RANKING COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES

RANKING COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES

Joined: September 4th, 2012, 1:50 pm

July 4th, 2018, 6:35 am #1

Ask a coach how much rankings matter in college football, and they'll likely say they don't — if they even bother to answer you at all.

That said, rankings are still fun, so Sporting News decided to compile a list ranking all 130 FBS coaches. It's a summer rite of passage with the same familiar name at the top: Alabama's Nick Saban remains the standard, even for title-winning coaches in Dabo Swinney, Urban Meyer and Jimbo Fisher.

How did we rank those 130 coaches? We look at career accomplishments, factoring in what they've achieved in recent years. When it got tight, we picked the coach we’d take in a head-to-head matchup. It’s not a perfect science, but it’s ours.

And don't worry, there aren't 130 slides to click through — but we have to build the tension with a countdown. The Big Ten has six top-25 coaches, followed by the SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 with five apiece. The ACC has three, with an independent coach rounding out the group.


Here are Sporting News' top coach rankings ahead of 2018:


130 - 101


130. Steve Campbell, South Alabama (NR)
129. Sean Lewis, Kent State (NR) 
128. Dana Dimel, UTEP (NR) 
127. Mike Bloomgren, Rice (NR) 
126. Brent Brennan, San Jose State (NR) 
125. Chad Lunsford, Georgia Southern (NR)
124. Billy Napier, Louisiana (NR) 
123. Mike Jinks, Bowling Green (120)
122. Mike Neu, Ball State (121)
121. Jay Norvell, Nevada (128)
120. Brad Lambert, Charlotte (116)
119. David Beaty, Kansas (106)
118. Mark Whipple, UMass (127) 
117. Turner Gill, Liberty (NR) 
116. Everett Withers, Texas State (118)
115. Matt Viator, Louisiana-Monroe (117)
114. Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina (110)
113. Nick Rolovich, Hawaii (94)
112. Tony Sanchez, UNLV (109)

111. Mike Sanford Jr., Western Kentucky (115)
Record: 6-7
Lowdown: The former Notre Dame offensive coordinator broke in with a 6-7 record in his first season, but the Hilltoppers were 5-1 before a late-season slide. Expect the second-year coach to learn from those lessons. He'll move up. 

110. Tim Lester, Western Michigan (129)
109. Lance Leipold, Buffalo (122)
108. Willie Fritz, Tulane (98)
107. Joe Moglia, Coastal Carolina (124)
106. Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan (101)
105. Chuck Martin, Miami (Ohio) (96)
104. Doug Martin, New Mexico State (126)
103. Frank Wilson, UTSA (99)
102. Bob Davie, New Mexico (75)
101. Sonny Dykes, SMU (NR)

100-71

100. Luke Fickell, Cincinnati (90)
99. Matt Wells, Utah State (97)
98. Shawn Elliott, Georgia State (119)
97. Randy Edsall, Connecticut (84)
96. Josh Heupel, UCF (NR)
95. Philip Montgomery, Tulsa (69)
94. Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion (83)
93. Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee State (91)
92. Geoff Collins, Temple (114)
91. Jay Hopson, Southern Miss (100)
90. Major Applewhite, Houston (113)
89. John Bonamego, Central Michigan (102)
88. Mike Bobo, Colorado State (86)
87. Herm Edwards, Arizona State (NR)
86. Jonathan Smith, Oregon State (NR)
85. Kalani Sitake, BYU (52)
84. Lovie Smith, Illinois (56)
83. Chris Ash, Rutgers (81)
82. Terry Bowden, Akron (103)
81. Dino Babers, Syracuse (63)
80. Craig Bohl, Wyoming (73)
79. Rod Carey, Northern Illinois (76)
78. Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech (62)
77. Jeff Monken, Army (92)
76. Troy Calhoun, Air Force (57)
75. Blake Anderson, Arkansas State (77)
74. Doc Holliday, Marshall (87)
73. Seth Littrell, North Texas (112)

72. Mario Cristobal, Oregon (NR)
Record: 27-48 (0-1) 
Lowdown: Oregon opted for continuity with Cristobal, saving the Ducks valuable time in another coaching search. Cristobal still needs to improve the recruiting of a program looking to regain its spot in the upper tier of the conference. 

71. Tom Allen, Indiana (89)

70-51

70. Rocky Long, San Diego State (74)
69. Jeff Tedford, Fresno State (88)
68. Justin Wilcox, Cal (82)
67. Butch Davis, Florida International (80)
66. Matt Luke, Ole Miss (NR)
65. Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State (NR)
64. Matt Rhule, Baylor (48)
63. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech (59)
62. Chad Morris, Arkansas (93)
61. Jason Candle, Toledo (95)
60. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt (67)
59. Neal Brown, Troy (79)
58. Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State (55)

57. Bill Clark, UAB (125)
Record: 14-11
Lowdown: It wasn't just about bringing UAB football back. Clark led the Blazers to arguably their best season in program history, an 8-5 campaign that resulted in their first bowl berth since 2004 — and all after a two-year hiatus. UAB won four one-score games along the way. Clark kept all that together in impressive fashion. 

56. Mike Norvell, Memphis (71)
55. D.J. Durkin, Maryland (54)
54. Barry Odom, Missouri (70)
53. Mark Stoops, Kentucky (65)
52. Steve Addazio, Boston College (68)
51. Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia (49)

50-26


50. Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh (36)
49. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado (31)
48. Frank Solich, Ohio (61)
47. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech (35)
46. Dave Clawson, Wake Forest (58)
45. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy (41)
44. Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee (NR)

43. Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic (85)
Record: 46-24 (11-3) 
Lowdown: Kiffin ranks third among Group of 5 coaches on this list, and he'll get a shot back at the Power 5 before all is said and done. The Owls are coming off an 11-win, championship season in Conference USA. What will Kiffin do for an encore? 

42. Bryan Harsin, Boise State (51)
41. P.J. Fleck, Minnesota (39)
40. Larry Fedora, North Carolina (27)
39. Dave Doeren, North Carolina State (53)
38. Kevin Sumlin, Arizona (42)
37. Jeff Brohm, Purdue (66)
36. Ed Orgeron, LSU (47)
35. Willie Taggart, Florida State (46)
34. Matt Campbell, Iowa State (60)
33. Charlie Strong, South Florida (38)
32. Will Muschamp, South Carolina (50)
31. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia (44)
30. David Cutcliffe, Duke (32)
29. Mike Leach, Washington State (26)

28. Scott Frost, Nebraska (43)
Record: You probably want Frost higher on this list after he led UCF to an unbeaten 2017 season. His next challenge is to resurrect alma mater Nebraska, one of college football’s most storied programs, back to life. Give him time to do that, and he'll be in the top 10 before you know it. 

27. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa (25)
26. Bobby Petrino, Louisville (13)

25. Kyle Whittingham, Utah
Last year: 20 (-5)
Record: 111-56
Lowdown: Whittingham is a by-definition solid coach who has kept the Utes on the national radar after moving up to the Pac-12. He has only had two losing seasons as head coach, but the expectations should be a little higher now. Utah can’t go 7-6 again in 2018 for Whittingham to stay here. 

24. Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
Last year: 23 (-1)
Record: 45-31 (19-8 at Virginia Tech)
Lowdown: Fuente has reestablished stability in Blacksburg, but the Hokies were 1-3 against ranked teams last season — the only win coming against West Virginia in the opener. The classic Miami-Virginia Tech rivalry will be reinstalled in the ACC Coastal in 2018, and Virginia Tech needs to win a few of those games. 

23. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Last year: 28 (+5) 
Record: 87-65
Lowdown: Northwestern is coming off its third 10-win campaign in six seasons, including consecutive bowl victories in 2016-17. The program also has some exciting new facilities. A lot of that credit belongs to Fitzgerald, who has spurned other offers with the relentless drive to build up his alma mater. The addition of Clemson transfer quarterback Hunter Johnson will only elevate expectations in Evanston.

22. Tom Herman, Texas
Last year: 18 (-4)
Record: 29-10 (7-6 at Texas) 
Lowdown: Herman led Texas to a 7-6 record and a bowl victory in his first season, a modest move in the right direction for a program with great expectations for the future. Herman has lived up to the hype on the recruiting trail, and that could be the difference in those close games down the line (the Longhorns had four one-score losses last season). They're closer to contention than some critics think. 

21. Dan Mullen, Florida
Last year: 19 (-2)
Record: 69-46 (0-0 at Florida)
Lowdown: Mullen made the move from Mississippi State to Florida, where the expectations will be higher at a proven blue-blood program. Mullen had a winning record in seven of nine seasons in Starkville, but won 10 games just once — a bad loss to Ole Miss in 2017 kept the Bulldogs from meeting that threshold a second time under Mullen. That 10-win bar will be part of the ramped-up expectations now. 

20. Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Last year: 12 (-8)
Record: 210-110
Lowdown: Snyder turns 79 in October, but he hasn’t lost his touch with a program he has built through two separate stints. The Wildcats have made eight consecutive bowl appearances, including victories in the last two. That includes a winning record in the Big 12.

19. Chip Kelly, UCLA
Last year: NR  
Record: 46-7 (0-0 at UCLA)
Lowdown: Kelly is the hardest Power 5 coach to rank. On one hand, he’s a proven winner at the college level whose high-octane offense dominated the Pac-12 in his previous stint with Oregon. On the other, we haven’t seen Kelly on a college sideline since 2012. Will anything have changed during that five-year layoff?  

18. Clay Helton, USC
Last year: 24 (+6)
Record: 27-10 
Lowdown: Helton’s no-nonsense approach has been exactly what the Trojans have needed. He has led USC to a Pac-12 championship and back-to-back New Year’s Day Six appearances, but high-profile losses to Alabama and Ohio State show the program what’s it’s going to take to break through to the next level. A Playoff appearance is the next logical step.  

17. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
Last year: 14 (-3)
Record: 122-56 (69-34 at Notre Dame)
Lowdown: Kelly won 10 games at Notre Dame in 2017, but his is a job where big losses far outweigh big wins (especially true in the College Football Playoff era). Notre Dame finished 3-3 against ranked teams last year, but chances are you remember those losses (Georgia, Miami, Stanford) a lot more than the wins (N.C. State, USC, LSU). 

16. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma
Last year: 45 (+29)
Record: 12-2
Lowdown: This ranking might anger some Oklahoma fans, given Riley displayed poise from the outset — which was proven in an early-season victory at Ohio State in 2017. The 34-year-old coach is a brilliant play-caller coming off a Big 12 championship and Playoff appearance in his first season. We expect him to crack the top 10 soon enough, but he'll have to do it without Baker Mayfield at quarterback.

15. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State Last year: 15
Record: 114-53
Lowdown: Gundy enters his 14th season in Stillwater coming off a third 10-win season in four years. He has been a target for SEC coach openings in recent seasons, but Gundy has stayed the course at his alma mater. There’s an opportunity to take that next step — the only nit-pick is, for all his success, Gundy has led Oklahoma State to a 2-11 record against rival Oklahoma. 

14. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
Last year: 22 (+8)
Record: 53-26 (34-7 at Wisconsin)
Lowdown: In three seasons, Chryst has led Wisconsin to three 10-win seasons, consecutive Big Ten West titles and a 13-1 record in 2017 (the program's best all-time). The reason he isn’t higher on this list: The Badgers are 2-4 the last two years against those top four Big Ten East coaches, including in the Big Ten championship game. Can he lead the Badgers to victory against Michigan and Penn State in crossover games this year?

13. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Last year: 16 (+3)
Record: 54-25 (45-22 at Auburn)
Lowdown: You know the drill by now. Malzahn’s stock fluctuates with each season, and that often depends on whether Auburn wins the Iron Bowl. He’s one of three active coaches with an SEC championship, and the Tigers were the best team in the country at home last year, as evidenced by two wins against No. 1 ranked teams in Georgia and Alabama in a span of three weeks. Problem is, they travel for those games in 2018.

12. James Franklin, Penn State
Last year: 15 (+3)
Record: 60-32 (36-17 at Penn State)
Lowdown: Franklin has built Penn State into a legitimate College Football Playoff contender, and he’s recruiting at an elite level. Why is he behind the other three Big Ten East coaches? The Nittany Lions are 3-9 against Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan the last four years, including two painful losses by a combined four points last year. Penn State has to close in those games.

11. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan 
Last year: 5 (-6)
Record: 57-32 (28-11 at Michigan)
Lowdown: "But he hasn’t finished better than third in the East!" We’ve dropped Harbaugh out of the top 10 to account for that easily recited criticism, but we could see him jumping right back in after a prove-it year. It boils down to beating Ohio State; when Michigan wins that game — one it hasn't won since 2011 — those other criticisms go away. By the way, Harbaugh is 4-4 against Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin. That doesn’t get brought up as much. In other words, things aren’t nearly as bad as they seem in Ann Arbor.

10. David Shaw, Stanford
Last year: 7 (-3)
Record: 73-22
Lowdown: Shaw has won double-digit games in five of seven seasons with the Cardinal. The program is always in the hunt for a conference championship, but still hasn’t made that breakthrough to the College Football Playoff. He continues to churn out NFL talent, especially at the running back position. Look for Shaw and star running back Bryce Love to keep the Cardinal in contention again in 2018.

9. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Last year: 10 (+1)
Record: 118-62 (100-45 at Michigan State)
Lowdown: The Spartans bounced back on the field with a 10-3 record in 2017, and Dantonio brings back one of his most experienced and talented teams this year. He has won three Big Ten titles, has a 7-3 record against Wolverines — a rivalry he fully embraces as the Spartans' biggest game of the year — and has proven the biggest challenge to Ohio State since his arrival in 2007.

8. Gary Patterson, TCU 
Last year: 11 (+3)
Record: 160-57
Lowdown: Patterson led TCU to an 11-3 record in 2017, his 11th season with 10 or more wins across four conferences with the Horned Frogs. TCU is a trendy pick to win the Big 12 this season, too. Patterson is under-appreciated, and it shouldn't take a Playoff appearance to validate all his success. If he does get the Horned Frogs there, it'll only show just how great his run in Fort Worth has been. 

7. Chris Petersen, Washington
Last year: 6 (-1)
Record: 129-29 (37-17 at Washington)
Lowdown: Petersen is in the conversation for "best coach without a national championship" alongside Kirby Smart and Mark Richt. One of only eight active coaches with a Playoff appearance, Petersen is coming off his second consecutive season of at least 10 wins and brings back a veteran team led by quarterback Jake Browning. He’ll get a chance to prove it in the opener against Auburn, a monumental contest for the entire Pac-12.

6. Mark Richt, Miami
Last year: 9 (+3)
Record: 164-58 (19-7 at Miami)
Lowdown: Forget about last year's late-season slide. Richt put Miami back in position to win the ACC championship in just his second year. The recruiting will only get better, considering FSU and Florida are programs in transition. This is an opportunity for Miami to take over the state again — but that elusive ACC championship must come first. 

5. Kirby Smart, Georgia
Last year: 37 (+32)
Record: 21-7
Lowdown: SN's 2017 Coach of the Year has a bright future in Athens. Smart spent years learning under Nick Saban at Alabama, and he's building a similar machine through recruiting at Georgia, highlighted by an all-time great haul in his 2018 signing class. The defending SEC champions will be a force to be reckoned with — Smart promised as much in the aftermath of last year’s title game loss to Alabama.

4. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M
Last year: 4 
Record: 83-23 (0-0 at Texas A&M)
Lowdown: How often do you see a national title-winning coach — only four active FBS coaches can make that claim — take a job at another school? That's exactly what Fisher did in leaving FSU for Texas A&M, a program with sky-high expectations. We decided not to punish him on this list after his team finished 5-6 last season: the Seminoles were bombarded by injuries and it was evident both parties needed a change. But he'll have to prove it all over again in the SEC West.

3. Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Last year: 2 (-1)
Record: 177-31 (73-8 at Ohio State)
Lowdown: Meyer led the Buckeyes to a second Big Ten championship and a near-berth in the College Football Playoff in 2017. Ohio State continues to cycle NFL talent through its program, and is 6-0 against rival Michigan in the Urban era. The Big Ten race still runs through Columbus, and Meyer is building it all to last through recruiting. No Big Ten coach handles the scrutiny of the national spotlight better than him. 

2. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
Last year: 3 (+1)
Record: 101-30
Lowdown: We bumped Swinney ahead of Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, given his more recent national title, three consecutive Playoff appearances and 2-0 record against the Buckeyes coach. Clemson hasn’t lost more than two conference games in a single season since 2011 under Swinney, and it stands to reason his program will only get stronger. This reminds us of the generational dominance Bobby Bowden once achieved at FSU.

1. Nick Saban, Alabama
Last year: 1
Record: 223-63 (132-20 at Alabama)
Lowdown: You know the superlatives by now: five titles in nine years at Alabama, plus another at LSU. Saban again showed his brilliance in January, when — trailing Georgia 13-0 at the half of the national title game — he substituted freshman Tua Tagovailoa in for veteran quarterback Jalen Hurts. How many coaches make that call? Saban did, and it made the difference in a 26-23 overtime win. Saban's Alabama teams have also won at least 10 games every year since 2008. The scary part? Saban, who turns 67 on Halloween, isn't showing any signs of slowing down.


http://www.sportingnews.com/ncaa-footba ... 8/slide/29
Alabama: Heart of the South
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Joined: August 10th, 2017, 5:39 am

July 4th, 2018, 9:54 am #2

Is Meyer losing it?  I'm halfway serious.
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Joined: August 10th, 2017, 5:39 am

July 4th, 2018, 9:57 am #3

What about Lane Kiffin? 

Florida Atlantic had 3 straight 3-9 seasons and in one year Laner turned that around to 11-3.  Same players.
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Joined: September 4th, 2012, 1:50 pm

July 4th, 2018, 1:19 pm #4

brown dog wrote: Is Meyer losing it?  I'm halfway serious.
He will be back at  # 2 all time greatest coach, right behind Saban , after the Buckeyes win the NC this season … 
Alabama: Heart of the South
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Joined: October 3rd, 2013, 4:59 pm

July 5th, 2018, 5:01 am #5

I know with Jimbo they are just basing it on his winning percentage but I think they should also look at the direction of the program since 2013 and his postseason record after he won the national championship with Bowden's players.  
"Gentlemen, touchdowns follow blocking as sure night follows day" -Gen Neyland
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Joined: August 10th, 2017, 5:39 am

July 5th, 2018, 5:13 am #6

Yeah, I'm not really sold on Jimbo.  He might have just had a hot year.  Especially when you consider the lower level of competition in the ACC and the talent he had available.  Clemson has been the real deal and they have been a mess.
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Joined: August 10th, 2017, 5:39 am

July 5th, 2018, 5:14 am #7

Is Jimbo really Mark Richt with one season that worked out?
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Joined: October 3rd, 2013, 4:59 pm

July 5th, 2018, 6:55 am #8

brown dog wrote: Is Jimbo really Mark Richt with one season that worked out?
Honestly I think that is a great analogy.  Same with Fulmer.  Solid coaches who can get you 9 or 10 years every year but are not innovative.
"Gentlemen, touchdowns follow blocking as sure night follows day" -Gen Neyland
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Joined: December 28th, 2012, 3:23 pm

July 5th, 2018, 11:41 am #9

Joe Moorhead may just be the next big thing but without a single season in D1, his ranking is just a wild guess. I hope he moves up about forty or more spots next year.
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