Chasing the Devil: Dabo Swinney storms into rankings

To the confusion of several readers on email and Twitter, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney wasn't on inaugural "Chasing the Devil" list -- a weekly chronicle of the 10 coaches best positioned to unseat Nick Saban.

He was on the "Next Devil Up" list after going 21-6 the last two years, but with the defense underachieving, we needed to see more.

Knocking off Georgia is a sizable start. The secondary is still shaky but the defensive front made crucial plays late in a 38-35 season-opening thriller.

As a result, Swinney and LSU's Les Miles cracked this week's top 10. If second-year Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables can maximize talent to complement Chad Morris' offense, Swinney -- the man with the best part in college football -- will surge on the list.

As Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret pointed out after the game, Clemson owns four of the eight non-conference wins over top-25 SEC teams since 2011.

The convenient narrative is Clemson trips over itself with curious losses, and maybe that narrative was deserved in the past, but Swinney aims to change it.

LSU's Les Miles joins the party after a win over TCU, forcing two coaches -- Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Stanford's David Shaw -- off this week's list. But the Devil panel is confident they'll be back soon enough.

Neither Stoops nor Shaw did anything to merit the demotion. Oklahoma knocked off Louisiana-Monroe 34-0 and Stanford had a bye week. But Swinney and Miles belong after last week, which complicates matters.

Which is sort of the point of this list. Make statements, make moves on the list.

Chasing the Devil
Rank Coach Devil Rating Comment

Urban Meyer, Ohio State -- Not a dominating performance in the opener against Buffalo (the ending was messy), but Ohio State put up 23 in the first quarter and never looked back. Ohio State was missing a few key players. Riding a 13-game winning streak since moving to Columbus, Meyer will top this list until another coach gets the best of him on the field.

Mark Helfrich, Oregon -- Oregon is living in excess and needs an intervention. It's addicted to numbers. The Ducks poured 772 yards and 77 points on Nicholls State in -- get this -- less than 20 minutes of offensive possession. Have fun with that, Virginia. The Cavaliers will be brimming with confidence coming off a win over BYU, but Oregon will squash that quickly.

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M -- Sumlin's rating increased from 8.0 to 8.5 for the way he deftly dealt with Johnny Manziel after his taunting of a Rice player last week. Sumlin didn't overreact but still set a precedent that mindless penalties can't be tolerated. He addressed him when walking off the field and sat him for the final 10 minutes. A young A&M defense might be more of a concern than Manziel, who's still electric on the field.

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State -- All right, the Jameis Winston hype looks real. Ridiculously real. If Winston duplicates even 60 percent of his debut performance (25-of-27, 356 yards, five total touchdowns) every week, Fisher will look like an awfully smart coach. FSU is still loaded with playmakers and the offensive line looks stout. Do the Seminoles have a dominant pass rusher? Not yet. Give it time. Fisher jumps a spot to No. 4 this week.

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame -- Kelly should be thanking the golden dome that Tommy Rees parachuted to the rescue after Everett Golson went out. Not that Rees is Joe Flacco, but he knows the offense well and made some impressive throws against Temple. The receivers showed something, too. Kelly is cocky as all get out, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Will Muschamp, Florida -- Muschamp scolded the local media Saturday over inaccurate reports of Jay-nard Bostwick's suspension (or non-suspension). Muschamp didn't personally attack the reporters, though his suggestion to cut off access of three outlets that dedicate a lot of resources to covering UF would be the wrong move. Stopping Miami's Duke Johnson on Saturday will be a bigger concern for Florida, but the win over Toledo showed Muschamp's defense looks hungry.

Dabo Swinney, Clemson -- Swinney's passionate and unassuming personality resonates with players and has helped him build a sustained winner at Clemson. The Tigers don't play scared. Clemson's last two games: wins over LSU and Georgia. Tajh Boyd is slimmer (down to 219 pounds) and is running the no-huddle offense more efficiently. The passing game isn't all Sammy Watkins. It's time for a talented defense to mature.

Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State -- Gundy doesn't like neutral-site games, but the 21-3 win over Mississippi State in Houston sure highlighted his Cowboys. The defense, newly tooled under coordinator Glenn Spencer, was getting third-down stops for once. J.W. Walsh took command of the starting quarterback job, though I don't think we've seen the last of Clint Chelf. The Cowboys can win with two. Gundy has the Big 12's best team until Mack or Bob or Art or Gary say otherwise.

Mark Richt, Georgia -- No reason to panic, Georgia fans. Lose to South Carolina, then start panicking. But Georgia can still win the SEC, can still win a national title and just happened to lose to a very good Clemson team. I still think the Bulldogs are poised for big things. The Clemson game will make the young defense better. Richt gets 0.05 points for the head buzz.

Les Miles, LSU -- Look at Les, coming with a prolific passing game. Well, at least for one game. But if Zach Mettenberger can consistently make LSU an aerial threat like in the win over TCU, the Tigers might have something. Miles isn't getting the benefit of the doubt for losing 11 underclassmen to the draft like some other coaches would. But LSU almost always reloads on the defensive line, and Miles keeps winning games in mysterious ways.

Next devils up: David Shaw, Stanford; Bob Stoops, Oklahoma; Steve Spurrier, South Carolina; Charlie Strong, Louisville; Jim Mora, UCLA.

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