CollegeFootballNews.com 20th Anniversary Top 20 Coaches
Who were the top 20 coaches since CFN started in 1998? No. 8 Chris Petersen, Washington & Boise State
CFN Era Top 20 Coaches: No. 8 Chris Petersen, Washington & Boise State
CollegeFootballNews.com is turning 20 this season, so we’re looking back on the greatest players, games, coaches and more since we first kicked things off back in 1998.
Wins and losses are certainly a part of it all – okay, a massive part of this – but it’s also about who came up with the biggest coaching performances over the long haul. Consistency matters, championships matter, and personality plays a role, too.
Who are the 20 coaches who defined college football since 1998?
One note, accomplishments before 1998 don’t count, other than when it comes to a coach’s legacy and overall status.
Chris Petersen, Washington (2014-2016), Boise State (2006-2013)
Chris Petersen has proven he can coach at the highest of levels and take a Power Five program into the College Football Playoff, but over the last 20 years, he’s become the patron saint of the Group of Five world.
While he stepped in at Boise State and improved on what Dirk Koetter and Dan Hawkins set in motion, he took the program into a whole other stratosphere, proving that it really is possible for a school outside of the power conferences to whip everyone and anyone.
Of course, part of the argument against Group of Five accomplishments is that a lot of the wins and the bulk comes from playing other Group of Five teams, but when it was time to prove it against the big boys, Petersen’s teams not only rocked – at least most of the time – they usually did so in historically amazing ways.
Whether it was the 2007 Fiesta Bowl all-timer against Oklahoma, or shutting down a Chip Kelly Oregon team that would go on to play in the Rose Bowl to a dead stop, to beating Virginia Tech in Maryland to start the 2010 season, or Georgia in Atlanta to open up the 2011 season, Petersen’s Boise State program was a real deal powerhouse.
How amazing was the eight-year run in Boise? He went 92-12 with four of those losses coming in his final year, and three of them coming in his second season.
Out of those 12 losses, only one – 2007 at Washington – came against a team that finished with a losing record, and five of them came against the elite of the elite teams that finished their respective seasons with two losses or fewer.
Really, how good was he at Boise State? He went 12-5 against programs currently in the Power Five.
And he took those talents to Seattle.
Even after going 15-12 in his first two seasons at Washington, he was building something great. His defenses were good, his offenses okay, but the Huskies lost to a whole slew of good teams. Out of those 12 defeats, only one – 2015 vs. Arizona State – was against a team that finished with a losing record, but all 12 losses were against teams that went bowling.
In Year Three, it all worked with a 12-2 run to a Pac-12 championship and a trip to the College Football Playoff.
A young, energetic 52 going into the season, can he turn Washington into a consistent national superpower again and finally add a national title to his resume?
It’s been an amazing run so far.
Biggest Moment: 2007 Fiesta Bowl vs. Oklahoma
In one of the greatest college football games of all-time, Petersen and Boise State pulled off great trick play after great trick play to shock an Adrian Peterson-led, Big 12 champion Oklahoma squad.
The Broncos dominated for the first half, getting out to a 28-10 lead helped by two Jared Zabransky touchdown passes to Drisan James, but the Sooners came back roaring scoring 18 straight points, hitting a pass for a two-point conversion with just 1:26 to play to tie it at 28.
With the ball and a chance to pull off the upset, disaster struck the Broncos with Zabransky throwing a pick six to Jerard Rabb with just over a minute to play.
Petersen and the coaching staff went to work.
Zabransky bounced back with a 36-yard first pass to kick off the the drive, but after a sack and two misfires, Boise State had a 4th-and-18 at midfield.
Zabransky found James, who completed a perfect hook-and-lateral to Jerard Rabb, who took it for an improbable touchdown. With the extra point, the Broncos forced overtime.
In the OT, Peterson gave Oklahoma the lead with a touchdown run on his first carry.
On Boise State’s possession, it struggled to move the ball, converting one third down play and stalling on the next three plays. With a 4th-and-2 on the OU six – and needing a touchdown – Petersen pulled out another trick play, with WR Vinny Perretta finding Derek Schouman for a score.
Instead of kicking the extra point to tie the game, Petersen went for two. Zabransky went back to pass, but gave the ball to Ian Johnson on a Statue of Liberty play for two and the phenomenal 43-42 win.
Chris Petersen’s Best Season: 2009
Yeah, the 2006 team ripped through the season and beat Oklahoma in a 13-0 debut season for Petersen, but the 2009 team was stronger.
It started out the season with a crushing defensive performance to beat a killer Oregon team 19-8 – highlighted by the LeGarrette Blount punch to finish things off. Tulsa fought in a 28-21 loss – that was as close as anyone would come to the Broncos throughout the rest of the regular season.
The offense scored 42 points or more in ten games, rolling easily to the WAC title before facing an unbeaten TCU in the Fiesta Bowl.
In a terrific dogfight of a battle, the Broncos pulled out a 17-10 win to avenge the Poinsettia Bowl loss the previous year to the Horned Frogs – spoiling a perfect season – to go 14-0 and finish fourth in both final polls.
Chris Petersen’s Worst Season: 2013
Petersen went five seasons without losing a home game. TCU handed the 2011 Broncos their only loss of the season in a 36-35 classic on the blue turf, and San Diego State pulled out a stunning 21-19 win in Boise the year after. Even so, there was an aura of invincibility around Boise State at home.
Even though they continued to own home field advantage in 2013, they couldn’t seem to win on the road.
In 2013, the Broncos got rocked by Washington 38-6 to start the season, and lost a 41-40 thriller to Derek Carr and a fantastic Fresno State team. A loss to BYU gave Petersen his third loss of the season – and it wasn’t even November.
A 34-31 loss at San Diego State ensured his worst season as the Boise State head man, going 7-4 – all four losses on the road – before closing out his era with a dominant win over New Mexico.
Petersen would leave for the Washington job, while his Broncos went on to get rolled by Oregon State 38-23 in the Hawaii Bowl.
CFN Era Coaching Record: 27-14 in three seasons at Washington, 92-12 in eight seasons at Boise State
2016 Pac-12 Champion & College Football Playoff
2012 Mountain West Champion
2006, 2008, 2009, 2010 WAC Champion
2015 ACC Coach of the Year
2010 Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year
2006, 2009 Bear Bryant Award
CFN 20th Anniversary lists compiled by Rich Cirminiello, Pete Fiutak, Phil Harrison & Russ Mitchell