2020 college football coach rankings: Chip Kelly falls among Power Five coaches ranked 65-26
Before we rank the top 25 Power Five coaches in college football, let's take a look at the rest
College football is and always has been a sport of rankings. For decades, the national champion was decided by how voters ranked teams in different polls, and while the last 20-plus years have seen the advent of the BCS and now the College Football Playoff, both of those systems have been based on some sort of rankings system as well.
So it only makes sense, as we continue the long slog through the offseason in mid-May, that we unveil our 2020 rankings of the 65 coaches in the Power Five conferences (plus Notre Dame). There are plenty of changes to the rankings this year after a tumultuous seemingly non-stop coaching carousel.
As for how these rankings are decided, our crew of CBS Sports college football writers voted on them. Regarding the criteria used to rank the coaches, there is none specifically. This is a highly subjective exercise based on what each voter believes makes a great coach -- winning record, recruiting chops, up-and-coming talent -- leading to a wide range of results on some.
So let's get to the first set of rankings. While our ranking of the top 25 will come out Wednesday, we've got the coaches who finished between 65th and 26th right here.
|Sam Pittman: He has never been a head coach before. In fact, he hasn't even been a coordinator. That makes him an easy choice to put toward the bottom of a ballot, so it's no shock that he begins his tenure at No. 65 on our list. 2019 rank: N/A|
|Karl Dorrell: His five seasons at UCLA weren't bad, but they weren't exceptional, either (35-27). So when you mix that with the fact he hasn't been a head coach at any level since the 2007 season at UCLA, it's no surprise he starts near the bottom. 2019 rank: N/A|
|Jeff Hafley: He is widely respected for his work as a defensive coordinator, but Boston College will be his first attempt as head coach. A common theme amongst the names at the bottom of the list. 2019 rank: N/A|
|Dave Aranda: He is widely respected for his work as a defensive coordinator ... wait, I just wrote that about Hafley. I told you it was a common theme! Aranda did just help LSU win a national title last year, which may have given him a bump over Hafley here. 2019 rank: N/A|
|Mike Locksley: In the interest of full disclosure, I had Locksley at No. 65 on my ballot. I understand putting somebody in that spot who has no experience, but at the same time, it's somewhat difficult to ignore that Locksley has been a head coach for 46 games and has only won six of them. Of course, half of those wins came last season at Maryland, so there's reason to believe that ratio will improve. 2019 rank: 62 (+1)|
|Derek Mason: He dropped seven spots from his No. 53 ranking last season. Mason has been heading the wrong direction in our rankings the previous few years. He seemed to be gaining momentum at Vandy early in his tenure (17-21 from 2016-18), but that has come to a halt lately. 2019 rank: 53 (-7)|
|Eli Drinkwitz: There's skepticism about Drinkwitz. Nobody can deny his success at Appalachian State last season, but that house was move-in ready. He didn't have to do much work to it. That's not the case at Missouri. 2019 rank: N/A|
|Manny Diaz: He entered the rankings for the first time at No. 57 last year and dropped only a spot after a 6-7 season at Miami. Of course, I'm not sure that's much comfort considering five of the seven coaches below Diaz weren't in the Power Five last season. With a retooled coaching staff and D'Eriq King coming in, let's see where he sits next year. 2019 rank: 57 (-1)|
|Geoff Collins: He began his tenure at Georgia Tech ranked No. 55 and dropped two spots this season after going 3-9. Clearly, our voters understand the rebuilding project he has in front of him and didn't want to punish him for the slow start after transitioning from the triple option. 2019 rank: 55 (-2)|
|Jimmy Lake: He starts quite high in relation to other first-year coaches without head coaching experience, and a little birdie tells me that Barton Simmons has a lot to do with it. Can Lake experience the kind of immediate success in-house successors like Lincoln Riley and Ryan Day recently did? Barton clearly thinks so! 2019 rank: N/A|
|Mel Tucker: He climbed from No. 64 to No. 55 with the move to Michigan State. My theory is it has a lot more to do with all the new hires than our voters being overly impressed by his 5-7 season in Colorado. He steps into a difficult situation at Michigan State thanks in part to the timing of his hire and lack of spring practice. 2019 rank: 64 (+9)|
|Lovie Smith: He led Illinois to its biggest win in years when it knocked off Wisconsin and got the Illini back to a bowl game in the process. That results in him climbing six spots from No. 60. I anticipate Smith making an even more substantial jump next year if Illinois has another successful season. Right now, skepticism persists. 2019 rank: 60 (+6)|
|Kevin Sumlin: His stock continues to take a hit. Last year saw him drop from No. 36 to No. 40. This year, he plummets another 13 spots down to No. 53. It's not without reason. After going 46-19 in his first five seasons as a head coach (four seasons in Houston, one at Texas A&M), Sumlin's teams have gone 49-39 since. 2019 rank: 40 (-13)|
|Jonathan Smith: Listen, if you nearly get Oregon State to a bowl game, people will take notice. If the Beavers get to a bowl game this year, he might find himself flirting with the top 35 next season ... possibly wearing a different polo shirt. 2019 rank: 63 (+11)|
|Matt Wells: This is a compelling case. Wells was ranked No. 43 last season after leaving Utah State for Texas Tech. Now, after 4-8 season at Tech, he dropped eight spots to No. 51. We could all be treating Wells a little too harshly upon reflection. 2019 rank: 43 (-8)|
|Nick Rolovich: He has never been a head coach at the Power Five level, but apparently our voters liked what they saw when they stayed up until 2 a.m. ET to watch all those Hawaii games. The Rainbow Warriors during Rolovich's four seasons as coach averaged 63.7 points per game. There weren't many 6-3 affairs. 2019 rank: N/A|
|Dave Doeren: Only two coaches fell further in the rankings than NC State's Doeren. You have to have been ranked reasonably high in the first place to fall far, but did Doeren truly deserve to fall from No. 32 to No. 49? I had him at No. 43 on my ballot and felt that was fair enough. Others felt different. He'd gone 18-8 the previous two seasons, but one 4-8 campaign derailed that in the eyes of our voters. 2019 rank: 32 (-17)|
|Dino Babers: Speaking of coaches taking big falls, the 21 spots Babers tumbled this year was the second-biggest drop. Dino's been a roller coaster, which reflects his team's win-loss record. After two 4-8 campaigns to start his tenure, the Orange jumped to 10-3 in 2018 and entered the 2019 season ranked in the top 25. A 5-7 season didn't keep them there long. 2019 rank: 27 (-21)|
|Neal Brown: I guess the lesson is not to be a first-year Power Five coach with expectations. After going 5-7 with the Mountaineers last season, Brown dropped 11 spots from No. 36 to No. 47. Understandable, though I had guys like Babers, Doeren, Wells, Sumlin and Lovie Smith ahead of Brown on my ballot. I still like his potential in Morgantown. 2019 rank: 36 (-11)|
|Tom Allen: Listen, if you go 8-5 at Indiana, you're going to climb up the rankings. That's science. Allen moved up 15 spots in our rankings because of it, and if he has another eight-win season in 2020, he'll just climb even higher. He also might get poached by a bigger program. 2019 rank: 61 (+15)|
|Will Muschamp: When you put rankings like this together, the top and bottom of your ballot are relatively easy to figure out. It's the middle portion that's a killer, and it depends largely on personal preferences and biases. Muschamp is one of the more volatile commodities. I had him at No. 47, and he finishes at No. 45. That's 10 spots lower than where he was last year. Like the man himself, he runs hot and cold. 2019 rank: 35 (-10)|
|Jeff Brohm: I am the Brohm apologist, the Brohmologist. I had him at No. 30 on my rankings because I don't put the blame for 2019 at Brohm's feet. His offense was decimated by injuries to every quarterback within 100 miles of campus plus Rondale Moore. My fellow voters clearly felt differently. 2019 rank: 28 (-16)|
|Les Miles: How much is that national title worth? Miles is one of the few active coaches with a title ring, but it came in 2007. Plus, it's hard to ignore how well LSU did in 2019 after finally doing what many in Baton Rouge had been telling Miles to do for years. Also, I'm not going to pretend that being at Kansas plays a subconscious role in how Miles is viewed. It's hard to imagine anybody winning there, though if Miles does, he's going to fly back into the top 25 with ease. 2019 rank: 38 (-15)|
|Chris Klieman: His first season at Kansas State impressed our voters. The Wildcats went 8-5 and knocked off Oklahoma during the regular season along the way. It's not quite the same level of success he had at North Dakota State, but it's easy to be optimistic about the direction of the program. 2019 rank: 56 (+14)|
|Clay Helton: This is a strange one. A lot of USC fans wanted Helton fired after last season. The team was only 8-5 overall, but it did go 7-2 in the Pac-12 and was in the South Division race. Still, he's viewed as being on a hot seat, yet that doesn't stop him from climbing 10 spots in the rankings. My theory is that it's based more on other coaches falling than Helton's climbing. He is at USC, however, and when you have that kind of roster, from being a top 25 coach. 2019 rank: 51 (+10)|
|Pat Narduzzi: He is always one of the more difficult coaches for me to rank. I love so much about Narduzzi's personality and his team's identity. I also have serious questions about some of his decisions on game days. In other words, I like him, but even I wonder if I like him too much. Apparently not, though, because I had him at No. 38, and he finished at No. 40 overall. |
Let's see if he builds on that 8-5 season and upset win vs. UCF. 2019 rank: 46 (+6)
|Greg Schiano: Now, this is definitely a spot where opinions vary. I had Schiano at No. 22 on my ballot because I remember what he did at Rutgers and everything that's happened at Rutgers since he left only reinforces the impressiveness of his accomplishments. But he hasn't been a head coach at the college level for a long time, and that impacts how other voters feel about him. 2019 rank: N/A|
|Jeremy Pruitt: Well, this should help fill radio air time for a few weeks. Pruitt finishes a spot higher than Schiano. If not for a Tennessee fan revolt in Knoxville after word leaked they were hiring Schiano, Pruitt wouldn't be there. I'm sure I won't hear about this ranking in my mentions for the next decade. I had Pruitt at No. 27 myself, and he made a nice climb after ending the season with six straight wins, including in the Gator Bowl over Indiana. 2019 rank: 52 (+14)|
|Justin Fuente: I've already written about, but I understand why Fuente's momentum in our rankings has stalled out. He was No. 26 in 2018, just on the cusp of top-25 coachdom, but fell to No. 34 after a 6-7 season. Now an 8-5 campaign dropped him three more spots. If the Hokies take another step in 2020, he could bounce back into the top half. 2019 rank: 34 (-3)|
|Chip Kelly: No coach fell further in the rankings this year than Kelly. He was No. 14 last season! At the time, his 3-9 season at UCLA was seen as a necessity as he took over the program and attempted to mold it in his image. Well, the patience wore out after watching the Bruins go 4-8 last year. I think there's still enough residual love with Kelly that one good season will rehab his image quickly, but this isn't a great sign. 2019 rank: 14 (-22)|
|Lane Kiffin: Another coach who is tough to rank. Kiffin had success at FAU, winning two conference titles in three years. The problem is he went 5-7 between those titles. At USC, he had success, but it never felt like enough. At the same time, how much of that is on him considering the sanctions the school was under? Also, he only spent one season at Tennessee, so there's no way we can truly judge the performance. So, in the end, I think No. 35 is a good starting point for his return to the Power Five. 2019 rank: N/A|
|Scott Frost: This is a stock that has taken a massive hit. Frost had tremendous success at UCF, so he began his time in these rankings at No. 21 in 2018. After a 4-8 start at Nebraska, he was dinged a little, dropping to No. 25 last year. Now, after a 5-7 season in his second year, he fell nine spots to No. 34. He's one good season away from jumping into the top 20, but I feel like he's similarly another bad season away from another steep decline. 2019 rank: 25 (-9)|
|Justin Wilcox: If you'd have told me two years ago that Wilcox would be ranked ahead of Frost, I would have made a sarcastic comment while retweeting your stupidity. Two years ago, he was No. 53. Now, after an 8-5 season and a second consecutive bowl appearance, he climbs 17 spots to No. 33. 2019 rank: 50 (+17)|
|Dave Clawson: He has been a model of consistency at Wake Forest. After going 6-18 in his first two seasons, the Demon Deacons are 30-22 the last four years. They've never won more than eight games or lost more than six in those four seasons. As a result, you get the sense there's a ceiling to what Clawson can do in Winston-Salem, and that ceiling appears to be the range of 28-35 in our rankings. 2019 rank: 29 (-3)|
|Scott Satterfield: I have high hopes for Satterfield at Louisville. Considering the powerhouse he built at Appalachian State, there's plenty of reason to be optimistic. He climbs six spots in the rankings to No. 31 after helping Louisville jump from 2-10 in 2018 to 8-5 last season. 2019 rank: 37 (+6)|
|Herm Edwards: Herm's here! Hello! And he's higher than I expected! I had Herm at No. 41 on my ballot, but he climbs 24 spots from No. 54 to No. 30. No coach outside the top 25 saw a bigger rise. I'm lower on him than the consensus because I think some people might be ranking Edwards based on their expectations for him when he was hired. He's undoubtedly exceeded mine so far, but he's still only 15-11 through two seasons, so I think having him at No. 30 is a little too high. That said, if the Sun Devils win the Pac-12 South like some believe they're capable of doing, he'll be flying up my board. 2019 rank: 54 (+24)|
|Mike Norvell: It's a sign of respect for everything that Norvell accomplished at Memphis that he begins his tenure at Florida State ranked so highly. He went 38-15 in four seasons, 24-8 in conference play with the Tigers. Now, he finds himself at a program that needs a little rehab but has all the potential to compete for national titles. Clearly, our voters believe the Seminoles made a smart hire. 2019 rank: N/A|
|Tom Herman: Texas failed to live up to dreams and expectations in 2019, and Herman's ranking suffered for it. He dropped 11 spots down to No. 28, and it's hard to argue with the results. I kept Herman at No. 25 because I know what his teams are capable of accomplishing. In my eyes, the problem is that his teams lack the kind of consistency needed to enter the elite tier. If that problem gets solved, Herman could be at the head of a juggernaut. 2019 rank: 17 (-11)|
|Mike Leach: He climbed from No. 24 to No. 20 in 2019 after posting an 11-win season, but he dropped seven spots and out of the top 25 altogether after a 6-7 campaign. I had him at No. 20, so I think the drop is a bit steep, but Leach has always been a polarizing character. It's hard to knock his offensive prowess regardless. The Bulldogs are in for a unique tenure with Leach at the helm, and his battles with No. 35 Kiffin at Ole Miss will be headline-worthy. 2019 rank: 20 (-7)|
|David Cutcliffe: A regular in the top 25 of our rankings for the last few years, it's clear our panel respects Cutcliffe. That said, it's expected to see him drop five spots and out of the top 25 after a mark of 24-26 the last four years. Duke can do better and has seen better seasons. When the Blue Devils rise again, so will Cut. 2019 rank: 21 (-5)|
CBS Sports HQ Newsletter
We bring sports news that matters to your inbox, to help you stay informed and get a winning edge.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox for the latest sports news.
There was an error processing your subscription.
The NCAA's dead period has been extended for the third time in two months
Bob Bowlsby spoke candidly to CBS Sports HQ about difficulties facing the upcoming season
The fading relevancy of the NCAA and different needs of the Power Five leagues may make change...
The Crimson Tide missed the playoff for the first time in 2019
The conference is the latest to announce a return date for athletes, set for June 15
Face coverings are available on CBSSports.com
CBS Sports was with you all day covering National Signing Day as the Class of 2020 wrapped...
Complete analysis, highlights and coverage of the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship
Live scores, highlights and updates from the Miami (OH) vs. Louisiana football game