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CBSSports.com Senior College Football Columnist

Meyer the obvious No. 1 choice when it comes to best new coaching hire

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With Meyer in charge, it shouldn't be long before Ohio State rules the Big Ten again. (US Presswire)  
With Meyer in charge, it shouldn't be long before Ohio State rules the Big Ten again. (US Presswire)  

Urban Meyer is No. 1. Can Ohio State be far behind?

You know the record, you know the history, you know the accomplishments. Did you know that Ohio State's new coach is the best hire this offseason? After much deliberation, the college football folks here at CBSSports.com have determined what had become fairly obvious. After a year of some bad choices in Columbus, Ohio State made a great one.

Ranking the new hires
Coach, School (FPV) Pts
1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State (6) 13
2. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona (2) 22
3. Mike Leach, Washington State (1) 23
4. Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State 51
5. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M 64
6. Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh 68
7. Larry Fedora, North Carolina 73
8. Tim Beckman, Illinois 90
9. Jim McElwain, Colorado State 94
10. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss 105
11. Terry Bowden, Akron 115
12. Norm Chow, Hawaii 136
13. Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State 142
14. Tony Levine, Houston 149
15. Jim Mora, UCLA 153
16. Ellis Johnson, Southern Miss 154
17. Charlie Weis, Kansas 156
18. Todd Graham, Arizona State 158
19. Garrick McGee, UAB 164
20. Carl Pelini, FAU 170
21. Curtis Johnson, Tulane 171
22. Kyle Flood, Rutgers 173
23. Bill O'Brien, Penn State 174
24. Justin Fuente, Memphis 176
25. Bob Davie, New Mexico 181
26. Matt Campbell, Toledo 184
CBSSports.com staffers Tony Barnhart, Dennis Dodd, Bruce Feldman, Brett McMurphy, J. Darin Darst, Bryan Fischer, Tom Fornelli, Jerry Hinnen and Chip Patterson ranked the coaches from best to worst: 1 point for best hire, 2 pts for second best, etc.

We're not exactly going out on a limb here. Meyer has two national championships to his name and just happened to be available when a Tressel-less Ohio State went looking. Some Bucks have all the luck. So far, Ohio State has barely missed a beat while the best free-agent coach in years eased into the job. In his first 74 days, Meyer maneuvered around a bowl ban, angered some Big Ten peers and landed a top-three recruiting class. He has Bucknuts dreaming that their team might also be No. 1, even if there is no chance to prove it in the postseason.

Funny how these things work. After stepping down at Florida twice, Urban was in the right place at the right time. Unemployed, at least as a coach. Yes, Meyer is No. 1 with a bullet. Just be advised that Big Ten coaches weren't consulted.

Meyer was voted as the best hire by CBSSports.com staff writers Tony Barnhart, J. Darin Darst, Bryan Fischer, Tom Fornelli, Jerry Hinnen and Chip Patterson. Rich Rodriguez was voted as the best hire by Bruce Feldman and Brett McMurphy. Mike Leach was voted as the best hire by Dennis Dodd.

While Meyer was ranked as CBSSports.com's No. 1 hire, Rodriguez was No. 2, Leach was No. 3, Arkansas State's Gus Malzahn was No. 4 and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin was No. 5.

Some other CBSSports.com coaching categories:

Most likely to succeed? Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Breakdown: Meyer 5 votes, Rich Rodriguez 2, Mike Leach 1, Charlie Weis 1.

Most likely to fail: Bob Davie, New Mexico; Charlie Weis, Kansas (tie).
Breakdown: Davie 2 votes, Weis 2, Justin Fuente 1, Tony Levine 1, Garrick McGee 1, Urban Meyer 1, Bill O'Brien 1.

Easiest job ahead? Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Breakdown: Meyer 4 votes, Gus Mulzahn 2, Paul Chryst 1, Norm Chow 1, Larry Fedora 1.

Most difficult job ahead? Bill O'Brien, Penn State
Breakdown: O'Brien 4 votes, Charlie Weis 2, Hugh Freeze 1, Curtis Johnson 1, Kevin Sumlin 1.

Most overrated hire? Charlie Weis, Kansas
Breakdown: Weis 3 votes, Todd Graham 2, Paul Chryst 1, Larry Fedora 1, Urban Meyer 1, Jim Mora 1.

Most underrated hire? Tim Beckman, Illinois; Curtis Johnson, Tulane (tie)
Breakdown:Beckman 2 votes, Johnson 2, Norm Chow 1, Larry Fedora 1, Gus Malzahn 1, Bill O'Brien 1, Rich Rodriguez 1.

Which school took the biggest gamble? UCLA
Breakdown: UCLA 4 votes, Arizona State 3, Florida Atlantic 1, New Mexico 1.

Which school made the most boring hire? Florida Atlantic; Houston (tie)
Breakdown: Florida Atlantic 3 votes, Houston 3, New Mexico 1, Penn State 1, Toledo 1.

Which school made most intriguing hire? Akron
Breakdown: Akron 4 votes, Arkansas State 3, Florida Atlantic 1, Washington State 1.

The top five coaching hires:

No. 1: Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Highest ranking: No. 1 on six ballots
Lowest ranking: No. 3

This fall will be the only season with Meyer as Ohio State's coach where it will be acceptable for the Buckeyes to stay at home during the postseason. That's because the Buckeyes are serving a one-year bowl ban. Meyer hasn't even coached a game in Columbus and he has already shaken up the Big Ten with his aggressive recruiting that drew complaints from other league coaches. "We will continue to comply with NCAA rules and recruit with relentless effort," Meyer said. After working as a television analyst last season, the 47-year-old Meyer said he's rested and rejuvenated. He better be. He takes over a Buckeyes team that went 6-7 last season. In six seasons at Florida, Meyer went 65-15 and won two national titles. He also previously was a head coach at Bowling Green and Utah, leading the Utes to a 12-0 season in 2004.

No. 2: Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
Highest ranking: No. 1 on two ballots
Lowest ranking: No. 4

In seven years at West Virginia, Rodriguez won 61 games, reached two BCS bowls and lost only 26 games. In three years at Michigan he lost 22 games. So which Rodriguez does Arizona get? Either way, one thing is certain: He will bring an entertaining, high-scoring offense to Tucson == and even higher expectations. "When you watch us play it won't be boring," Rodriguez said. "I want to win the Rose Bowl at the University of Arizona. I want to be in the top 10 in the country every year. Why not Arizona? Why not us? Why can't we win it all?" Rodriguez has an 18-year coaching record of 120-84-2, including 75-48 at West Virginia and Michigan. This will be Rodriguez's third FBS head coaching job == and, he says, his last. "This is my final coaching stop," Rodriguez said. "I hope to be able to do this another 12-15 years."

No. 3: Mike Leach, Washington State
Highest ranking: No. 1
Lowest ranking: No. 4 on two ballots

With the addition of Leach at Washington State and Rodriguez at Arizona, things certainly will be a lot more interesting in the Pac-12 == and a lot more stressful for defensive coordinators. Leach, 50, returns to coaching for the first time since his controversial firing at Texas Tech in 2009 amid allegations he mistreated a player with a concussion. Leach was 84-43 in Lubbock, leading the Red Raiders to 10 bowl appearances in 10 seasons. The Cougars haven't been to a bowl game since 2003 or had a winning record in eight years. Yet Leach remains confident he can turn Washington State around. "You can win here and win big, I believe," Leach said.

No. 4: Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State
Highest ranking: No. 2
Lowest ranking: No. 9

Malzahn is the highest-ranked hire on our list that has never been a college head coach. After 14 years as a high school head coach in Arkansas and six seasons as a college assistant, the past three at Auburn, the 46-year old Malzahn gets his first collegiate head coaching job. "This is a program on the rise," Malzahn said. "I knew that this was the place for me. I told the team to buckle up because we are about to take this thing to the next level." Malzahn was an offensive coordinator at Arkansas in 2006 and then spent the next two seasons at Tulsa, before moving to Auburn where he won a national title in 2010. That same season, Malzahn won the Frank Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant.

No. 5: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
Highest ranking: No. 3 on two ballots
Lowest ranking: No. 16

Sumlin is still coaching in Texas, but his mailing address has changed from Houston to about 100 miles northwest to College Station. His job also has gotten much more difficult. After guiding Houston to a 35-17 record the past four years, Sumlin takes over at Texas A&M, which fired Mike Sherman after he went 25-25. The Aggies also have a new home == moving from the Big 12 to the SEC this fall. This is the second stint at Texas A&M for Sumlin, who was an assistant under R.C. Slocum in 2001-02. "Having coached there before, I understand the culture and embrace the commitment by the 12th Man regarding Aggie football," said the 47-year old Sumlin. "Aggieland is a special place and I look forward to working with the young men in the football program and recruiting the type of players we need to be successful in the SEC."

For coaches 6 through 15 click here, and to read about coaches 16 through 26 click here.


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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