Inside the Numbers: Comparing Dan Mullen’s success at Mississippi State to Steve Spurrier’s at Florida

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It’s hard to compare most college football coaches to Steve Spurrier.

But Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin on Monday did just that after Dan Mullen was formally introduced as the Gators’ next coach.

Mullen spent the past nine years at Mississippi State and turned a program that has perennially been at the bottom of the SEC West into a division contender.

And now, Stricklin has tasked Mullen with bringing that winning mindset back to Florida. The Gators are 52-36 over the past seven seasons, which encompasses the tenures of coaches Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain. The Gators lost at least four games in all but one of those seasons.

Based on his track record, Stricklin is confident Mullen can return Florida back to prominence.

“What he’s done at Mississippi State is historic on so many levels,” Stricklin said, “and if you look at the historical context of what he’s done there, I know the raw numbers don’t look as good as what Coach Spurrier did here, but from a historical context, at that place, it’s very similar. I mean, he changed the whole mindset of that program to one of being a winner.”

Just how similar was Mullen’s tenure at Mississippi State with Spurrier’s at Florida? Let’s take a look.

Steve Spurrier at Florida

Steve Spurrier took over the Florida program in 1990 after a decade that saw two coaches in Charley Pell and Galen Hall get fired due to NCAA violations. Overall, the Gators went 76-38-3 during the 1980s and had moderate success.

Spurrier, though, put Florida football on the map.

The Gators went 122-27-1 in 12 years under Spurrier and won six SEC championships and the program’s first national championship in 1996. Florida averaged just over 10 wins per season with the Head Ball Coach at the helm — a two-and-a-half game improvement from the decade before — and led the Gators to four seasons with an average of at least 40 points per game. That mark has only been hit two other times, when Mullen was the offensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008.

Of Spurrier’s 12 seasons, Florida won at least 10 games nine times, a feat that was not accomplished before in program history at that point.

Dan Mullen at Mississippi State

Dan Mullen took over a Mississippi State football program in 2009 that was at a low point. Since the turn of the century, the Bulldogs had gone 37-79 and won four games or fewer in seven of the eight seasons before his arrival. To go even further back, the Bulldogs had just one year with more than eight wins since 1981 before Mullen was named head coach before the 2009 season.

After a rough opening year that ended with a 5-7 record, Mullen began turning the program around. He cracked the nine-win threshold three times and led Mississippi State to just its third 10-win season in program history in 2014. The Bulldogs were ranked as high as No. 1 that year after opening the season 9-0 and finished second in the SEC West.

Their No. 11 spot in the postseason AP poll that year was the second-highest in program history behind a No. 9 finish in 1940. It was one of five top-15 finishes Mississippi State ever had — and Mullen is responsible for two of them. The Bulldogs finished No. 15 in 2010, Mullen’s second year.

Mullen also put up top-50 offenses in each of his past five seasons and has averaged more than 30 points per game in the last four years.

Will Dan Mullen’s success translate to Florida?

In a short answer, it should.

Mullen’s overall numbers might not be eye-popping — Mississippi State only finished in the top-10 in yards per game once in Mullen’s tenure (2014) — but his success relative to where Mississippi State was at his arrival is paramount.

And don’t forget, the last time the Gators had any semblance of a relevant offense came under Mullen’s watch as offensive coordinator from 2005-2008 during which time Florida won two SEC titles and a pair of national championships. Florida averaged 36.3 points per game during that four-year span and scored more than more than 45 points in 18 of 53 games.

With a hotbed of high school talent in his backyard and an offensive base to build upon if he implements his spread offense system correctly, Mullen has the capability of creating a successful offense at Florida.

It might take a couple seasons to see its full effects take place, but any sign of improvement in Year 1 will be a positive and needed first step.

The post Inside the Numbers: Comparing Dan Mullen’s success at Mississippi State to Steve Spurrier’s at Florida appeared first on SEC Country.

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