Wrapping up the 2017 season and moving on to 2018, here’s a final look and ranking of the job all 130 college football head coaches did.
2017 Final Ranking Of All 130 Head Coaches
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It was a strange and wild year for coaches.
A big bulk of the SEC lost their head men, a few big-time names changed jobs, and just when you might have thought salaries hit a ridiculous level, someone came along and took things even higher.
Before diving into everything coming in the 2018 season, check out our ranking of the job all 130 head coaches did – at least the ones at their 2017 schools – last season. This is all very, very loosely based on opinions, expectations, and who did the most with the least, and the least with the most.
Of course, as Bill Parcells famously said, you are what your record is. Start with that, throw in the talent level these guys had to work with, and …
130. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
And he got $70 million from Texas A&M. It was an inexcusable season from one of the nation’s most talented teams and a national championship-caliber head coach. Losing a starting quarterback in the opening game was an obvious issue, but Florida State was too good to be 7-6.
129. Matt Rhule, Baylor
And he was supposedly in the hunt for the Indianapolis Colts gig. Yeah, there was plenty of rebuilding to do. Baylor lost to Liberty, and the only win came against Kansas.
128. Gary Andersen, Oregon State
The Beavers won one game. Before getting fired, it was a coaching job so poor that he refused to take the money owed to him in his contract.
127. David Beaty, Kansas
And he got a contract extension. Kansas failed to beat an FBS team and got blown out in each loss by double-digits. This isn’t working out well.
125. Butch Jones, Tennessee
On the plus side, the coaching search to replace him was more embarrassing than the season itself. Even after all the issues on both sides of the ball, there was still a bowl game to play for, and the team didn’t show up.
125. Kalani Sitake, BYU
Really? You’re BYU and you don’t have an offense? Give Sitake credit for keeping the team playing hard enough to finish okay, but that happened to be when the schedule got easier.
124. Jim Mora Jr., UCLA
The guy had Josh Rosen. All the Bruins needed was a wee bit of a defense, and it never showed up. Mora didn’t win a road game this season.
123. Bret Bielema, Arkansas
Before getting fired, the team was everything Bielema wouldn’t have wanted when he first took the gig. The running game was mediocre, the D was lousy, and the swagger wasn’t there.
122. Sean Kugler/Mike Price, UTEP
The guys below these two did less with more, but at least they all won one game this year. UTEP wasn’t just bad, it was boring.
121. David Bailiff, Rice
Before getting fired, he came up with one win over the team that came up with no wins. At least the Owls blew out UTEP.
120. Brad Lambert, Charlotte
There weren’t any expectations, and Lambert’s team still failed to meet them. He got a win over UAB, but there wasn’t a step forward in any way.
119. Mike Neu, Ball State
There weren’t a whole slew of expectations, and the injuries were crippling, but it would’ve been nice to have won more than two games and not been blown out in game after game.
118. Philip Montgomery, Tulsa
How could a team good enough to blowout Houston be so miserable against everyone else? However, watch out for Montgomery to have a better 2018 – there were a slew of close losses.
117. Everett Withers, Texas State
The Bobcats were supposed to be awful, and they didn’t disappoint. The offense was miserable and the only FBS win came over new guy Coastal Carolina.
116. Tom Herman, Texas
With the best Texas team in years – at least with the best combination of experience and talent – Herman beat Kansas and got past an overblown Missouri team in a bowl game. That was the difference between 2017 and 2016. Yippee.
115. Bobby Petrino, Louisville
Take Lamar Jackson off the Cardinals, and they don’t go bowling. Petrino had one of the best and most dynamic players in the history of college football, and the season was a big bag of meh.
114. Mike Riley, Nebraska
The team just never got better. Good guy, everyone liked him, didn’t win. The defense got worse as the season went on.
113. Bob Davie, New Mexico
It was a step-back season for a coach and a program that just couldn’t seem to catch a break. The Lobos took a wee step away from the killer ground game style at times, and it proved costly.
112. Jim McElwain, Florida
Yeah, he lost some of his key offensive stars early, but there weren’t any answers. You’re Florida. Find guys who can score points.
111. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
His team was supposed to show Alabama what a real defense looked like. That didn’t work out so well for a team that didn’t go bowling after winning its first three games.
110. Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion
The rough start was too much to overcome. The Monarchs closed strong, and Wilder kept the team playing hard, but with a bowl on the line late, they lost.
109. Brent Brennan, San Jose State
He actually didn’t do a horrible job considering there wasn’t anything to work with. Give him credit – the team kept pushing and was better by the end of the season.
108. Nick Rolovich, Hawaii
The Rainbow Warriors took a big step back after a great first season. They were blown out way, way too often.
107. Paul Haynes, Kent State
To be very, very, very fair, he was dealing with medical issues early on. Before getting fired, the team simply couldn’t do anything positive offensively.
106. Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina
Uhhhhhh, defense? Montgomery couldn’t do anything on that side of the ball in a season that didn’t go anywhere. There wasn’t any fixing the glitch.
105. Luke Fickell, Cincinnati
This was a longview coaching hire – give him time to recruit. However, the Bearcats couldn’t beat anyone who was any good, and inexcusably got blown away by East Carolina. UC was good enough to be in the hunt for a bowl, and wasn’t.
104. Chuck Martin, Miami University
The RedHawks couldn’t build on their breakthrough season. Martin’s team should’ve hit the six win mark – there’s no reason to lose to Kent State or Bowling Green.
103. Mike Jinks, Bowling Green
There are signs that things might be better in 2018, but the defense has to show up to match an offense that looked like it was close to figuring it all out.
102. Jay Norvell, Nevada
It was his first year, and the team improved as the season went on, but the whole Air Raid offense thing didn’t quite crank up.
101. Tony Sanchez, UNLV
You … don’t … lose … to … Howard. Even with that gaffe, UNLV improved enough to potentially go bowling, and couldn’t get that sixth win. The Rebels are still too inconsistent.
100. Tim Lester, Western Michigan
The tone was set by all but quitting in the USC loss by letting the blind kid snap on an extra point. The team might have lost some key parts, but after going to the Cotton, it wasn’t respected enough to go bowling even with six wins.
99. Mike Bobo, Colorado State
The Rams should’ve been a whole lot better. Bobo had a ton of talent returning and a new stadium, but the Rams didn’t beat anyone who was any good.
98. Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina
This isn’t a fair ranking. Chadwell had to step in for head man Joe Moglia, who was on medical leave just as the program diving into the FBS world. There were still three wins, though.
97. Matt Viator, ULM
Where was the defense over the second half of the season? The team was fun at times, but Viator’s team couldn’t adjust after a decent start.
96. Randy Edsall, Connecticut
So far, it’s been the Weekend At Bernie’s 2 of sequels with no defense and not enough timely offense. To be fair, though, the Huskies under Edsall are who we thought they were.
95. Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette
The Ragin’ Cajuns weren’t supposed to win the Sun Belt, but the expectations are higher than 5-7. There were chances to make the season solid, and it didn’t happen.
94. Joey Jones, South Alabama
How could a team good enough to beat Arkansas State and Troy go 4-8? There were way, way too inconsistent, and now, after getting the program rolling, Jones is being replaced.
93. Chad Lunsford/Tyson Summers, Georgia Southern
Let’s just split the difference. With Tyson Summers – offense doesn’t work and team is bad. Fire him, put in Chad Lunsford – offense is better and team is good.
92. Lovie Smith, Illinois
This season’s job will be judged by 2018. It’s okay that the 2017 campaign went into the tank if all young players come through next year. But this had better be a bowl season coming up.
91. Larry Fedora, North Carolina
It was supposed to be a rebuilding year, but yeeeeesh. Injuries were a bit of a problem, and the team managed to screw up Pitt late, but the program should’ve been at a point to get to six wins with this schedule.
90. P.J. Fleck, Minnesota
Fleck rowed that boat right into a losing season. He’s recruiting well and there’s hope for the future, but the offense rarely showed up.
89. Troy Calhoun, Air Force
The program is going to have a clunker once in a while. It wasn’t all that bad, but Calhoun should have the Falcons as a regular player in the Mountain West, and the D wasn’t good enough this year.
88. Willie Taggart, Oregon
He keeps on not winning anything, and he keeps on getting big-time head coaching jobs. With Justin Herbert – Taggart was a great coach this year. Without Justin Herbert – and against most of the good teams – nothing to see here.
87. Chris Ash, Rutgers
It continues to be an uphill climb, but Ash and his staff were able to be feisty. However, the stall ball idea didn’t work all that well late in the season in blowout after blowout. The O needs to show up soon.
86. Dino Babers, Syracuse
If your team is good enough to beat Clemson, it’s good enough to not be 4-8. It was a nasty schedule, but again, if your team is good enough …
85. Pat Narduzzi, Pitt
The win over Miami was a bit of an indictment on the season. The Panthers were able to get fired up to hand the Canes their first loss, but they weren’t able to get rolling against North Carolina?
84. Mike Sanford, WKU
There was plenty of rebuilding to do in Sanford’s first season, but it was a rocky run. The problem? The second half of the year was worse than the first, and the running game didn’t exist.
83. Paul Petrino, Idaho
The Vandals went from a winning season and a bowl appearance to a clunker with a whole lot of lousy losses. Petrino wasn’t able to build the program up before leaving for the FCS.
82. Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech
It was a total overhaul of a year in plenty of ways, but the Bulldogs were supposed to be deep in the mix for the Conference USA title. Nope. However, give Holtz credit for rallying the team and saving the season.
81. Major Applewhite, Houston
It’s not working quite yet. The offense didn’t explode, there were a few weird losses, and it wasn’t exactly Tom Herman Era Part 2 in Applewhite’s first run.
80. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
Any time it’s not a bowl season at Georgia Tech, there’s a problem. The team was good, but Johnson couldn’t get that one extra win over the second half of the year to avoid a losing campaign.
79. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado
There were way too many replacements to find on the defensive side, but after a 3-0 start the Buffs should’ve been able to win three more games to go bowling. It didn’t happen.
78. Mark Whipple, UMass
Yeah, there were plenty of close losses, and the offense was fun, but going 0-6 to kick things off wasn’t good enough.
77. Tom Allen, Indiana
It all came down to one game. The entire season had one game that mattered, and Allen’s team lost to Purdue to finish out of a bowl game and with a losing season.
76. Kyle Whittingham, Utah
Whittingham tweaked an offense that didn’t need a whole lot of changing. The defense didn’t lose its identity, but it wasn’t the killer of the past. It took too much work in a mediocre conference just to go bowling.
75. Mark Stoops, Kentucky
The Wildcats went bowling – give Stoops some love for making that happen. However, the team struggled over the second half of the year with too many losses. It could’ve been a much, much better season.
74. Matt Wells, Utah State
It was a grind, but Wells did a nice job of making some key calls at quarterback and other spots to get the team bowling.
73. Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan
Yeah, there were a ton of close-call losses, and yeah, it wasn’t a bowl run, but it’s Eastern Michigan. The team battled hard, but didn’t get too many breaks.
72. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
He beat Texas. He monkeyed with the quarterback situation in the biggest game of the year, he couldn’t figure out the defense, and he had a hair out of place on more than one occasion. But he beat Texas, and the Red Raiders went bowling.
71. Rod Carey, Northern Illinois
It wasn’t a MAC title season – NIU didn’t even get to the title game. That’s where the bar is set at this point, but more than that for Carey, the year ended with another bowl clunker.
70. Dave Doeren, NC State
It should’ve been better. This was the year Doeren and the program were building towards, and there wasn’t much of a run for the ACC title. 9-4 was good, and the team had its moments, but if not this season, then when?
69. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
Holgorsen’s season was derailed when QB Will Grier got hurt. Even so, it was another year when the Mountaineers were also-rans, especially after a rough finishing kick.
68. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
UCLA. That was it. It wasn’t a bad year in a mediocre SEC, but once again, it wasn’t an SEC West-winning campaign. It all came apart in the second half against UCLA when Sumlin and his staff couldn’t stop the Rosen avalanche. Everything turned out fine for all sides.
67. Willie Fritz, Tulane
Considering this wasn’t supposed to be much of a year, the Green Wave played hard and came really, really close to turning a corner. It was a losing season, but it set up a potentially good 2018 under Fritz.
66. Chad Morris, SMU
Lots and lots of offense, absolutely no defense. Yeah, getting SMU to a bowl game was great, but Morris bolted for Arkansas and the team got obliterated.
65. Frank Solich, Ohio
Ohio lost to Akron. It did lots and lots of nice things including rolling against Toledo and blowing away UAB in the bowl, but … Ohio lost to Akron, and didn’t go to the MAC title game. That was the season.
64. David Cutcliffe, Duke
Yeah, yeah, Cutcliffe is a great coach who makes miracles happen with mediocre talent. That’s fine, but there was too much of a midseason dip for a team that played well enough early to have done more.
63. Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee
Stockstill did a nice job considering his son – QB Brent Stockstill – was hurt for a time. It should’ve been a better overall year, but without the quarterback and superstar receiver Richie James, it was still a good campaign.
62. Barry Odom, Missouri
Play bad teams, good things happened. Play good teams, beat things happened. The offense might have looked great, but again, that all worked against the bad teams.
61. Blake Anderson, Arkansas State
The Red Wolves had the offense and the defensive line to win the Sun Belt title, and didn’t. They had the talent to be far, far better than 7-5. Anderson’s team was a bum slayer.
60. John Bonamego, Central Michigan
It should’ve been a slightly better season. There might not have been enough to be stronger than Toledo, but even with a great finishing kick, the Chippewas should’ve been bigger players in the title chase.
59. D.J. Durkin, Maryland
What did you want the guy to do? He was down to his 23rd quarterback option. He showed glimpses of what could be with the opening weekend win over Texas, but it was still a losing run.
58. Jay Hopson, Southern Miss
It wasn’t quite the year some might have wanted, but Hopson was able to get the team cranked up over the second half of the season to finish with eight wins. There wasn’t a run to a conference title, but he did a nice job.
57. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy
The caveat is always there that he’s doing big things with talent that’s not necessarily at an FBS level. However, it was a rough run over the second half of the year, and … he lost to Army again.
56. Justin Wilcox, California
It was a stepping-stone campaign in Wilcox’s first year. He had to change around the program, taking it from the pass-first, pass-always attack into one that also utilized some defense. However, he couldn’t close and get that sixth win to go bowling.
55. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
For all the positives, why didn’t Khalil Tate start earlier? There was another loss to Arizona State, a bowl loss and then … that. Welcome to Tucson, Coach Sumlin.
54. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
Remember, the guy lost 20 starters. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year, but that doesn’t matter at this point in the Harbaugh era. Beat Ohio State already. Or, at least, don’t gag away a bowl game like that again.
53. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
It wasn’t always a thing of beauty, but he got his team to rise up and rock Ohio State, almost beat Penn State, and win a bowl game. Throw in the win over Iowa State, and it wasn’t all that bad a run.
52. Frank Wilson, UTSA
It’s a shame the Roadrunners didn’t go bowling – they were eligible. Wilson’s offense might not have been much, but the defense was among the stingiest in college football.
51. Doc Holliday, Marshall
Welcome back, Marshall. The Herd weren’t quite as consistent as they should’ve been, but after a tough 2016, Holliday was able to get to eight wins – even if the end of the regular season was rough.
50. Mike Leach, Washington State
Once again, Leach proved to be the coach good enough to get a team close, but not quite there. If Wazzu was good enough to beat USC and Boise State, it should’ve been good enough to not turtle against Cal and in a bowl loss to Michigan State.
49. Geoff Collins, Temple
It was a total rebuild in some spots after winning the American Athletic title. It took a little while to get going, but Collins pulled the team together in a good year with a bowl win. At least he did better than the guy who bolted for Baylor.
48. Chris Petersen, Washington
It’s still a problem for Petersen – his teams have talent and are good, but they’re not quite strong enough to beat the top teams. It was supposed to be another Pac-12 championship season – anything less was going to be disappointing.
47. Todd Graham, Arizona State
He beat Washington, he beat Arizona, he rallied the team and was great at the end of the season to get to a bowl game – and now Herm Edwards is the head coach.
46. Bill Snyder, Kansas State
The quarterback situation was a problem, and it looked like the season was about to fall into the abyss, but the Wildcats closed strong. Why not come back for another year?
45. Ed Orgeron, LSU
The talent was there to do more, and losing to Notre Dame in the bowl game was a problem, but being the third or fourth-best team in the SEC isn’t a bad deal – for now. The expectations weren’t high, but that will quickly change.
44. Craig Bohl, Wyoming
The defense might have been amazing at taking the ball away, but how could the offense be that mediocre with Josh Allen back under center? The Cowboys were relevant, though – Bohl did another great job.
43. Rocky Long, San Diego State
The Aztecs lost the game to Fresno State they couldn’t lose, and they somehow couldn’t stop Army in the bowl, but it was another brilliant year for the Aztecs under Long. He proved once again that this is one of the Mountain West’s power programs.
42. Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State
The Mountaineers might have played down to the competition at times, but Satterfield won a Sun Belt title – or a part of it – and rolled through Toledo in a blowout bowl win. Any Sun Belt coach would take that.
41. Butch Davis, FIU
FIU went from being totally irrelevant, to getting destroyed by UCF to start the season, to going bowling. It might not have been the Lane Kiffin had at Florida Atlantic or Scott Frost had in Orlando, but Davis showed once again how good a college coach he is.
40. Shawn Elliott, Georgia State
The guy took Georgia State bowling – and won. Ha ha, yeah, the program was taking over the old Braves stadium, and there was some building to do, and the offense wasn’t always amazing but … the guy too Georgia State bowling – and won.
39. Lance Leipold, Buffalo
Think about what Leipold did. Buffalo wasn’t supposed to do anything, and it beat a lot of awful teams, but it got to six wins and should’ve gone bowling, and he beat Lane Kiffin and Florida Atlantic. UB football wasn’t bad, and to do that is really, really hard.
38. Doug Martin, NMSU
With the program about to be kicked out of the Sun Belt, and after years without any fun whatsoever, the program got to a bowl for the first time in 57 years – and won – after Martin rallied it in four of the final five games to get there.
37. Clay Helton, USC
It was a coaching job. No more, no less. Yeah, USC finally took down a Pac-12 title, but it was supposed to do a lot more than that. Not getting to the CFP and getting blown out by Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl weren’t in the plans.
36. Seth Littrell, North Texas
North Texas wasn’t supposed to do much more than maybe go bowling for another year, but instead, Littrell got the O going in a run of eight wins over the final ten games. There’s no shame in losing twice to Florida Atlantic – the Mean Green got to the Conference USA title game.
35. Charlie Strong, USF
Yeah, USF had a great season, pushed UCF in a classic, and won a bowl game, but it was supposed to do what the Knights did – this was supposed to be the Group of Five star. Even so, Strong did a wonderful job in the transition from Willie Taggart.
34. Mike Norvell, Memphis
Lots and lots of offense, two losses to UCF, a win over UCLA, and a win away from probably going off to play Auburn in the Peach Bowl. Best of all for Memphis, it still has its guy around for 2018.
33. Bryan Harsin, Boise State
With a conference title title and a dominant bowl win over Oregon, Harsin has Boise State back on top as the star of the Mountain West. It might not have been a run to a New Year’s Six game, but going 11-3 with a title was fantastic.
32. David Shaw, Stanford
Yeah, he didn’t win the Pac-12 title, and yeah, he lost to USC twice, and yeah, his team crashed against TCU in the Alamo Bowl, but he also pulled off a great season with his star RB struggling through an ankle injury and with a shaky quarterback situation.
31. Terry Bowden, Akron
He beat Ohio. He got to the MAC title game with a mediocre team. He did what he needed to do in a strong year for the conference, even if it all ended with a thud. This was supposed to be a nothing season, and the Zips finished with seven wins.
30. Matt Luke, Ole Miss
It would’ve been incredibly easy for the Rebels to have gone 4-8 as they faded into the background. But Luke not only steadied the ship in a 6-6 run, but he got the win over Mississippi State, and he did it all after losing star quarterback Shea Patterson to an injury – and now to Michigan.
29. Jason Candle, Toledo
The bowl loss to Appalachian State was a total dud, and there was a clunker of a loss to Ohio, but finally, Toledo became the MAC’s power program again. And remember, he didn’t have Kareem Hunt.
28. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
On the one side, Malzahn got his team within one game away from going to the College Football Playoff. On the other, it lost to UCF. He beat Alabama by double-digits and destroyed Georgia, but lost in the rematch. In a bad year for most SEC coaches, he’s still employed.
27. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
Don’t forget, Notre Dame was a total dud in 2016, and it all turned around from the start. The season might have fizzled, but there was a blowout win over USC, a nice victory over NC State, enough positive moments to expect even more.
26. Dave Clawson, Wake Forest
At the end of the day, it’s still Wake Forest. Clawson’s defense attacked, the offense was a blast, and when it was all over, there were eight wins and a bowl victory. More than anything, the team was fun.
25. Steve Addazio, Boston College
At or near the top of all of the coaching hot seat lists after a rough start, all of a sudden, everything worked. The running game was great, the offense had a tempo, and the team started winning. Remember, it wasn’t all that long ago when BC couldn’t win an ACC game.
24. Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
The overall season might not have been anything amazing – especially considering the program is used to playing for ACC titles – but it was a bit of a rebuilding year. Fuente needs more horses, but he once again proved he’s among the rising star coaches.
23. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
Mississippi State doesn’t have the talent of an LSU or an Auburn or an Alabama, and yet once again under Mullen, it was a battler in the SEC West world. In a year when coaches were getting canned left and right, Mullen was good enough to get the Florida gig. Just wait – Joe Moorhead is going to be terrific.
22. Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia
The season might have collapsed late, but considering Virginia wasn’t supposed to do much of anything, it got to a bowl game and it almost really, really screwed up Miami.
21. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Just when it seemed like the season was going nowhere – boom. Fitzgerald was able to help get the team through a few overtime games, and then it just couldn’t lose. Okay, so he might have come close to biffing away a bowl, but it was a ten-win run in Evanston. That’s big.
20. Neal Brown, Troy
11-2? A win over LSU? How is he not coaching at somewhere bigger already? It was a terrific season with a Sun Belt title – or a piece of it – and a dominant bowl win. Boom.
19. Mark Richt, Miami
Losing to Pitt was bad, getting blown out by Clemson was bad, and losing a home bowl game to Wisconsin was bad. But before that, Richt took the Canes to their first ACC title game – without much of an offense – and within a game of playing in the College Football Playoff.
18. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
Granted, the Cowboys didn’t get to the Big 12 Championship, but the offense did what it was supposed to do, it was a strong ten-win run, and Gundy was able to show that the attack could still be as dangerous as any in college football.
17. Will Muschamp, South Carolina
Where’s the talent? Where are the top-shelf, sure-thing NFL superstars? Muschamp’s style of coaching might walk a fine line, but it worked in the opener against NC State and in the bowl closer against Michigan. Somehow, he coaxed nine wins out of this group.
16. Gary Patterson, TCU
So TCU couldn’t beat Oklahoma. That’s nothing to be upset over this season, especially considering the Horned Frogs got to the new Big 12 Championship and rallied in a thrilling bowl win over Stanford.
15. James Franklin, Penn State
In a lot of ways, he had a better season than he did when he took the Nittany Lions to the Big Ten title. There but for a few plays and a couple of points, they’re probably in the College Football Playoff. At the very least, he proved that 2016 wasn’t a fluke.
14. Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Okay, okay, he has more talent to work with than anyone outside of Tuscaloosa, and the Iowa loss was inexcusable, but he did win the Big Ten title and his team – in a lot of ways – had a better CFP resume than Alabama. Oh yeah … and he beat Michigan.
13. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Did he still have it? Was 2016 a sign that everything was slipping away? Nope. It might have been ugly against Ohio State, and it might have been awful against Notre Dame, but it was a ten-win season that closed out with a dominant win over Washington State. Oh yeah … and he beat Michigan.
12. Jeff Brohm, Purdue
The dude took frickin’ Purdue to a bowl game. In his first year. And he won it. Other coaches worked miracles, but considering where the program was, this was one, too.
11. Kirby Smart, Georgia
In just one season, he turned the Georgia program from one good enough to roll the stone to the top of the mountain, to one that was just one more push away from getting it over. Winning the SEC Championship is amazing in any year, no matter how it all ended.
10. Nick Saban, Alabama
Wouldn’t a coach this amazing have known that the Tua Tagovailoa guy was pretty good before halftime of the national championship?! Saban had just an okay regular season, but if you win the national title, you’re doing something right. Duh.
9. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
Balk all you want about the schedule, but the most even-keel of coaches had his team on that same plane all throughout the year. It turned out to be the real deal, coming within one late scoring drive against Ohio State of being perfect on the way to the CFP.
8. Bill Clark, UAB
It was amazing that he was able to put 11 starters on the field, much less do anything with them. Really, would anyone have said anything if the program that took two years off went, say, 1-11? Or even 0-12? The built-in excuses were massive, but a bowl game? Just … wow.
7. Matt Campbell, Iowa State
In terms of amazing turnaround jobs, of course Purdue’s Jeff Brohm was amazing, and certainly what Bill Clark did at UAB was special. Campbell beat Oklahoma. Campbell beat TCU. Campbell lost his starting quarterback, came up with some tweaks, and went on to win those big games and took down Memphis in a bowl.
6. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
Do you really need to be reminded of all the NFL talent the guy lost from his offense? In a massive rebuilding season on that side of the ball, Swinney still got Clemson a third straight ACC title and a third straight trip to the College Football Playoff.
5. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma
Yeah, he was handed a heater of a team, but think about the pressure he was under after taking over the job from Bob Stoops relatively late in the process. A third straight Big 12 title? Maybe, but to come that close to playing for the national title after taking down Ohio State along the way, and coaching a Heisman-winner, and doing it all without Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon and Dede Westbrook? Amazing.
4. Jeff Tedford, Fresno State
Really, the guy comes in off the street and turns a team that couldn’t beat an FBS team the year before into a ten-win killer that played for the Mountain West title? And to think, Tedford’s team did it with defense. Just wait until the offense figures it all out.
3. Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic
There might not have been any massive wins on a national scale, but when it comes to the risky hire paying off, this couldn’t have gone any better. Not only did Kiffin lead the Owls to a dominant run to the Conference USA title and an easy bowl win, but he did it with Kiffin style and a whole lot of social media fun along the way.
2. Scott Frost, UCF
Did your college football team go unbeaten this year? It’s not like UCF beat anyone with a pulse in Frost’s first season, but all of a sudden in Year Two, the offense became unstoppable, the team kept inventing magical moments, and it all closed out with a win over Auburn to spark all the national championship craziness from the fan base.
1. Jeff Monken, Army
No one else did more with less, at least in terms of raw talent. It was all about schemes, systems, and precision.
How many players on Army could play for or start at other FBS schools? The Knights have one style of offense, that’s all they do, they don’t throw, and they managed to win with it as Monken’s team ran the attack to near-perfection.
Really, how was Army’s season under Monken? It was the first ten-win campaign since 1996, the win over Navy was a classic, and the offense was unstoppable in the bowl win over a San Diego State team that beat Stanford earlier in the year.
And, by the way, in case you missed it … he beat Navy.