Every Friday, the Friday Five will rank something in the world of college football -- anything and everything from the logical to the illogical. This week we rank the five coaches most likely to win their first national titles.
Bob Stoops shocked the college football world earlier this week with his sudden decision to retire, and while it leads to a new era at Oklahoma, Stoops' departure also means there's one less active college football coach with a national title to his credit.
There had been five active, but now only four remain: Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Jimbo Fisher and Dabo Swinney.
It's somewhat crazy to think about the fact that there are 128 coaches on the FBS level, and only four of them -- that's 3.125 percent -- have won a national title.
Anyway, it also caused me to wonder who the next coach to win a national title will be. I mean, Saban, Meyer, Fisher and Swinney can't win them all, can they? Maybe? OK, well, maybe they can, but odds are that they won't, and that means a fifth is likely to join them at some point in the near future.
That's what I'm trying to figure out in this week's Friday Five. Now, this isn't a ranking of "best coach to not win a national title," it's a ranking of the next coach likely to. They might not necessarily be the greatest coach, but they're in the best situation.
Because it's important to remember here that not every school is created equally when it comes to college football. You may be a great coach, but if you're a great coach at Tulane, you're a lot less likely to win a national title than an average coach at USC or Texas or something.
So who do I believe the five coaches are that are most likely to be the next ones to win a national title? Let's find out.
5. Jim McElwain, Florida
Figuring out this fifth spot was so damn difficult because there were a lot of coaches I could have gone with. It came down to McElwain and James Franklin, and I went with McElwain because while Alabama resides in the West, Franklin must deal with both Ohio State and Michigan within his own division. Plus, as Urban Meyer has shown us in recent years, you can definitely win national titles at Florida. You just have to figure out a way to get past Alabama, and if you can do that, well, you can get by everybody else too.
4. Tom Herman, Texas
Texas has been down for a few years, but that's been more a result of it not finding the right coach, not the program's ability to succeed. And everything you need in place to win a national title is available to you at Texas. We've already seen how Tom Herman can recruit at Houston, and now he's doing so with the Longhorns logo on his polo shirt. He's also coached in a lot of big games -- whether as an OC or while at Houston -- and won in such situations. I fully expect Texas to be receiving a College Football Playoff berth at some point in the next three years.
3. Clay Helton, USC
I don't know how great of a coach Clay Helton is. He might turn out to be one of the best in the country, or he might just be another coach at USC that fails to live up to expectations. Either way, as the coach at USC, he's a lot closer to winning a national title than plenty of others are. It's still USC, and it's still the premier program of the Pac-12. It's a lot like Texas in that its problems have revolved around the man in charge more than the program itself.
2. Chris Petersen, Washington
Chris Petersen is just a fantastic coach. We saw it at Boise State, and while I expected he'd turn Washington around, even I couldn't believe how quickly he not only got the Huskies to the top of the Pac-12, but to the College Football Playoff. Most of the coaches I considered for this list are here in large part because of the programs they're leading. When it comes to Petersen, as long as he's at a Power Five program, he's a candidate to win a national title. He's just that good.
1. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
Harbaugh is considered a great coach by many. In fact, I would bet that if you told most college football fans that he's never even won a division title, let alone a conference title on the FBS level, they'd be caught by surprise. It's true, though. Still, even if it is, that doesn't mean he's not fully capable of doing so. While David Shaw has maintained it at Stanford, we must remember what that program was before Harbaugh built it up. Now he's rehabbing the Michigan program, and Michigan is one of the premier jobs in the country, and it's one of the few programs in the country that's capable of winning a national title. I don't know that Harbaugh will ever win one with the Wolverines, but if I had to bet on any of these coaches to do it, I can't help but consider him the favorite.
Honorable Mention: James Franklin, Penn State; Ed Orgeron, LSU; Mark Richt, Miami; David Shaw, Stanford; Kirby Smart, Georgia