Thursday, February 13, 2014

The 10 Best Head Coaches In College Football

Having a great head coach is almost always the difference between a good program and a great one.  I could see each one of my top 10 head coaches winning a MNC at their current school and expect it if they are at one of my top programs with the highest ceilings.  Below is my 2014 off season top 10 head coaches.  

10.  Gus Malzahn, Auburn

While Auburn had been reeling in top ten recruiting classes year after year leading up to this season, it takes a special coach to take a program from 3-9 one year to within four points of a MNC the next.  Malzahn's biggest task now is keeping it going with a target on his back.  He will have to fight off negative recruiting how his offense does not simulate the NFL.

9.  David Shaw, Stanford

The Cardinal have the most beautiful combination of academics, athletics, and campus life in major college football.  If I have a son with an offer to play at Stanford they will without questing be getting an official visit.  However, those academics can be tricky as the pool of recruits is so small compared to your national rivals.  If Shaw can get Stanford over the hump into the MNC game in the playoff era his stock goes WAY UP in my mind.

8. Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Two BCS titles and a two undefeated seasons gets you on this list no matter how many detractors you have.  Meyer was the spark to the dominance of the SEC in the BCS era.  The Buckeyes won 24 straight on Urban's arrival though lost the last two.  If their is a school outside the sun belt that can keep with the SEC, FSU, Texas, Oklahoma, etc its Ohio State with Meyer at the helm.  

7. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

For a while it looked like the Oklahoma program was regressing.  The win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl was big it was really culmination for what you could argue was the best program throughout the BCS era.  The Sooners finished with the second most BCS bowl appearances with nine (tied for first if you vacate Ohio State 2011 Sugar Bowl) and tied for the most BCS title game appearances with four. In his 15 seasons in Norman, Stoops has 12 double-digit win seasons.

6. Art Briles, Baylor

The former Texas HS coach has turned a long dormant program into a Big 12 champion.  Baylor is a small, Baptist school surrounded by football behemoths in their own state yet it was Briles who led the best program  this year.  While I don't doubt he has gotten significant help from school administration to better support football it still takes convincing kids to come to a program that only made it in the Big 12 because the Governor of Texas at the time of the conference forming was a Baylor graduate.  It will be interesting to see if Briles can maintain close to this level of success, but for now he has earned this spot. 

5. Jimbo Fisher, FSU

The most recent and last BCS title winner checks in at number 5.  Fisher did not build what FSU is today-Bobby Bowden did that-but he revived the program back to national prominence that everyone tried to model in the 90s.  Fisher ranks high on my list because of his ability to follow a legend.  Ask Ray Perkins or Ron Zook about how easy that is.  Maybe the most impressive thing about Fisher is how he went toe to toe with the SEC on the recruiting trail and won those battles at a time when it seems all prospects care about is the league they play in and not the program (check out Kentucky's most recent on field records and recruiting rankings if you don't agree)

4. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

A slow riser, Dantonio had his best season yet in East Lansing capping off a Big Ten title with a Rose Bowl win over Stanford accomplishing both wins as an underdog.  While Michigan State has some football history, it is overshadowed by its in-state neighbor Michigan and must rely heavily on players from Ohio where the Buckeyes many times get the pick of the litter (and what they don't get usually Michigan does).  With a new contract and what appears to be the best DC in college football it will be interesting to see if the Spartans can maintain their success. 

3. Nick Saban, Alabama

Saban is a great coach.  Three MNC in five seasons is remarkable and the Tide are the gold standard in college football right now.  The only reason he is not #1 or #2 is because he is not doing something that hasn't already been done at his school.  Bear Bryant was Nick Saban at Alabama before Nick Saban and made the Crimson Tide a household name in CFB.  However, Alabama will be in the hunt for another MNC next season and another MNC will certainly reshuffle my list. 

2. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

Nearly every SEC coaches list you will read will have Saban ahead of Spurrier. Why?  Because Saban has more BCS titles (3 to 1). I understand that argument but why I have the Ol' Ball Coach is because what he has transformed programs into.  At Duke he tied for an ACC title, something the Blue Devils had not accomplished in 27 years.  Before he returned to his alma mater, the Gators had zero 10 win seasons and zero SEC Championships.  Two seasons later, the Gator had an SEC trophy on their mantle.  He never won less than nine games in his 12 seasons in Gainesville and finished with nine 10 win seasons.  His success at South Carolina has taken longer but is nonetheless as remarkable.  The Gamecocks had a losing all-time record before Spurrier arrived.  They had never beaten in-state rival Clemson five straight times until Spurrier did it this past season.

1. Chris Petersen, Washington

The Huskies scored a major coup (especially when compared Pac 12 rival USC) when they landed Petersen.  The former Boise State coach has an 89% winning percentage in eight seasons as a head coach losing only 12 games, four of which occurred this past season.  While Petersen took over a program that had winning seasons, that culture was developed in part when he was the OC.  You could make an argument his success at a non-BCS school (two BCS bowl appearances, two wins) was a driving force behind the fall of the system.  I highly doubt we will ever see this level of success at a non-BCS school for a long, long time and that is why he tops my list of the best college football coaches.   

Now that Petersen is at a BCS school with resources he will need to impress quickly to maintain the top spot among college football coaches.

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