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Heupel, Kelly, Saban are finalists for AP coach of year

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 01: Head coach Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrate with the trophy after defeating the Georgia Bulldogs 35-28 in the 2018 SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 1, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

UCF’s Josh Heupel, Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly and Alabama’s Nick Saban are the finalists for The Associated Press national college football coach of the year after leading their teams to unbeaten regular seasons.

The winner will be announced Monday at noon EST.

Heupel guided No. 7 Central Florida (12-0) to a second consecutive unbeaten season. The American Athletic Conference champions will play No. 11 LSU in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1. Kelly led the third-ranked Fighting Irish (12-0) to its first College Football Playoff appearance. The Irish play No. 2 Clemson in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29. Saban has No. 1 Alabama (13-0) in the playoff for the fifth consecutive season. The Crimson Tide won the Southeastern Conference and face No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 29.

The AP coach of the year was established in 1998. Saban is one of two coaches to win the award twice, along with Gary Patterson of TCU. Saban was coach of the year with LSU in 2003 and with Alabama in 2008.

Kelly won coach of the year in 2012, the last time he led Notre Dame to a 12-0 season.

Last year’s winner was Scott Frost of UCF. No school has ever had different coaches win the award in consecutive seasons.

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