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