Ranking the top 25 Power Five college football coaches entering the 2019 season

Our top 25 Power Five coach rankings look a little different this year. Ever since this became a regular exercise at CBS Sports, the rankings have been dominated by Alabama's Nick Saban or Ohio State's Urban Meyer. They were the easy choices to place at Nos. 1 and 2 on your ballot because they had more national titles between them than the other active coaches combined. Then last year, Clemson's Dabo Swinney started receiving a few second-place votes ahead of Meyer, but he still finished third overall.

This year, there's no Meyer. It shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that Swinney moved up to replace him, but after that things get a bit more interesting. Overall there are three new coaches in the top 25 this season. We saw a few take large leaps forward, while others took steps back -- just not far enough to fall out. Perhaps most interesting, there was a significant gap between the coaches ranked 10th and 11th this season, meaning our voters were quite aligned with the top 10 coaches even if the order of the names on their ballots were different.

As for how these rankings are decided, our crew of CBS Sports college football writers voted on them. There are no strict guidelines on which we based our rankings. Some could just be voting based on what the coach has accomplished in their careers. Others might be voting strictly on which coach they would hire right now. More than likely, most are a blend of several different factors. I know that's how i compiled mine.  

Here are our top 25 Power Five coaches entering the 2019 season. Don't forget to check out the coaches ranked 26-65.

Top 25 Power Five Coaches
25
Scott Frost: With Nebraska going 4-8 in Frost's first season, it's not a surprise to see his standing take a slight hit, but we're all still pretty high on him. Nobody thought he'd step in at Nebraska and the Huskers would suddenly be winning 10 or 11 games. 2018 rank: 21 (-4)
24
Gus Malzahn: When I look at the way we all vote for Malzahn in these rankings in a given year, I start to wonder if we're all Auburn fans. Our opinions on Gus vary quite a bit, but they all fluctuate together. This year, he drops 10 spots to No. 25 after climbing five spots to No. 14 last season. 2018 rank: 14 (-10)
23
Paul Chryst: Not a surprise to see Chryst take a slight hit after Wisconsin had a down year in 2018. Chryst went 34-7 in his first three seasons at Wisconsin, including 22-4 in the Big Ten, but he went only 8-5 last year. Another 8-5 type season would likely knock him out of our top 25 next year. 2018 rank: 19 (-4)
22
Kirk Ferentz: It's so difficult to rank Ferentz as opinions of him vary. I had him at No. 15 on my ballot because I admire the long track record and the program he's built at Iowa. I'm sure others punish him because, even though he's been consistently good for a long time, he doesn't have a bunch of division and conference titles. Both opinions are defensible and logical. I still think he's underappreciated by most, though. 2018 rank: 23 (+1)
21
David Cutcliffe: You can replace everything I just wrote about Ferentz and put Cutcliffe's name in his place. He's only 67-72 overall at Duke, but that includes a record of 46-32 the last six seasons, which is not easy to do at Duke. The Blue Devils have been to six bowls in the last seven seasons under Cut. They'd been to eight bowls in the previous 89. 2018 rank: 22 (+1)
20
Mike Leach: This feels like the right spot for Leach. You can't argue with the results he's had in his career, as he's gone 133-83 at places like Texas Tech and Washington State, which aren't the easiest places to win at. At the same time, though, you get the sense that there's a ceiling to Leach's teams due to their style of play. It's a feeling that says they can be good, but they'll likely never be elite. 2018 rank: 24 (+4)
19
Matt Campbell: Here's somebody who is rising quickly, and I understand why, even if I think this is a little too high too quickly. I had Campbell at No. 22 on my ballot, as I admire what he's done at Iowa State in such a short amount of time. I just wouldn't put him ahead of guys like Ferentz, Cutcliffe, and others who have accomplished more for longer periods of time. Still, if I were hiring a coach to run my program right now, I'd lean Campbell over them, and I don't blame my colleagues if that's what they were basing their rankings on. 2018 rank: 30 (+11)
18
Kyle Whittingham: I always enjoy a Kyle Whittingham team. They may not always be great, but it's rarely due to being poorly coached. They're typically solid teams that don't make mistakes, and when there's a good blend of talent and experience, they can be special. It took Whittingham a few years to get his program adjusted to the Pac-12, but the Utes have gone 44-22 the last five seasons overall with two Pac-12 South titles in the last five years. 2018 rank: 25 (+7)
17
Tom Herman: I get the feeling that Herman's going to be a lot like Malzahn in these rankings. If Texas has a good season, he's going to climb more spots than most. If Texas has a down year, he's going to drop more spots than most. I'd also like to predict that if Texas wins 10 games or more again in 2019, he'll be damn near cracking the top 10 of these rankings next spring. If he wins the Big 12 and beats Oklahoma, I guarantee it'll happen. 2018 rank: 28 (+11)
16
Pat Fitzgerald: I think the best way to sum up what Fitzgerald has done at Northwestern is that the Wildcats have won 19 games over the last two seasons (36 in the previous four) -- with a Big Ten West title last season -- and it didn't feel like a major story. It didn't even come as much of a surprise. When he took over the program in 2006, these kind of results were the stuff of fantasy for Northwestern fans. Now it's the expectation. With Meyer gone, you can make an argument Fitz is the best coach in the Big Ten. These rankings don't agree, but nobody would give you any side eye if you said you thought it. 2018 rank: 20 (+4)
15
Jim Harbaugh's reputation has taken some hits the last few years, but he has a slight rebound in these rankings after a steep drop last year. Harbaugh had been ranked at No. 5 in 2017 before dropping 15 spots last year. Now, after his third 10-win campaign in four season at Michigan, he's back in the top 15. Still, the one thing that will define Harbaugh both as a coach and at Michigan is his ability to beat Ohio State and win Big Ten titles. He's done neither to this point. 2018 rank: 18 (+3)
14
Chip Kelly: I was surprised last season when Chip returned to the college game and was at No. 9 in our rankings, as I thought the time away could diminish his reputation. Obviously, going 3-9 with the Bruins last season wasn't going to cause him to climb, but none of us have forgotten what he did at Oregon. I will admit that I'm somewhat leery about whether this is going to work. UCLA will be one of the more interesting teams to follow in 2019. 2018 rank: 9 (-5)
13
Mark Dantonio: This is one of the more surprising results of our 2019 rankings. I have a bunch of respect for Dantonio as a football coach, and he had an amazing stretch at Michigan State -- one that very well could continue. If the Spartans win at least 10 games for the seventh time in 10 seasons, nobody should be too surprised. Still, coming off a 7-6 season, I wasn't anticipating Dantonio climbing three spots in the rankings. 2018 rank: 16 (+3)
12
Mike Gundy: When will my colleagues admire Gundy as much as I do? I had him at No. 5 on my ballot, and admittedly, that is probably a little bullish, particularly after a 7-6 season. Still, Gundy has gone 121-59 in 14 seasons with the Cowboys and 85-32 over the last nine years. The only thing missing is the conference titles, which I assume is a major reason my colleagues aren't as high on him as I am. Still, if I were running a program, there aren't many coaches in the country right now I'd hire over Gundy. 2018 rank: 11 (-1)
11
James Franklin: Congratulations, James Franklin. Now that Meyer is gone, you are the highest-ranked coach in the Big Ten. Franklin drops a spot out of the top 10 in this year's rankings, but it's likely due more to other coaches moving up than anything Franklin did. Yes, the Lions took a small step back to 9-4 after winning 22 games between 2016 and 2017 but most expected them to. 2018 rank: 10 (-1)
10
Dan Mullen: Considering Mullen averaged 7.7 wins per year at Mississippi State (8.25 wins over his final four seasons), nobody should have been that surprised to see Florida jump from four to 10 wins in his first season, right? And after improving Florida's win total by six, Mullen jumped his overall ranking by three, climbing up from No. 13 to join our top 10. There was a significant gap between Mullen and Franklin, solidifying the top 10 among our voters. 2018 rank: 13 (+3)
9
David Shaw: I respect Shaw quite a bit, as I had him at No. 6 on my ballot, but I'm not at all surprised to see him drop from our top five. After all, Stanford's "only" won 18 games the last two seasons, going 13-5 in the Pac-12. That's a step back from a program that had gone 64-17 (42-12) in Shaw's first six seasons. So Shaw's kind of a victim of the expectations he's set at Stanford. Still, the fact that consecutive nine-win seasons at Stanford is seen as a step in the wrong direction is all you need to know about why Shaw is a top 10 coach. 2018 rank: 7 (-2)
8
Gary Patterson: With TCU going 7-6 last season, you knew Patterson's ranking would take a hit, but so much seemed to go wrong for the Horned Frogs last season that still managing to go 7-6 felt like an achievement. Of course, we've seen a few instances already where Patterson's TCU teams have something of a reset season and then immediately follow it up with 11 or 12 wins. Will it happen again in 2019? 2018 rank: 6 (-2)
7
Brian Kelly: Reaching the College Football Playoff will do wonders for your reputation. Now, I had Kelly at No. 18 in my rankings, so clearly my colleagues think much higher of him than I do if he's finishing at No. 7. And, if I'm being honest with myself, I'm probably the one who is in the wrong in their assessment. He's taken Notre Dame to a BCS title game as well as the CFP, and the Irish have won at least 10 games in three of the past four seasons. 2018 rank: 27 (+20)
6
Kirby Smart: I had Smart at No. 11 on my ballot, but it's not that I don't think he's a good coach as much as I don't think he's been good enough for long enough to warrant being ranked this high this quickly. That said, he's been at Georgia for three seasons and already has one SEC title and two SEC East titles to show for it. He's also reinvigorated the Georgia program and has it in a position to compete for SEC titles for years to come. 2018 rank: 8 (+2)
5
Jimbo Fisher: While Texas A&M isn't paying Jimbo to win nine games a season, I don't think anybody was disappointed by his first year. There were plenty of signs that the Aggies might get their money's worth as Kellen Mond took a major step forward under Fisher, and the Aggies have been crushing it on the recruiting trail since he showed up. 2018 rank: 4 (-1)
4
Lincoln Riley: This is another instance where I love the coach, but I can't rank him this highly myself. Not yet. I have Riley at No. 8 on my ballot, and I feel like that's very high considering he's only been at Oklahoma for two seasons. Plus, it's not like he inherited a program that was in shambles. That said, the Sooners have gone 24-4, won two Big 12 titles, reached the CFP twice, and have two different Heisman Trophy winners in Riley's two seasons ... so it's hard to argue against having him this high. 2018 rank: 15 (+11)
3
Chris Petersen: I'm sure plenty of people will disagree with this ranking, but this is where I had Petersen on my ballot, and it's where he deserves to be. We all know what he did for Boise State, and he's doing the same thing for Washington. After going 15-12 in his first two seasons with the Huskies, they're 32-9 with two Pac-12 titles in the last three seasons, including a playoff berth in 2016. When you look at the current landscape of the conference, Washington is poised to be a powerhouse for a while, and none of that happens without Petersen. He's a terrific coach; he's just never coached in a region of the country where he's going to get a ton of attention for it. 2018 rank: 5 (+2)
2
Dabo Swinney has beaten Saban in two of the last three title games, but he can't beat him in these rankings. That said, while it may not be obvious in the results of our poll, there's a clear divide between the top two and everybody else in these rankings, just like there is on the field. Thanks to Dabo, college football is a two-team league. It's Clemson or it's Alabama, and it's going to be very difficult for anybody to get past one, let alone both in the same season. 2018 rank: 3 (+1)
1
Nick Saban: Honestly, what's there to say? He's Nick Saban. He's won six national titles in his career, including five at Alabama. Hell, he's lost more national title games than 95 percent of the coaches on this list have appeared in, combined. He's the coach every other coach in the country aspires to be, and he's No. 1 in our rankings again. He'll likely be here for a few more years. 2018 rank: 1 (E)
CBS Sports Writer

Tom Fornelli has been a college football writer at CBS Sports since 2010. During his time at CBS, Tom has proven time and again that he hates your favorite team and thinks your rival is a paragon of football... Full Bio

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