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Ranking All 128 College Football Head Coaches for 2014

Nick Saban

Nick Saban

Ranking college football coaches is no easy task. Similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.

While it’s difficult to rank coaches, this aspect of college football is arguably the most important to winning a national or conference title. No matter how much talent a program has, winning a national title is difficult if the coaching is questionable.

Wins are a telling and important statistic, but they don’t provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Alabama is different than winning 10 games at Kentucky. Also, every program has a different amount of resources available. Hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. A good coach can elevate a program. However, it’s easier for programs like Alabama, Florida, Ohio State and Texas with more built-in advantages to contend for a national title on a more consistent basis.

A couple of other factors to consider when ranking assistant coaches: How well are the assistants paid? A good program is willing to spend big to keep its assistants. And a staff with two of the nation’s top coordinators could be a sign the head coach is better as a CEO and may not be as strong in terms of developing gameplans. How is the coach in the X’s and O’s? Can the coach recruit? Are the program’s facilities on par with the rest of the conference? Much like assistants, a program needs good facilities to win big. If a team is winning at a high level with poor facilities and a small budget, it’s reflects positively on the head coach. Is the coach successful at only one stop? Or has that coach built a solid resume from different jobs?

Again, wins are important. But our rankings also take into account a blank slate. If you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire?

Considering how important coaches are to teams or even making preseason predictions, Athlon is taking a look at how all 128 college football coaches rank nationally and by conference.

Ranking the Coaches by Conference: ACCBig 12Big TenPac-12SEC Rosters

Ranking All 128 College Football Coaches for 2014

1. Nick Saban, Alabama
Record at Alabama: 79-15 (7 years)
Career Record: 170-57-1 (18 years)
Alabama’s Program Rank: (No. 2 in the SEC, No. 3 nationally)

Ranking coaches in any conference or nationally is a tough assignment, but there’s little doubt about which one ranks as the best in college football. Saban is at the top of his game and is easily the No. 1 coach in the nation. In seven years at Alabama, Saban is 79-15 and has claimed three national championships. The Crimson Tide has finished in the top 10 of the final Associated Press poll in each of the last six years and only one of Saban’s seasons resulted in less than 10 victories. And as many around the SEC already know, Saban’s success isn’t limited to just Alabama. He recorded a 48-16 mark in five years at LSU, a 34-24-1 record in five seasons at Michigan State and a 9-2 mark in one year at Toledo. Saban is one of the nation’s top defensive minds, an excellent recruiter and also one of the best - if not the No. 1 coach - in college football at developing talent. As long as Saban is on the sidelines in Tuscaloosa, Alabama will be factor every season in the national championship picture.

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2. Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Record at Ohio State: 24-2 (2 years)
Career Record: 128-22 (12 years)
Ohio State’s Program Rank: (No. 1 in Big Ten, No. 5 nationally)

Meyer has been a head coach at four different jobs and has won at a high level at each program. A hallmark of Meyer’s tenures has been a quick turnaround or immediate improvement in the first season. Bowling Green went 2-9 in the year prior to Meyer’s arrival, and the Falcons recorded a 17-6 mark under his watch. At Utah, Meyer inherited a team that won five games in 2002. However, the Utes went 22-2 under Meyer and finished No. 4 nationally in the final Associated Press poll in 2004. Meyer was hired at Florida prior to the 2005 season and guided the Gators to a 65-15 record. Florida won two BCS titles under Meyer and finished No. 3 nationally in 2009. After stepping away in 2011, Meyer returned to the sidelines at Ohio State in 2012 and won the first 24 games in his tenure. The Buckeyes closed 2013 on a two-game losing streak but have won all 16 regular season Big Ten games under Meyer’s watch. With elite recruiting, combined with a top-five program like Ohio State, it’s only a matter of time before the Buckeyes win the national title under Meyer.

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3. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Record at South Carolina: 77-39 (9 years)
Career Record: 219-79-2 (24 years)
South Carolina’s Program Rank: (No. 8 in the SEC, No. 19 nationally)

Spurrier needed a few years to build the talent level at South Carolina, but heading into his 10th season in Columbia, the Gamecocks are a consistent East Division title contender. Through his first five years at South Carolina, Spurrier posted a 35-28 record with zero appearances in the final Associated Press poll. But since 2010, the Gamecocks are 42-11 and finished No. 4 in the final Associated Press poll last year. Spurrier was successful at Florida from 1990-2001 using the pass-first Fun ‘n’ Gun offense. However, the veteran coach has adapted at South Carolina and has been winning with a strong defense and a balanced offense. With successful stops at Florida and South Carolina in the SEC, along with a 20-13-1 three-year stint at Duke, Spurrier is without question one of the top coaches in college football. And even though Spurrier will be 69 years old when the season starts, he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

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4. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
Record at Oklahoma: 160-39 (15 years)
Career Record: 160-39 (15 years)
Oklahoma’s Program Rank: No. 2 in the Big 12, No. 6 nationally

Stoops quickly proved he was an elite coach with a national championship in his second season, and the Ohio native continues to keep Oklahoma among the nation’s best every year. After a 7-5 debut in 1999, Stoops guided the Sooners to a 13-0 record with an upset win over Florida State in the Orange Bowl for the BCS title. Success has been plentiful for Oklahoma since 2000 as well, as Stoops has recorded 11 seasons of at least 10 victories, and the Sooners have claimed at least a share of the conference title eight times. Maintaining success at a high level is challenging, but Stoops hasn’t missed a beat. Sure, Oklahoma had an 8-5 season in 2009 and finished No. 15 nationally in 2012. However, it’s hard to beat Stoops’ consistency, as well as his ability to beat the Sooners’ rivals. Stoops is 9-6 against Texas and 12-3 against Oklahoma State. As long as Stoops is at Oklahoma, expect the Sooners to be a consistent top 10-15 program nationally.

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5. Art Briles, Baylor
Record at Baylor: 44-32 (6 years)
Career Record: 78-60 (10 years)
Baylor’s Program Rank: No. 4 in the Big 12, No. 34 nationally

Briles has quickly emerged as one of the top coaches in college football, transforming a struggling program into ha contender on the national level. Baylor failed to record a winning record from 1996-2007, and Briles went 4-8 in back-to-back seasons in 2008-09. But since 2009, the Bears have been a factor among the top half of the Big 12, finishing 7-6 in 2010, which included their first bowl appearance since 1994. From 2011-13, Baylor is 29-10 and claimed their first outright conference title since 1980 last year. Briles’ success isn’t just limited to Baylor, as he went 34-28 in five seasons at Houston. With a new stadium, improved recruiting and a contract extension until 2023, the Bears appear poised to take another step forward under Briles’ watch. Much like Bill Snyder did at Kansas State, Briles has transformed Baylor from a struggling program into a conference title contender.

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6. Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Record at Kansas State: 178-90-1 (22 years)
Career Record: 178-90-1 (22 years)
Kansas State’s Program Rank:No. 8 in the Big 12, No. 61 nationally

Prior to Snyder’s arrival, there was no track record of consistent success at Kansas State. But since Snyder was hired in 1989, the fortunes have changed for the Wildcats. Snyder won only six games during his first two years, but Kansas State had only one losing season from 1992-2003. Snyder guided the Wildcats to 11 consecutive bowl games from 1993-2003 and had six finishes in the top 10 of the final Associated Press poll in that span. After a 9-13 mark from 2004-05, Snyder decided to step aside. But his retirement was short, as Snyder returned to the sidelines in 2009 and promptly guided the Wildcats to a 6-6 mark. Over the last five years, Kansas State is 42-27 and claimed the Big 12 title in 2012. Winning in Manhattan is no easy task, and Snyder continues to get the most out of a roster that is consistently rated near the bottom of the conference according to recruiting rankings. As long as Snyder is on the sidelines, don’t count out Kansas State in the Big 12 title picture each year.

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7. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
Record at Florida State: 45-10 (4 years)
Career Record: 45-10 (4 years)
Florida State’s Program Rank:No. 1 in the ACC, No. 11 nationally

In four years in Tallahassee, Fisher has returned Florida State to national prominence. The Seminoles slipped at the end of the Bobby Bowden era, but Fisher has three seasons of at least 10 wins and has claimed back-to-back ACC titles. Florida State is 26-2 over the last two years and won the national championship last year, defeating Auburn in the final title game of the BCS era. Another factor working in Fisher’s ranking is his record against Florida State’s rivals. Fisher is 4-0 against Miami and 3-1 against Florida. Fisher’s success isn’t just limited to the on-field results, as he’s an excellent recruiter and talent evaluator and has a good eye for finding assistant coaches. With Fisher at the helm, there’s no more debate: Florida State is back and will be a factor in college football’s national championship picture for the foreseeable future.

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8. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Record at Michigan State: 64-29 (7 years)
Career Record: 82-46 (10 years)
Michigan State’s Program Rank: (No. 6 in Big Ten, No. 26 nationally)

Under Dantonio’s watch, Michigan State has emerged as one of the top programs in the Big Ten. The Spartans have won at least 11 games in three out of the last four years and went 25-7 in Big Ten play during that span. Dantonio guided Michigan State to a 13-1 finish last season, including a Rose Bowl victory over Stanford. The Spartans also finished No. 3 in the final Associated Press poll, which was the highest finish in program history since 1966. Prior to taking over at Michigan State, Dantonio went 18-17 in three years at Cincinnati. Dantonio recruited only one top-25 recruiting class from 2010-13, yet the Spartans rank No. 2 in the Big Ten during that span in conference victories. And with a hefty contract extension, Dantonio is poised to continue his success at Michigan State for the foreseeable future.

9. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
Career Record: 208-72-2 (23 years)
Notre Dame's Program Rank:No. 7 nationally

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Kelly is a proven winner at four different programs and has one national championship appearance on his resume after guiding Notre Dame to an undefeated regular season in 2012. In 23 years as a head coach, Kelly is 208-72-2 and has only one losing record during that span (2004, Central Michigan). At Grand Valley State, Kelly went 118-35-2 and won two Division II titles. In three seasons at Central Michigan, the Chippewas were 19-16 under Kelly’s direction. And at Cincinnati, Kelly guided the Bearcats to back-to-back BCS bowl appearances and three consecutive double-digit win seasons. With Everett Golson back at quarterback, Notre Dame could reach at least 10 victories for the second time in Kelly’s tenure.

10. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Record at Auburn: 12-2 (1 year)
Career Record: 21-5 (3 years)
Auburn’s Program Rank: (No. 6 in the SEC, No. 15 nationally)

Malzahn has only been a head coach for two years on the FBS level, but he is already ranks near the top of coaches in the SEC. The Texas native was a successful high school coach before making the jump to coordinate Arkansas’ offense in 2006. Malzahn left the Razorbacks to be the offensive coordinator at Tulsa from 2007-08, before returning to the SEC as Gene Chizik’s play-caller from 2009-11. Malzahn was one of the key pieces in Auburn’s national championship season in 2010 and landed his first chance to be a head coach in 2012 at Arkansas State. The Red Wolves went 9-3 in his only year, as Malzahn was hired by Auburn to replace Chizik at the end of the 2012 season. The Tigers went 3-9 in 2012, but Malzahn provided a quick fix, leading Auburn to a 12-2 final record with an appearance in the national championship. Prior to last season, Malzahn was already regarded as one of the top offensive minds in college football. And after guiding the Tigers to a No. 2 finish in the final Associated Press poll, Malzahn deserves to be ranked among the top 10-15 coaches nationally.

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11. James Franklin, Penn State
Record at Penn State: First Season
Career Record: 24-15 (3 years)
Penn State’s Program Rank: (No. 3 in Big Ten, No. 14 nationally)

Franklin comes to Penn State after a successful three-year stint at Vanderbilt. The Pennsylvania native is one of the top coaching hires for 2014 and should win big with the Nittany Lions. Franklin won 24 games with the Commodores, which tied the best three-year stretch in program history. Vanderbilt also recorded back-to-back nine-win seasons, finished in the Associated Press poll twice and claimed two bowl victories under Franklin. Prior to taking over with the Commodores, Franklin worked as the offensive coordinator at Kansas State and Maryland and served as an assistant with the Packers in 2005. After winning at one of the toughest programs in the BCS, Franklin is now at a job where he can consistently compete for titles. Franklin is also regarded as an excellent recruiter. With the resources available at Penn State, Franklin will have the Nittany Lions in contention for Big Ten titles and a spot in college football’s playoff in the near future.

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12. David Shaw, Stanford
Record at Stanford: 34-7 (3 years)
Career Record: 34-7 (3 years)
Stanford’s Program Rank:No. 5 in the Pac-12, No. 33 nationally

Life without Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines and Andrew Luck at quarterback was supposed to be tough at Stanford. But that hasn’t been the case for the Cardinal, as Shaw as kept Stanford among the best in the nation. The Cardinal is 34-7 over the last three years and has lost only four conference games during that span. Shaw has guided the program to three consecutive BCS bowls and two top-10 finishes in the final Associated Press poll. Stanford signed a small recruiting class in 2013, which finished No. 51 nationally by 247Sports Composite. However, in 2012 and 2014, Shaw inked classes that ranked among the top 15 in the nation. Stanford has claimed at least a share of the North Division title in each of the last three years, but that run could be tested in 2014 with the departure of a talented senior class and defensive coordinator Derek Mason. Despite the personnel losses, expect Shaw to have Stanford back in the Pac-12 title hunt once again.

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13. Chris Petersen, Washington
Record at Washington: First Year
Career Record: 92-12 (8 years)
Washington’s Program Rank: No. 4 in the Pac-12, No. 23 nationally

Petersen is a tough coach to rank among his Pac-12 peers. Winning big outside of a BCS conference is a good sign, but the week-to-week grind in the Pac-12 or any of the other BCS leagues is another matter. In eight years at Boise State, Petersen elevated the program to new heights. The Broncos went 92-12 and recorded four top-10 finishes in the final Associated Press poll. Also, Boise State claimed two BCS bowl victories and claimed at least a share of five conference titles. Another notch in Petersen’s resume was the Broncos’ track record against BCS teams. Boise State defeated Oklahoma, Oregon, Virginia Tech and Georgia in non-conference or bowl games during Petersen’s tenure. The California native is a good fit at Washington and inherits a solid core of talent to work with in 2014. If there’s any concern about Petersen, it has to be the track record of former Boise State coaches leaving to take BCS jobs. Dirk Koetter and Dan Hawkins struggled at their next stop after leaving Boise State. Despite the lack of success by Hawkins and Koetter, all signs point to Petersen being a home-run hire for Washington.

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14. Mark Richt, Georgia
Record at Georgia: 126-45 (13 years)
Career Record: 126-45 (13 years)
Georgia’s Program Rank: (No. 3 in the SEC, No. 8 nationally)

Richt has experienced his share of ups and downs in Athens, but he has been one of the nation’s most consistent coaches since his hire in 2001. Over the last 13 years, Georgia has averaged 9.7 wins a season under Richt. Additionally, the Bulldogs have recorded three top-five finishes in the final Associated Press poll and claimed at least a share of the East Division title six times. The only thing missing on Richt’s resume is a national championship. The Bulldogs have not played in a BCS bowl since the 2007 season, but the new playoff format should help this team, especially with more spots in elite bowls open to the SEC. Also, the addition of former Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is an upgrade over previous defensive play-caller Todd Grantham, which should bolster Richt's chances of winning a SEC title in the next few years.

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15. David Cutcliffe, Duke
Record at Duke: 31-44 (6 years)
Career Record: 75-73 (12 years)
Duke’s Program Rank: No. 14 in the ACC, No. 72 nationally

Cutcliffe’s career mark with the Blue Devils is only 31-44, but as we mentioned in the introduction, not all coaches can be judged solely on wins and losses. Duke is one of the toughest coaching jobs in a BCS conference. From 2000-07, the Blue Devils won only 10 games and had six seasons of at least 10 losses. Cutcliffe needed some time to establish a foundation, but Duke has turned a corner under his watch. The Blue Devils went 15-33 in Cutcliffe’s first four years. However, Duke is 16-11 over the last seasons and claimed the Coastal Division title in 2013. And in terms of recruiting, the Blue Devils have the No. 13 roster in the ACC, which only adds credit to the job Cutcliffe has done in Durham. Prior to his stint at Duke, Cutcliffe went 44-29 at Ole Miss, including a 10-3 record in 2003. Sustaining success with the Blue Devils won’t be easy. However, Cutcliffe is a sharp offensive mind and the program has made steady progress under his watch. Expect Duke to consistently be in the mix for bowl games under Cutcliffe in future seasons.

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16. Bobby Petrino, Louisville
Record at Louisville: 41-9 (4 years, 2003-06)
Career Record: 83-30 (9 years)
Louisville’s Program Rank:No. 6 in the ACC, No. 29 nationally

Petrino is a polarizing figure in college football. There’s no doubt he’s made mistakes, but he’s also an outstanding coach – and likely one of the best in the nation. After stops at Arkansas, Western Kentucky and in the NFL with the Falcons, Petrino has returned to Louisville. From 2003-06, the Cardinals went 41-9 under Petrino’s direction and finished No. 5 in the final Associated Press poll in 2006. Petrino transformed Arkansas from a 5-7 program in 2008 to an 11-2 team in 2011. However, his tenure ended with the Razorbacks after he lied to athletic director Jeff Long following a motorcycle crash in 2012. After sitting on the sidelines for a year, Petrino was hired by Western Kentucky to replace Willie Taggart, and the Hilltoppers finished 8-4 in Petrino’s only season. Again, there’s no question Petrino comes with baggage. But the Montana native is a proven winner – 83 wins in nine years – and one of the top offensive minds in college football.

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17. Les Miles, LSU
Record at LSU: 95-24 (9 years)
Career Record: 123-45 (13 years)
LSU’s Program Rank: (No. 4 in the SEC, No. 9 nationally)

The Mad Hatter is a bit of a gambler when it comes to making on-the-field decisions, and is always a good sound byte for the media, but let’s not overlook the Ohio native’s on-field success in recent years. In nine years at LSU, Miles is 95-24 and has won at least 10 games in each of the last four years. The Tigers had a slight dip in wins from 2008-09, finishing just 17-9 during that span. However, Miles returned LSU back to SEC and national prominence, and the Tigers finished No. 2 in the final Associated Press poll in 2011. Miles’ success isn’t just limited to LSU, as he recorded a 28-21 mark in four years at Oklahoma State from 2001-04. There’s no doubt regarding Miles’ ability to recruit (four top-10 classes over the last five years), and he has one of the SEC’s top staffs with proven coordinators in John Chavis and Cam Cameron, along with regarded assistants in Jeff Grimes, Frank Wilson and Brick Haley. 

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18. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Record at Northwestern: 55-46 (8 years)
Career Record: 55-46 (8 years)
Northwestern’s Program Rank: (No. 13 in Big Ten, No. 59 nationally)

Fitzgerald’s career record doesn’t compare to Urban Meyer or Mark Dantonio, but let’s keep in mind he’s also coaching at one of the Big Ten’s toughest jobs. One way to look at Fitzgerald’s ranking is this: If he was at a program at the top of college football’s food chain with more resources, we think he would win at a higher level. In eight years at Northwestern, Fitzgerald has been outstanding. The Wildcats are 55-46 under his watch and played in five consecutive bowl games from 2008-12. Northwestern also won the 2013 Gator Bowl, which was the program’s first postseason win since 1949. The 1-7 mark in Big Ten play last season was Northwestern’s worst conference record under Fitzgerald, but the Wildcats were hit hard by injuries. Under Fitzgerald, Northwestern will always be a factor in the bowl picture and should be a tough out for the rest of the Big Ten.

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19. Todd Graham, Arizona State
Record at Arizona State: 18-9 (2 years)
Career Record: 67-38 (8 years)
Arizona State’s Program Rank:No. 6 in the Pac-12, No. 38 nationally

Graham gets a bad rap from his job-hopping in recent years, but there’s no question he’s one of the Pac-12’s top coaches. At Rice, Graham inherited a team that went 1-10 in the season prior to his arrival, and the Owls improved by six games in his first season and finished 7-6 overall. Graham was hired at Tulsa after one season at Rice and went 36-17 in four seasons. The Golden Hurricane had three years of at least 10 wins and a No. 24 finish in the final Associated Press poll in 2010. Graham took over at Pittsburgh in 2011 and went 6-6, but his stay in the Steel City lasted only one year. Arizona State picked Graham to replace Dennis Erickson, and the program has been on the upswing over the last two years. The Sun Devils are 18-9 under Graham’s watch and claimed the Pac-12 South title last season. Arizona State has started facility renovations to Sun Devil Stadium and inked extensions with Graham and offensive coordinator Mike Norvell. With Graham at the helm, combined with a commitment to keeping good assistants and improved facilities, Arizona State is poised to become a consistent challenger for the South Division title.

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20. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
Record at Oklahoma State: 77-38 (9 years)
Career Record: 77-38 (9 years)
Oklahoma State’s Program Rank:No. 3 in the Big 12, No. 22 nationally

Gundy has raised the bar during his tenure in Stillwater, winning 77 games over the last nine years and one Big 12 Championship in 2011. The Cowboys’ 2011 Big 12 title was the program’s first outright conference championship since 1948, and Gundy’s 77 wins rank first among coaches in Oklahoma State history. Since recording back-to-back seven-win seasons from 2006-07, the Cowboys have not won fewer than eight games. With a good chunk of talent leaving the roster heading into 2014, Oklahoma State appears to be set for a rebuilding year. However, Gundy has proved there’s plenty of staying power in Stillwater, and even if 2014 is a rebuilding effort, the Cowboys won’t be down for long.

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21. Gary Andersen, Wisconsin
Record at Wisconsin: 9-4 (1 year)
Career Record: 39-35 (5 years)
Wisconsin’s Program Rank: (No. 5 in Big Ten, No. 24 nationally)

Andersen isn’t as experienced in the Big Ten as Ferentz, Kill, Hoke or Pelini, but he has a strong resume in just six years as a head coach. Andersen’s first head coaching job came at Southern Utah in 2003. The Thunderbirds went 4-7 Andersen's debut, which represented a three-game improvement from 2002. After one season at Southern Utah, Andersen worked at Utah from 2004-08 as an assistant, including the final three years as the defensive coordinator. In 2009, he was hired as Utah State’s head coach. Andersen went 8-16 in the first two years but recorded an 18-8 mark over the final two seasons. Utah State’s 11-win campaign in 2012 was the most victories in school history. Andersen went 9-4 in his Wisconsin debut and all four losses were by 10 points or less.

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22. Gary Pinkel, Missouri
Record at Missouri: 102-63 (13 years)
Career Record: 175-100-3 (23 years)
Missouri’s Program Rank: (No. 11 in the SEC, No. 31 nationally)

Much like Mark Richt at Georgia, Pinkel has been a consistent winner during his career at Missouri. The Tigers slipped to 5-7 in their SEC debut in 2012, but injuries – especially to quarterback James Franklin and running back Henry Josey – were the driving factors behind the disappointing season. However, one year later, Missouri won the East Division and finished No. 5 in the final Associated Press poll. Under Pinkel, the Tigers have winning records in eight out of the last nine years, with four double-digit win totals since 2007. Prior to Missouri, Pinkel was a successful coach at Toledo, recording a 73-37-3 record in 10 years with the Rockets. It was easy for some in the SEC to write off Pinkel after the 5-7 record in 2012. But heading into 2014, Missouri looks like a contender for the East Division title once again, and Pinkel has the program on stable ground entering its third year in the SEC.

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23. Gary Patterson, TCU
Record at TCU: 120-44 (12 years)
Career Record: 120-44 (12 years)
TCU’s Program Rank:No. 7 in the Big 12, No. 42 nationally

Moving to the Big 12 has been a challenge for Patterson and TCU, as the Horned Frogs are just 11-14 overall and 6-12 in Big 12 play over the last two seasons. But prior to joining the Big 12, TCU was a consistent top-25 team. The Horned Frogs recorded three top-10 finishes in the final Associated Press poll from 2008-10, and this program has only two losing records in Patterson’s 12 years. It’s one thing to win in the Mountain West, but it’s a huge challenge to elevate a program into Big 12 title contention on a consistent basis. The coaching staff needs time to upgrade the overall program depth and talent to compete with Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State, but that shouldn’t be an issue when you look at TCU’s track record of success under Patterson. Also, the Kansas native is one of the top defensive minds in the conference – as evidenced by allowing just 4.8 yards per play last season. The Horned Frogs have stumbled a bit in their new conference, which isn’t really a surprise when you consider the struggles of West Virginia and Utah during their conference transition period. However, the future in Fort Worth still appears to be very bright for Patterson.

24. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
Record at Texas A&M: 20-6 (2 years)
Career Record: 55-23 (6 years)
Texas A&M’s Program Rank: (No. 5 in the SEC, No. 13 nationally)

Armed with the SEC logo, facility renovations and Sumlin’s coaching, Texas A&M is poised to be a factor on the national scene for the foreseeable future. The Aggies went 11-2 and finished No. 5 nationally in the final Associated Press poll in 2012 but slipped to 9-4 and just .500 (4-4) in SEC play last year. Prior to his stint at Texas A&M, Sumlin went 35-17 in four years at Houston. Building a program into a consistent national title contender will take time. And sometimes it's necessary to take a step back before moving forward. Through two years in College Station, Sumlin guided Texas A&M through a difficult conference transition, produced a Heisman Trophy winner (Johnny Manziel) and has recruited back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes. Without Manziel and standout receiver Mike Evans, the Aggies may take a step back in 2014. However, with all of the young talent on the roster, the future looks bright in Aggieland.

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25. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
Record at Virginia Tech: 224-109-2 (27 years)
Career Record: 266-132-4 (33 years)
Virginia Tech’s Program Rank:No. 4 in the ACC, No. 27 nationally

Beamer is the dean of college football coaches with 33 consecutive years of head coach experience. The North Carolina native worked as an assistant at Citadel and Murray State from 1973-80 and was promoted to the top spot with the Racers in 1981. In six seasons as Murray State’s head coach, Beamer went 42-23-2 and finished his tenure with four consecutive winning records. Beamer started his tenure at Virginia Tech with losing records in four out of the first six years. However, the Hokies have been one of the nation’s most consistent teams since 1993. Virginia Tech has played in 21 straight bowl games and has won at least 10 games in eight out of the last 10 years. While the program has been remarkably consistent, the Hokies are 15-11 in the last two seasons. Even though that record marks a slight drop from the early 2000s, there’s no reason to hit the panic button in Blacksburg going into 2014.

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26. Charlie Strong, Texas
Record at Texas: First Year
Career Record: 37-16 (4 years)
Texas’ Program Rank: No. 1 in the Big 12, No. 1 nationally

Strong was somewhat of a surprising hire at Texas, but all signs point to this paying huge dividends for the Longhorns. In four years as Louisville’s head coach, Strong went 37-15 and earned four bowl appearances. The Cardinals won 23 games over the final two seasons and claimed back-to-back top-15 finishes in the final Associated Press poll from 2012-13. Prior to taking over at Louisville, Strong accumulated a wealth of experience as an assistant at Florida, Ole Miss, Notre Dame and South Carolina. There’s no secret Strong is a sharp defensive mind, a good recruiter, and someone who focuses on fundamentals and physical play. Considering Texas has struggled to develop its elite talent over the last few years, Strong and his coaching staff should fix that problem. Additionally, the consistent problems on the offensive line seem to be addressed with the addition of Joe Wickline. Coaching at Texas will require a few changes for Strong, especially when it comes to the booster glad-handing and Longhorn Network. But there's little reason to believe Strong won't win big at Texas. 

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27. Mike Riley, Oregon State
Record at Oregon State: 88-73 (13 years)
Career Record: 88-73 (13 years)
Oregon State’s Program Rank:No. 10 in the Pac-12, No. 54 nationally

Riley is in his second stint at Oregon State, and the Beavers have been one of the Pac-12’s most consistent programs under his watch. From 1971-98, Oregon State failed to earn a winning record. But since 2003, the Beavers have eight winning seasons out of the last 11 years. Riley has guided Oregon State to six years of at least eight wins during that span. The Beavers also have 15 bowl appearances in school history – eight of them are under Riley’s watch. So while Oregon State is still looking for a Pac-12 title under Riley, he has clearly elevated a program that struggled mightily prior to his arrival. And if you needed any additional data on Riley’s impact, take a look at recruiting rankings. The Beavers own the No. 10 roster in the Pac-12, yet rank sixth in the conference in conference wins over the last four years.

28. Mike Leach, Washington State
Record at Washington State: 9-16 (2 years)
Career Record: 93-59 (12 years)
Washington State’s Program Rank: No. 12 in the Pac-12, No. 63 nationally

Washington State is the toughest job in the Pac-12. But the Cougars have the right coach to keep this program competitive on a consistent basis. Leach was forced out at Texas Tech after 10 successful years in Lubbock. The Red Raiders never missed a bowl game under Leach and finished five times in the final Associated Press poll. Leach is only 9-16 in two years at Washington State. However, the Cougars improved their win total by three games from 2012 to 2013. Additionally, Washington State went to a bowl game for the first time since 2003 last year. Leach is one of the top offensive minds in college football and will help Washington State move a little closer to contending with the Pac-12 North’s top teams over the next few years.

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29. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
Record at Ole Miss: 15-11 (2 years)
Career Record: 45-18 (5 years)
Ole Miss’ Program Rank: (No. 10 in the SEC, No. 30 nationally)

Freeze still has plenty to prove within the SEC, but there’s also a lot of potential. The Mississippi native has brought instant success to each of his three college coaching jobs, starting at Lambuth in 2008. The Eagles won seven games in the two seasons prior to Freeze’s arrival, but he went 8-4 in 2008 and 12-1 in 2009. Freeze served as the offensive coordinator at Arkansas State in 2010 and was promoted to head coach in 2011. The Red Wolves won the Sun Belt title in Freeze’s only season, finishing 10-2 with a trip to the GoDaddy Bowl. In two years at Ole Miss, Freeze is 15-11 and 6-10 in SEC play. Those totals aren’t particularly overwhelming, but the Rebels finished 6-18 in the two years prior to his arrival. With two top-15 recruiting classes, the talent level is on the rise in Oxford. Freeze needs time to match the depth at Alabama, Auburn and LSU, but the gap is slowly starting to close.

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30. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
Record at Arizona: 16-10 (2 years)
Career Record: 136-94-2 (20 years)
Arizona’s Program Rank:No. 7 in the Pac-12, No. 39 nationally

A three-year stint at Michigan is really the only blemish on Rodriguez’s 20 years on the sidelines. The West Virginia native started his coaching career at Salem in 1988 and had his second opportunity as a head coach at Glenville State in 1990. In seven years with the Pioneers, he went 43-28-2 and was hired at Tulane to coordinate the offense after the 1996 season. After two years with the Green Wave, Rodriguez was hired as Clemson’s offensive coordinator (1999-00) and then took over the top spot at West Virginia in 2001. The Mountaineers were 60-26 under Rodriguez and were one win away from playing for the national title in 2007. Rodriguez left his home state for the opportunity to coach at Michigan, but his three years with the Wolverines resulted in a disappointing 15-22 record. And after sitting out a year, Rodriguez jumped back into the coaching game at Arizona. So far, so good in Tucson. The Wildcats have recorded back-to-back 8-5 seasons and two bowl victories under his watch.

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31. Jim Mora, UCLA
Record at UCLA: 19-8 (2 years)
Career Record: 19-8 (2 years)
UCLA’s Program Rank:No. 3 in the Pac-12, No. 18 nationally

Mora has only been at UCLA for two seasons, but the former NFL head coach is making a difference. The Bruins are 19-8 under Mora, including a 12-6 mark during the regular season in Pac-12 play. UCLA finished No. 16 in the final Associated Press poll in 2013, which was the program’s first appearance in the last ranking since a No. 16 mark in 2005. Recruiting under Mora is also stable, as the Bruins have signed three consecutive top-20 classes. UCLA also made a big commitment to Mora by signing him to a six-year extension at the end of the 2013 season. With Brett Hundley returning for his junior year, the Bruins will have a chance to take the next step under Mora in 2014. 

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32. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
Record at Mississippi State: 36-28 (5 years)
Career Record: 36-28 (5 years)
Mississippi State’s Program Rank: (No. 13 in the SEC, No. 48 nationally)

Winning at Mississippi State is no easy task. Just how difficult? Counting Mullen, the last seven coaches in Starkville had a losing record in SEC play. Jackie Sherrill guided the Bulldogs to an appearance in the SEC Championship, but his final record in SEC contests was just 43-59-1. Considering how difficult it is to win at a high level at Mississippi State, it’s unrealistic for Mullen to compete for SEC titles every year. In five years with the Bulldogs, Mullen is 36-28 and has guided the program to four consecutive bowl appearances. Additionally, Mullen is 4-1 against rival Ole Miss. Closing the gap on the rest of the West Division will be challenging, but Mullen clearly has the program going on the right direction. Considering the challenge of winning at Mississippi State, a strong case could be made Mullen needs to rank higher on this list of SEC coaches. 

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33. Al Golden, Miami
Record at Miami: 22-15 (3 years)
Career Record: 49-49 (8 years)
Miami’s Program Rank: No. 3 in the ACC, No. 21 nationally

Golden is a tough coach to rank among his ACC peers. On the positive side: Miami has increased its win total in each of the last two seasons after winning six games in Golden’s debut. The Hurricanes are also seeing an uptick in recruiting, bringing in the No. 12 (2014), No. 14 (2013) and No. 10 (2012) classes after signing the No. 33 group in 2011. But here’s the bad news: This is Miami – the No. 3 coaching job in the ACC. The Hurricanes are still looking for their first appearance in the conference championship, and Golden has yet to produce a ranked team in the final Associated Press poll. With the No. 2 roster in the ACC, Miami needs to win at a higher level. Prior to taking over in Coral Gables, Golden took Temple from a 1-11 record in 2006 to a program with back-to-back winning seasons in 2009-10. Some of the Owls’ success under Golden was due to the transition to the MAC, but Golden helped to mold Temple from one of the worst programs back to respectability. 2014 should be a telling year for Golden and his overall leadership at Miami, as the Hurricanes have the talent to win the Coastal. However, enough questions remain that Miami could finish third in the division. 

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34. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
Record at Clemson: 51-23 (6 years)
Career Record: 51-23 (6 years)
Clemson’s Program Rank:No. 2 in the ACC, No. 20 nationally

Swinney has helped Clemson shake the underachieving label recently, recording a school-record 32 victories over the last three years. The Tigers are 14-2 in the last two seasons of ACC play and have two BCS bowl appearances in three years. Clemson finished No. 8 in the final Associated Press poll in 2013, which is the best final ranking for the program since Danny Ford guided the Tigers to a No. 8 ranking in 1982. Swinney is at his best in the program CEO role. Coordinators Chad Morris and Brent Venables are two of the nation’s highest-paid assistants, and Morris’ arrival in 2011 sparked instant improvement on offense. Prior to hiring Morris, Swinney was just 19-15. One trouble spot for Swinney is his record against rival South Carolina and Florida State. The Gamecocks have won five in a row over Clemson, while the Tigers are 2-4 under Swinney against the Seminoles. In order for Swinney to take the next step as a head coach, he has to consistently beat Florida State and South Carolina.

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35. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Record at Iowa: 108-79 (15 years)
Career Record: 120-100 (18 years)
Iowa’s Program Rank: (No. 7 in Big Ten, No. 32 nationally)

Ferentz may not be the flashiest coach, but he is easily one of the top-six coaches in the Big Ten. Iowa is a solid job, but it also has its drawbacks. There’s not a ton of in-state talent to build a team, but the Hawkeyes are 15-17 in conference play over the last four years, which is almost equal to Michigan during that span (18-14). Ferentz went 4-19 in his first two years at Iowa, but the Hawkeyes recorded six consecutive bowl appearances from 2001-06, including an Orange Bowl trip after the 2002 season. After missing out on a bowl in 2007, Iowa earned four straight postseason trips from 2008-11, and Ferentz got the program back on track after a 4-8 mark in 2012. With a favorable schedule and 12 starters back, Ferentz should have Iowa in contention for the West Division title in 2014.

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36. Jerry Kill, Minnesota
Record at Minnesota: 17-21 (3 years)
Career Record: 144-94 (20 years)
Minnesota’s Program Rank: (No. 11 in Big Ten, No. 56 nationally)

Kill was a successful coach prior to taking over at Minnesota and has guided the Golden Gophers to back-to-back bowl games for the first time sine 2008-09. In five years at Saginaw Valley State (1994-98), Kill went 38-14 and followed that stint with a two-year stop at Emporia State (11-11). From 2001-07, Kill recorded a 55-32 mark at Southern Illinois, which included five consecutive appearances in the FCS playoffs. And in three years at Northern Illinois, Kill went 23-16 with three bowl trips. After a 3-9 mark at Minnesota in 2011, Kill is 14-12 and clearly has the program on the right track. Also, last year’s 4-4 Big Ten mark is the first record of .500 or better in Big Ten play by Minnesota since 2005.

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37. Butch Jones, Tennessee
Record at Tennessee: 5-7 (1 year)
Career Record: 55-34 (7 years)
Tennessee’s Program Rank: (No. 7 in the SEC, No. 16 nationally)

In his first year at Tennessee, Jones had a similar overall record to his predecessor (Derek Dooley), but the Volunteers appeared to take a step forward in 2013. Tennessee lost to Georgia by three points in overtime and fell to Vanderbilt 14-10 in late November. The signs of progress were small, but Jones is recruiting at a high level and has a track record of success. From 2007-09 at Central Michigan, Jones went 27-13 and won two MAC titles. At Cincinnati, Jones recorded a 23-14 mark and finished with a 10-4 mark in the Big East over the final two years. Jones is unproven in the SEC, but all signs point to progress on Rocky Top heading into 2014.

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38. Brady Hoke, Michigan
Record at Michigan: 26-13 (3 years)
Career Record: 73-63 (11 years)
Michigan’s Program Rank: (No. 2 in Big Ten, No. 10 nationally)

A few years ago, Hoke would have ranked higher on this list. However, Hoke’s stock has been on the decline after finishing 8-5 in 2012 and 7-6 in 2013. Prior to taking over at Michigan, Hoke recorded a 34-38 record in six seasons at Ball State, which included a 12-1 mark in 2008. He went 13-12 in two years at San Diego State and helped the program break an 11-year bowl drought with an appearance in the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl. Hoke went 11-2 in his Michigan debut in 2011 and led the Wolverines to a victory over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. However, despite back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes, the Wolverines are just 15-11 from 2012-13. Considering the expectations at Michigan, Hoke needs to show the program is headed in the right direction in 2014 to avoid the hot seat.

39. Mark Hudspeth, UL Lafayette
Career Record: 93-33 (10 years)

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Hudspeth is a rising star in the coaching ranks and should have his pick of BCS jobs if he’s interested in leaving UL Lafayette after 2014. In three years with the Ragin’ Cajuns, Hudspeth is 27-12 overall and 17-6 in Sun Belt play. UL Lafayette claimed a share of the Sun Belt title in 2013, and the program has three consecutive bowl victories. Prior to his stint with the Ragin’ Cajuns, Hudspeth went 66-21 in seven years with North Alabama. He also has stops in his career at Mississippi State (2009-10), Delta State and Navy. If a SEC job opens this offseason, keep an eye on Hudspeth as a potential replacement.

40. Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati
Career Record: 139-81 (18 years)

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