Last month, our college football team put their collective minds together to rank the 65 Power Five coaches. The Big 12 ended up being well represented in the top 25 with four coaches making the cut. However, there's a clear line between established coaches and new newer faces across the conference. Five Big 12 coaches with at least three years under their belt ranked in our top 30, but then there was a 14-spot gap to the next coach: Kansas State's Chris Klieman.
Kansas State was one of four Big 12 programs -- Kansas, Texas Tech and West Virginia being the other three -- breaking in new coaches in 2019. Baylor is the only program starting 2020 with a new coach in Dave Aranda. Five of the 10 programs, then, have coaches with under two years running the show.
But where there's a gap, there's room to grow. Klieman won national championships at North Dakota State. Les Miles won a national championship at LSU. Matt Wells and Neal Brown were Group of Five coaches on the rise just a couple of years ago. All four of those coaches could make significant jumps in our rankings this time next year. For now, though, let's see how the Big 12 coaching tiers shake out. National rankings are listed next to each coach with their Big 12 rank from 2019 listed at the bottom.
Complete Power Five coach rankings:|
|Lincoln Riley (3 overall): I doubt you'd get much resistance in naming Riley the Big 12's top coach; it's whether you believe he deserves the rank of the third-best Power Five coach after just three years. But don't confuse that stint with inexperience. Riley has been around the game a long time as an assistant and his head coaching resume stands on its own merit: three Big 12 championships, three College Football Playoff appearances, two Heisman Trophy winners and No. 1 overall draft picks, and another Heisman runner-up. The only thing missing is a national championship and that feels inevitable. In addition to being an offensive Xs and Os genius, Riley has also proven capable in handling key personnel as evidenced by his hiring of defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. Personally, I had Riley No. 3 nationally so this sticks. Last Year: 1|
|Mike Gundy (13): Unless Oklahoma State makes a playoff run or goes through a prolonged rough patch, you're likely going to see Gundy ranked somewhere in the 10-15 range every year. It makes sense. The Cowboys are punching well above their historic weight under Gundy, whose 129 career victories makes him No. 1 with a bullet in program history. In 15 years, there's been one losing season (his first), a Big 12 title (2011) and the expectation of about eight or nine wins a year. There are blemishes, of course -- he only has two wins over Oklahoma -- but to be as consistent as Gundy has been over 15 years is rare. Last Year: 3|
|Gary Patterson (16): A losing season isn't going to drop the Big 12's longest-tenured coach that far, and it shouldn't. Patterson's entire body of work spans two decades and three conferences -- and he's won championships in all three. The transition from mid-major giant killer to Big 12 title contender is one of the great ascensions by a college football program since the turn of the century. Patterson is one of the most well-respect defensive minds in the game, too. I had him at No. 12, but I won't quibble with a top-20 ranking. Last Year: 2|
|Matt Campbell (25): Interestingly, Campbell actually dropped six spots in our national rankings from a year ago but rose a spot among Big 12 coaches. Sure, last year's 7-6 season was mildly disappointing given the preseason love, but this is still Iowa State we're talking about. Campbell has unquestionably elevated the program and he's still a top-20 coach in my mind after three straight winning seasons. But I won't argue his place in the Big 12 coaching tiers. Last Year: 5|
|Tom Herman (28): Herman is going to be one of those coaches whose ranking fluctuates more than most based on year-to-year results. After winning 10 games and making the Big 12 Championship Game in 2018, Texas finished 8-5 last year. That two-game difference was enough to drop Herman 11 spots and out of the top 25. I get it, but I also think that's a bit of an overreaction. It's not like he's been bad at Texas, but certainly there needs to be more high-level consistency for him to be considered among the Big 12's better coaches. Last Year: 4|
|Chris Klieman (42): It's hard to have anything bad to say about Klieman's debut in Manhattan. Anyone would have taken 8-5 with a win over Oklahoma in the first year after Bill Snyder. Klieman had some benefit of the doubt entering 2019 given his success at North Dakota State, but he still rose 14 spots in our national rankings. Since he's only been at K-State one year, this is a good spot for him with plenty of room to keep rising. Last Year: 10|
|Les Miles (43): This is a tough one. Miles actually rose a spot among Big 12 coaches, but dropped in our national rankings. That probably had more to do with what other coaches did rather than what he didn't do, but he is enigmatic. Miles is the only active Big 12 coach to have won a national championship at this level. That's worth something. However, that was also 13 years ago at LSU and the Tigers just won another doing the things offensively they should have been doing years ago when he was there. I've been less bullish about Miles at Kansas than others -- I had him at No. 58 after his 3-9 debut -- but if he wins there, he'll have earned all the praise he'll receive. Last Year: 8|
|Neal Brown (47): Brown fell 11 spots from last year after a 5-7 debut at West Virginia. That's a result of higher expectations and lower results. But here's the thing: people had it backwards. The Mountaineers were b - a - a - a - d last year. I mean terrible, at least on offense. That's a death sentence in the Big 12. Brown coached his tail off and a team that should have won three games nearly made a bowl. I can't argue he should be sniffing the top 25 or even the top 30 based on one sub-.500 year, but Brown is under-appreciated. The thing is, though, it's probably going to take another two or three years before West Virginia is legitimately good again. Last Year: 7|
|Matt Wells (51): Similar to Brown, Wells was a rising Group of Five coach who took over a rebuilding Power Five job and the results weren't great. But after one 4-8 season with quarterback injuries, I don't think we should be too harsh on him. Wells was good at Utah State with two 10-win seasons. Treat 2019 like a Year Zero for him. Last Year: 9|
|Dave Aranda (62): Chalk this up to being a first-time head coach because Aranda checks off a lot of boxes. He's more than served his time as an assistant and became one of college football's best defensive coordinators. Coming off a national championship with LSU doesn't hurt, either. But until he actually coaches a full season, we can't come close to properly ranking him. The good news is that former Baylor coach Matt Rhule left the program in great shape. Last Year: N/A|