2019 Big 12 coach rankings: Lincoln Riley is No. 1, but how do the rest shake out?

The Big 12's coaching carousel has given the conference a more youthful look in recent years. As of 2019, four programs -- Kansas, Kansas State, Texas Tech and West Virginia -- are breaking in first-year coaches. Still, don't confuse that with inexperience. Two of those coaches -- K-State's Chris Klieman and Kansas' Les Miles -- have won national championships. The other two -- Texas Tech's Matt Wells and West Virginia's Neal Brown -- are coaches on the rise. 

But even when you look beyond that, the Big 12 still has plenty of newer faces pacing the sidelines. Matt Rhule (Baylor), Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma) and Tom Herman (Texas) are all entering their third season while Matt Campbell (Iowa State) enters his fourth. That means 80 percent of the conference's coaches haven't even cycled through a full recruiting class yet. Still, the credentials for these coaches are impressive, and in some cases, they're among the more impressive in the entire landscape. 

For instance: Riley is considered the Big 12's top coach and perhaps a top-10 coach nationally given all he's accomplished with the Sooners. As for how the rest of the Big 12 looks, the college football crew here at CBS Sports put our heads and ballots together and came to a conclusion on how the entire conference shakes out from a head coaching perspective. You can also take a look at how these coaches stacked up among their Power Five peers: 1-25 | 26-65.

Big 12 Coach Rankings
1
Lincoln Riley: He's not the most experienced coach, but he was more than ready for his chance when he took over the Sooners two years ago. In that short span, Riley has coached Oklahoma to a pair of College Football Playoff appearances. He also developed Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray into Heisman Trophy winners and No. 1 overall picks in the NFL Draft. Lofty standards are the norm at a place like Oklahoma, but every fan has to be thrilled with what Riley has done. Two years or 20, he's earned the top spot among Big 12 coaches.
2
Gary Patterson: A stalwart at his institution, what separates Patterson ever so slightly from the No. 3 coach below is his leadership as TCU rose through the conference realignment ranks. To have won five mid-major titles (one Conference USA, four Mountain West) along with a Big 12 title (while coaching for another in 2017) says a lot. And he's still one of the most respected defensive minds in football in a conference that thrives on offense. Patterson is one of a kind.
3
Mike Gundy: I tend to place Gundy as not just one of the more underrated coaches in the Big 12, but one of the more underrated coaches nationally. It's extremely hard to win consistently at the same place for a decade and a half, and yet, that's exactly what Gundy has done. His 180 victories are the most in program history. He also quietly has a respectable coaching tree. Will he stay at Oklahoma State forever? Who knows, but he's the face of that program until he decides otherwise.
4
Tom Herman: I agree on a larger point about Herman's ranking: it's going to rise and fall with more volatility than any other. With Texas coming off a 10-win season, Herman's going to get more love. Consider, too, that the hype for the Horns in 2019 is very real. As such, Herman's ranking could fall just as quickly if his team fails to live up to expectations. But, for now, he's doing a good job of getting top-50 in-state players to Austin and winning games. That counts for plenty. The question is whether he'll win enough, soon enough.
5
Matt Campbell: Personally, I would have put Campbell in the top four of the Big 12's coaches following back-to-back eight-win efforts. Iowa State is not an easy place to win and going round robin over the last several years hasn't made it any easier. And yet, the Cyclones are a trendy pick to win the Big 12 title in 2019. They have an experienced team coming back with one of the conference's more promising quarterbacks in Brock Purdy.
6
Matt Rhule: I'm a firm believer that Rhule is one of college football's best active program builders. What he did at Temple -- and continues to do at Baylor -- is impressive. In two years, he took one of the Big 12's youngest rosters (and worst defenses) to bowl eligibility. Just as importantly (if not more so), he's getting the program and community to buy in to a new direction following the university's widespread sexual assault scandal.
7
Neal Brown: Here's a coach with some similarities to Matt Wells in that he took a Group of Five program (Troy) to its peak and will now try to do the same at a power program. Culturally, he's a good fit in Morgantown -- he's the type of coach the fans can rally around. Reasonable expectations will have the Mountaineers dipping for at least a season or two, so this is probably a hire more accurately judged three to four years down the road. If he's successful, he'll eventually move up the ladder.
8
Les Miles: Placing Miles is harder than it might seem. On one hand, he's the only active Big 12 coach to have won a national championship. However, that title was more than a decade ago and everyone still remembers his unceremonious exit from LSU. Does Miles still have it to get the conference's doormat to bowl eligibility? I'm not as high on him as others, but the Big 12 is more interesting with him in it.
9
Matt Wells: Some Texas Tech fans were divided on whether to be excited about this hire. Wells' credentials speak for themselves. He had .560 winning percentage at Utah State, a program with a sub-.500 history. In his six-year stretch he notched two 10-win seasons and showed he could rebound from tough years. That doesn't mean he'll win in Lubbock for sure, but the resume checks out.
10
Chris Klieman: The first-year coach gets the double whammy of not only having to prove himself in a jump from the FCS to the Power Five, but being the guy after Bill Snyder. Klieman's a good coach, though. Program continuity from one coach to the next isn't always as easy as it sounds and Klieman took the baton from Craig Bohl at North Dakota State by leading the Bison to four national championships. He seems like a good choice to succeed Snyder, and I wouldn't be surprised if he climbs up these rankings soon.
CBS Sports Writer

Ben Kercheval joined CBS Sports in 2016 and has been covering college football since 2010. Before CBS, Ben worked at Bleacher Report, UPROXX Sports and NBC Sports. As a long-suffering North Texas graduate,... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories