5. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
You all know how this works. Oklahoma State has one relatively down season, and then … kaboom. It’s back to big things. Gundy has won ten games in three of the last four seasons, and ten games or more in six of the last nine campaigns.
The 7-6 2018 season was a whole lot of fun – even if it wasn’t a great year record-wise – with a slew of thrilling games and the program’s fourth bowl win in the last five seasons. In his 15th year at Oklahoma State, he deserves more credit as one of the nation’s star coaches.
2018 Preseason Big 12 Ranking: 3
– 2019 Oklahoma State Preview
4. Matt Campbell, Iowa State
Iowa State won eight games in the three seasons before Campbell took over. Before 2017, the previous winning season was 2009, the previous season with eight wins or more was 2000, and before that it was 1978. What has Campbell done in the last two seasons? Two 8-5 seasons with two bowl appearances as the Cyclones have become one of the Big 12’s biggest pains in the butt.
Just 39 going into the season, he’ll have a whole lot of offers in the near future – even though the school has done everything possible to keep him happy and locked in.
2018 Preseason Big 12 Ranking: 7
– 2019 Iowa State Preview
3. Tom Herman, Texas
Can he really make sure Texas is “back” to what it’s supposed to be?
He doesn’t have the longevity of a Patterson or a Gundy, but in his second year with the Longhorns he went 10-4 with a win over Oklahoma, a trip to the Big 12 Championship, and with a Sugar Bowl win over Georgia. That’s what the fan base wanted and needed when he was hired away from Houston a few years ago, and now it’s time to do more.
He’s growing into superstar status with what he’s doing with one of the most important programs in college football, but now that he gave everyone a taste, he has provide the whole meal.
2018 Preseason Big 12 Ranking: 4
– 2019 Texas Preview
2. Gary Patterson, TCU
Going into his 19th full season with the program, he’s been at the helm as the program went from the WAC, to Conference USA, to the Mountain West, to the Big 12. Along the way he has 11 seasons with ten wins or more, he took his Horned Frogs to the brink of the first College Football Playoff in 2014, got into the first new version of the Big 12 Championship in 2017, and he has won bowls in four of the last five seasons and has won ten of his last 13 bowl appearances.
In the last 14 years he has seven top ten finishes in the national rankings – just take a moment on that one.
He’s got another great team returning with what should be among the nation’s top defenses, and the offense will be stronger. Patterson keeps doing amazing things with the program.
2018 Preseason Big 12 Ranking: 1
– 2019 TCU Preview
1. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma
How is he not the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys already? Only turning 36 when the season starts, he has put together one of the most amazing two-year resumés of all-time.
Two 12-2 seasons. Two Big 12 Championships. Two College Football Playoff appearances. Two top four finishes. Two different Heisman winners. Two No. 1 overall draft picks.
We can quibble that he hasn’t yet fixed the defensive issues, and he’s 0-2 in the CFP, but he did the nearly-impossible and took what one of the greatest head coaches of all-time put together and kept it all going.
Okay, so Bob Stoops won a national title in his second season. Riley is knocking on that door, but for now, he has taken Oklahoma and locked it into the honor of being the current third-best program in college football.
2018 Preseason Big 12 Ranking: 2
– 2019 Oklahoma Preview