Head Coach Rankings: How Good Were All 76 This Bowl Season?

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Head Coach Rankings: How Good Were All 76 This Bowl Season?

Bowls College Football Playoff

Head Coach Rankings: How Good Were All 76 This Bowl Season?


Head Coach Rankings: Bowl Season Top 10

10. Jeff Brohm, Purdue

TransPerfect Music City Bowl
Purdue 48, Tennessee 45 OT
The Boilermakers were without top receiver David Bell and star NFL-caliber pass rusher George Karlaftis, and they still managed to bomb away, keep up the pace in the second, and get the win in the thriller after getting down 21-7 in the first quarter. There wasn’t any flinching in the fight.

9. Troy Calhoun, Air Force

SERVPRO First Responder Bowl
Air Force 31, Louisville 28
Air Force won by … throwing the ball? Start with how amazing it always is for a service academy to beat Power Five program, and Air Force did it by going against brand with 252 yards through the air. The O held the ball for way over 35 minutes, the team controlled the game, and it held on for the big win.

8. Nick Saban, Alabama

College Football Playoff National Championship
Georgia 33, Alabama 18
The Crimson Tide staff did just fine in the easy 27-6 win over Cincinnati, and it pitched a gem defensively for three quarters against a jacked up Georgia.

Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien might have been ripped apart on social media, but it was a strong game considering the wide receiver situation and lack of running game. It’s going to get lost as time goes on, but Georgia played the game it had to play, and Alabama still had the ball late with a shot at tying it up.

7. Shane Beamer, South Carolina

Duke’s Mayo Bowl
South Carolina 38, North Carolina 21
This wasn’t just a bowl win, it was a massive statement made by Beamer and the program. This was supposed to be a bit of a lost year, and instead this victory made it a winning season with an emphatic, sharp performance on both sides of the ball.

6. Jim McElwain, Central Michigan

Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl
Central Michigan 24, Washington State 21
Think about what happened here. Central Michigan spent weeks preparing for Boise State, the game got called late in the process, and the coaching staff and team pivoted to deal with a Power Five program. Now only did McElwain have his team ready, but it held Washington State to 250 yards in a brilliant defensive performance.

5. Bill Clark, UAB

Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl
UAB 31, BYU 28
BYU was a good enough team to deserve New Year’s Six consideration, and outside of an interception, UAB pitched an almost perfect game offensively and held up on D. The Blazers got up fast, held on late, and pulled off a win that made their year against a team that rolled through several big games against brand name teams.

4. Sonny Cumbie, Texas Tech

AutoZone Liberty Bowl,
Texas Tech 34, Mississippi State 7
Cumbie took his far less talented team – and in an interim capacity – to 34 points and a shockingly dominant win over Mike Leach and his team full of SEC talent. Yeah, there were missing parts on Mississippi State, but that shouldn’t have been enough for a blowout like this. The student pantsed the teacher.

3. Oliver Pough, South Carolina State

Cricket Celebration Bowl,
South Carolina State 31, Jackson State 10
The world showed up to watch the flash, dash, and D of the Deion Sanders-led Jackson State team, and South Carolina State had other ideas. You want to see what disrespect-turned-to-motivation looks like? The 6-5 team held the 11-1 double-digit favorite to under 200 yards – just 19 on the ground – and a 31-3 run after the first quarter.

2. Kirby Smart, Georgia

College Football Playoff National Championship
Georgia 33, Alabama 18
You want focus? You want fire? You want the right mindset after the SEC Championship loss to Alabama? Georgia rolled past Michigan like the Orange Bowl was a polite scrimmage, and it got by Alabama for the program’s first national title since 1980 with a great defensive gameplan and just enough patience for Stetson Bennett to get the job done late.

1. Jeff Monken, Army

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Army 24, Missouri 22
Army not only won, it won by beating a Power Five team – that almost never happens. Oh yeah, and it won by mounting a great late comeback to pull off the stunner over the big, bad, SEC squad.

It has to keep being mentioned every time a service academy does something like this – the talent level isn’t even close. Oh sure, there are a few Black Knights who could play for Mizzou, but it’s scheme, scheme, scheme, and brilliant execution.

Give the players credit for getting it done, but it was a whale of a job by the coaching staff to pull this off.

Bowl Season Coaching Rankings 
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