YOU’RE HAPPY AT THE MIDSEASON: It was a good, solid first half, or for some, a really, really surprising one
25. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame (5-1)
Best Win: Notre Dame 30, USC 27
Worst Loss: Georgia 23, Notre Dame 17
Midseason Thought: So the Irish lost at Georgia. Forget what South Carolina did, that’s about as forgivable as it gets. The Irish might have struggled against USC, and it needed to turn it on in the second half to get by Virginia, but 5-1 is right where the expectations were at this point. Coming of the College Football Playoff season, and after losing a ton of star parts, Kelly reloaded and has a team that has 11-1 potential.
24. Craig Bohl, Wyoming (4-2)
Best Win: Wyoming 37, Missouri 31
Worst Loss: Tulsa 24, Wyoming 21
Midseason Thought: There’s no passing game, and the defense lost just about everyone of note, and the Cowboys were still able to get by Missouri and be in a position to get a decent bowl bid.
23. Brent Brennan, San Jose State (3-3)
Best Win: San Jose State 31, Arkansas 24
Worst Loss: Tulsa 34, San Jose State 16
Midseason Thought: San Jose State isn’t easy. It’s constantly a problem to get anything consistently working, but Brennan has doubled the win total from his first two seasons, and now he has a team that isn’t an easy out. The Spartans are improving, and there’s even the chance to dream about going … bowling?!
22. David Cutcliffe, Duke (4-2)
Best Win: Duke 45 Virginia Tech 10
Worst Loss: Pitt 33, Duke 30
Midseason Thought: The guy lost Danny Dimes and his offense actually got better. Daniel Jones is obviously doing just fine, but Cutcliffe continues to work his magic with a team that shouldn’t be in the ACC title chase, but is.
21. Justin Wilcox, Cal (4-2)
Best Win: Cal 20, Washington 19
Worst Loss: Arizona State 24, Cal 17
Midseason Thought: One of the rising superstars in the coaching world, Wilcox has been able to put together an amazing defense that’s good enough to win a Pac-12 title, but that offense … no. Even so, the Bears have a reputation now of being one of the leagues toughest teams to deal with.
20. Herm Edwards, Arizona State (5-1)
Best Win: Arizona State 24, Cal 17
Worst Loss: Colorado 34, Arizona State 31
Midseason Thought: Can we all say it now? You were right, Arizona State. The hiring of Edwards was highly questionable, but he’s been brilliant. He started the year with a freshman QB, lost WR N’Keal Harry to the NFL, and had to go on the road to face two of the nation’s tougher-coached teams in Michigan State and Cal, and he just keeps on getting the job done.
19. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy (4-1)
Best Win: Navy 34, Air Force 25
Worst Loss: Memphis 35, Navy 23
Midseason Thought: Well welcome back, Navy. We missed you in that 3-10 disaster of last season. The option offense is explosive again, the defense is solid, and Niumatalolo has once again shown why he’s really, really good at this coaching thing. Navy looks like Navy again.
18. Luke Fickell, Cincinnati (5-1)
Best Win: Cincinnati 27, UCF 24
Worst Loss: Ohio State 42, Cincinnati 0
Midseason Thought: 2018 obviously wasn’t a fluke. There’s no knocking the Bearcats for getting shut down by Ohio State, and at 5-1 with wins over UCLA, UCF and Houston, they’re in the hunt for the New Year’s Six slot. Fickell has also put himself in the mix for a big-time job opening this offseason.
17. Dave Clawson, Wake Forest (5-1)
Best Win: Wake Forest 24, North Carolina 18
Worst Loss: Louisville 62, Wake Forest 59
Midseason Thought: It needs to keep being mentioned that Clawson continues to win without top-level talent to win one of the nation’s most fun offenses. Of course the players are getting it done, but it’s not insane to consider the Demon Deacons in the fight to be the ACC’s second-best team. More than that on a national scale, they’re a whole lot of fun.
16. Bryan Harsin, Boise State (6-0)
Best Win: Boise State 36, Florida State 31
Worst Game: Boise State 14, Marshall 7
Midseason Thought: Harsin took his team and his freshman quarterback into Tallahassee against a jacked up Florida State squad that needed the win … and it was ugly. But the Broncos adjusted, hydrated better than the other side, and pulled out a thriller. Now the team has the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bowl for the taking if it can win out.
15. Dan Mullen, Florida (6-1)
Best Win: Florida 24, Auburn 13
Worst Loss: LSU 42, Florida 28
Midseason Thought: It’s not a flashy team, it doesn’t have the Heisman-caliber quarterback, it struggled against Kentucky, it struggled against Miami, and … it beat Auburn, and slugged it out toe-to-toe with LSU in Death Valley for around 52 minutes. Several of Mullen’s NFL defensive talents have been banged up, QB Feleipe Franks was lost for the year in Week 3, and yet the Gators are still right there in the hunt for the SEC East title.
14. James Franklin, Penn State (6-0)
Best Win: Penn State 17, Iowa 12
Worst Game: Penn State 17, Pitt 10
Midseason Thought: Quick … name a Penn State player. There are no obvious superstars with one name status like Tua, or Jalen, or Burrow, but it’s a rock-solid team that just keeps on winning. The O has to produce more against the good teams, but Franklin is 6-0, and Michigan State and Michigan aren’t. And it seems like the team is just scratching the surface.
13. PJ Fleck, Minnesota (6-0)
Best Win: Minnesota 34, Nebraska 7
Worst Game: Minnesota 28, South Dakota State 21
Midseason Thought: Minnesota could’ve started out 0-3 just as easily as 3-0, but it didn’t. It’s getting better and better as the season has gone on, the throttling of Nebraska was great, and now Fleck has the Gophers in a great position to get to 8-0 before Penn State comes to town.
12. Nick Rolovich, Hawaii (4-2)
Best Win: Hawaii 45, Arizona 38
Worst Loss: Boise State 59, Hawaii 37
Midseason Thought: Wait … Hawaii is playing … DEFENSE? Rolovich’s club did more than just hang with the three Pac-12 teams on the slate, it beat two of them – Arizona and Oregon State. It went on the road and rocked Nevada, and the losses at Washington and Boise State are more than fine. Hawaii could be 2-4 right now and no one would say boo – Rolovich had a strong first half.
11. Eliah Drinkwitz, Appalachian State (5-0)
Best Win: Appalachian State 34, North Carolina 31
Worst Game: Appalachian State 56, Charlotte 41
Midseason Thought: Drinkwitz stepped in for Scott Satterfield and he kept it all going. With the wins over North Carolina and Louisiana on the road, the Mountaineers got the wins they needed to potentially be the first Sun Belt team to get a New Year’s Six bowl game.