Ranking the top 25 Power Five college football coaches entering the 2018 season
CBS Sports ranked every college football coach in the Power Five conferences from 1-65
Who is the best coach in the Power Five conferences? Well, unless you've been living under a rock for the last 20 years, odds are you know who checked in at No. 1. But what about the rest?
Continuing a tradition at CBS Sports over the last few years, we ranked all 65 coaches (including Notre Dame's Brian Kelly) individually and tallied the results. I'm not sure how my colleagues based their rankings, but my approach was likely similar to theirs. I took into account all that a coach has accomplished, and then I considered which coach I'd want to hire the most were I an athletic director with deep pockets and a vacancy to fill.
The results are as follows ().
|Kyle Whittingham: He ranked 14th last year while riding a high that saw the Utes go 28-11 from 2014 to 2016. A 7-6 finish to 2017 seems to have hurt his stock a bit. 2017 rank: 14 (-11)|
|Mike Leach: I've never been as high on Leach as so many of my colleagues both here and elsewhere. I have him ranked 34th, which is the lowest of any of our voters. I admire the consistency of his programs, but it feels like there's a ceiling his teams never break through. 2017 rank: 25 (+1)|
|Kirk Ferentz: You could make the argument that Ferentz's teams have a similar ceiling as Leach's, but the biggest difference is that Ferentz has won two Big Ten titles and played in three BCS/New Year's Six games. Leach's next conference title or NY6 bowl will be his first. 2017 rank: 20 (-3)|
|David Cutcliffe: It's clear that some of us value what Cutcliffe has been able to accomplish with the Duke program more than others. Ben Kercheval had Cutcliffe at 11 in his rankings, while Jerry Palm had him at 41. I think his final spot is about right. 2017 rank: 17 (-5)|
|Scott Frost: Our voters think Nebraska's made a significant upgrade at coach this season. Mike Riley finished at No. 38 in these rankings, and Frost enters his first season in Lincoln at No. 21. That fictional "national championship" boost is real. 2017 rank: n/a|
|Pat Fitzgerald: If you're confused about why Fitzgerald would drop four spots despite the Wildcats going 10-3 last season, I'm not. The reason is that I can see everyone's ballots, and I know that Chip Patterson had him ranked 34th. Palm, meanwhile, was the only voter to have Fitz in his top 10 at No. 8. 2017 rank: 16 (-4)|
|Paul Chryst: He takes a big step forward, entering the top 25 this season. It's understandable seeing as he's gone 34-7 with two Big Ten West titles in his three years in Madison. There's an excellent chance he'll add another division title in 2018. 2017 rank: 29 (+10)|
|Jim Harbaugh: The run on Big Ten coaches continues with Harbaugh checking in at No. 18. That's 13 spots lower than where he was last year. I can't help but believe that Harbaugh fatigue plays something of a role here, considering all the attention he receives and the lack of significant results thus far. He's 28-11 at Michigan, but 0-3 against Ohio State. 2017 rank: 5 (-13)|
|Mark Richt: Miami fans have to be happy with the way the first two years have gone under Richt. After a 9-4 start in 2016, the Canes went 10-3 last year and won their first ACC Coastal title in the process. 2017 rank: 15 (-2)|
|Mark Dantonio: The Spartans bounced back in a big way last season, going 10-3 after a disappointing 3-9 campaign in 2016. It was the sixth time Dantonio's Spartans had won at least 10 games in the last eight years. 2017 rank: 11 (-5)|
|Lincoln Riley: Riley debuts at 15, but he would have been higher if not for me. Both Patterson and Barton Simmons had Riley in their top 10, while I had him at 24. It's not that I don't think he's a good coach, but I'm not ready to anoint him ahead of others yet. He inherited a great situation, and I'm waiting to see what happens over the next few years before ranking him that highly. 2017 rank: n/a|
|Gus Malzahn: Another situation where most of my colleagues seem to hold a coach in higher esteem than I do. I feel like last year's SEC West title erased the memory of the 11-13 SEC record from 2014 to 2016 for a few of my fellow voters. I had him at 23, Simmons had him at 24, while Patterson, Dennis Dodd and Barrett Sallee all had Gus in their top 10. 2017 rank: 19 (+5)|
|Dan Mullen: He began his final year at Mississippi State ranked 21st and will begin his first year at Florida at 13th. While he doesn't have the overall accomplishments that other coaches in these rankings have to this point, the fact he accomplished what he did at Mississippi State carries quite a bit of weight with the voters. 2017 rank: 21 (+8)|
|Bill Snyder: You'll have a hard time finding one of our voters with a negative thing to say about Snyder. He's done such an amazing job with the Kansas State program that most people don't even realize how horrible this program had been before he arrived. And that he's maintained such success into his late 70s is just another reason to admire him. 2017 rank: 9 (-3)|
|Mike Gundy: He is just a model of consistency at Oklahoma State, having won at least 10 games six times in the last eight years. The one thing likely keeping him from climbing higher in these rankings is that he's had only one Big 12 title in that span, and that came in 2011. 2017 rank: 12 (+1)|
|James Franklin: The Penn State coach leaps into the top 10 this season, climbing eight spots from No. 18 last year. That's what happens when you follow up an 11-3 season and Big Ten title in 2016 with another 11-2 season. Franklin's Penn State team fell four points shy of an undefeated record and a College Football Playoff berth last season. Eyes will be on Franklin in 2018 as he must replace Saquon Barkley as well as offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead. 2017 rank: 18 (+8)|
|Chip Kelly: Welcome back, Chip. It's been awhile. Kelly hasn't coached at the college level since 2012, but his lack of NFL success didn't do much harm to how he's viewed in the college world. A 46-7 run at Oregon over a four-year span will give you that benefit of the doubt. The question is whether or not Kelly can stay ahead of his competitors like he had been before. 2017 rank: n/a|
|Kirby Smart: No coach climbed higher in the rankings this year than Smart, who was at 54 last year because he was 8-5 at Georgia and had no track record. Well, winning the SEC and nearly winning a national title will go a long way to boosting your reputation. Some of us are more convinced than others, however, as Patterson and Palm have Smart ranked fifth, while Barrett Sallee has him at 22. I'm in the middle at 13. 2017 rank: 54 (+46)|
|David Shaw: He remains in the top 10 this year, climbing a spot, but I believe he should be even higher. Harbaugh gets credit for rebuilding Stanford, but Shaw has not only maintained the program, but improved it. Even in a "down" year, the Cardinal managed to go 7-2 in the Pac-12 last season. 2017 rank: 8 (+1)|
|Gary Patterson: The Horned Frogs bounced back from a disappointing 6-7 season in 2016 to go 11-3 last season. It was the third time in the last four years the Frogs won at least 11 games (and the 10th time in his 18 seasons). Thanks to Patterson, many consider TCU to be the No. 2 program in the Big 12, which is quite the accomplishment seeing as how it's only been in the conference for six years. 2017 rank: 10 (+4)|
|Chris Petersen: I did a few radio interviews last season in which the hosts asked me if Petersen was losing his touch. These questions came in the midst of a season in which the Huskies went 10-3, won a division title and earned a Fiesta Bowl berth. Sure, it was a step back from 2016's playoff berth, but the fact people believe that kind of season is a sign of Petersen "losing his touch" tells you everything you need to know about what he's done in his career. 2017 rank: 7 (+2)|
|Jimbo Fisher: If these rankings were based on guaranteed money in your brand new contract, there's no question Jimbo would be at No. 1. I guess the new Aggies coach will have to settle at No. 4 for now. He helped restore the pride to the Florida State program, winning a national title, but now he's charged with taking an A&M program to the heights its fans have yearned for. And he'll have to do it in the SEC West. 2017 rank: 4|
|Dabo Swinney: Dabo remains at No. 3, but he's gained some ground. In last year's rankings, he didn't finish higher than third on anybody's ballot, as the top two were unanimous. This season, both Sallee and Palm had him at No. 2. It isn't hard to blame them considering he's gone 40-4 with a national title and three playoff berths in the last three years. 2017 rank: 3|
|Urban Meyer: In his six seasons at Ohio State, Meyer's Buckeyes have gone 73-8 and 47-3 in the Big Ten (during the regular season). He won a national title in 2014, but last season's conference title was his first since that 2014 season. That's a reason why we're seeing his lead on Swinney shrink despite the fact he's won three national titles between Florida and Ohio State. 2017 rank: 2|
|Nick Saban: The king stays the king, man. I mean, this guy is so good that he just won a national title despite not winning his conference for the second time. That's remarkable in and of itself, but then you realize those two national titles constitute only a third of the national titles he's won overall. He's the greatest college football coach of all time, and it's hard to imagine him not finishing at No. 1 in these rankings every year until he retires. 2017 rank: 1|
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