Ranking all 130 college football head coaches is an impossible task. But with the 2017 season right around the corner, Athlon Sports is continuing its countdown to Week 1 by evaluating all 130 coaches and ranking them from best to worst.
When evaluating and ranking all 130 coaches, we established a simple criteria: Everything is considered when ranking head coaches. This is not simply a list of coaches ranked by accomplishment or wins. While those aspects are important, it doesn’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. It's always easier for programs 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 coaches: Is the coach more involved with X's and O's or more of a CEO? In our rankings, we valued coaches who are more involved with X's and O's. How is the coach when it comes to the recruiting trail? Are there factors such as facilities or budget concerns that have an overall impact on the program?Is the coach successful at only one stop? Or has that coach built a solid resume from different jobs? What type of shape was the program in when the coach took over the job? What is the overall trajectory of the program?
Success with any college football team starts with coaching. Even if a program doesn’t have the resources of the nation’s elite jobs, a good coach can elevate a program into national title contention. However, similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.
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 knowing what they accomplished so far and their career trajectory? Remember, you don't get the assistants - only the head coach. And head-to-head wins or the previous year's FBS coach rankings do not matter for this season's 130 list.
Athlon's editorial staff has voted on a ranking of coaches for all 10 conferences and the four FBS Independent programs. Here are the results for 130 teams:
College Football 2017 Coach Rankings by Conference
Ranking All 130 College Football Head Coaches for 2017
130. Jay Norvell, Nevada
Norvell has been an assistant in the NFL and college ranks since 1986 and finally landed his first opportunity to be a head coach at the FBS level following the 2016 campaign. After Nevada parted ways with Brian Polian, Norvell was hired to help the program return to the top of the Mountain West. As an assistant, Norvell made stops at Northern Iowa, Wisconsin and Iowa State, while calling the plays or sharing the co-offensive coordinator title at Nebraska, UCLA, Oklahoma, Texas and Arizona State. Additionally, he’s garnered valuable information from working under standout coaches like Bob Stoops and Barry Alvarez, while playing at Iowa under Hayden Fry. Norvell has a wealth of experience as an assistant, but the first-year coach figures to have a transition period in his debut in Reno.
129. Shawn Elliott, Georgia State
With an improved stadium situation and a prime location in Atlanta for fertile recruiting territory, Georgia State is a job with potential in the Sun Belt. Elliott is just the third coach in program history and this will be his first full-time job. Before taking over in Atlanta, Elliott worked as an assistant at South Carolina from 2010-16 and Appalachian State from 1997-09. Elliott was regarded for his work as an offensive line coach and served as South Carolina’s interim coach in 2015 after Steve Spurrier resigned midway through the season. The Gamecocks went 1-5 under Elliott but lost all five games by 10 points or less.
128. Brent Brennan, San Jose State
As a California native with strong roots on the recruiting trail, Brennan seems like the right coach to get San Jose State back on track after the program failed to post a winning record under former coach Ron Caragher. While the 2017 season is Brennan’s first as a head coach, he’s no stranger to the program. From 2005-10, Brennan worked under Dick Tomey (2005-09) and Mike MacIntyre (2010) at San Jose State as an assistant coach. The California native spent the last six seasons at Oregon State as a receivers coach and also has previous stint at Cal Poly (2001-04).
Related: Mountain West 2017 Predictions
127. Everett Withers, Texas State
Withers and his Texas State staff promised a “Party in the End Zone” last year, but the Bobcats finished 2-10 and failed to win a game in conference play. As expected with any new staff, there was roster turnover and a transition in schemes, which certainly hindered this team’s ability to compete last season. The program’s only victories in 2016 came in overtime against Ohio and versus FCS opponent Incarnate Word. And as a sign of how much work Withers and this staff need to do in 2017: Texas State lost nine of its 10 games by 20 or more points. With the addition of graduate transfer quarterback Damian Williams, along with the No. 1 recruiting class by the 247Sports Composite, the Bobcats should take a step forward in 2017.
126. Mike Jinks, Bowling Green
Jinks faced a tough assignment in his first year on campus in 2016. Not only were the Falcons replacing several key players from the 2015 MAC Championship team, Jinks was learning the ropes in his first season as a head coach at the FBS level. As expected, Bowling Green got off to a slow start. The Falcons opened with a 1-8 start before winning their final three games to finish 4-8. The end of the 2016 campaign provided optimism for Jinks and his staff, which should help this team take another step forward in 2017. With no previous head coaching experience at the FBS level and only three years of experience as an assistant, Jinks was a curious hire for Bowling Green (one of the MAC’s better coaching jobs). However, if Jinks and the Falcons pick up where they left off last season, the Texas native should move up this list in 2017.
125. Mike Neu, Ball State
Neu returned to his alma mater last season to take over as the program’s head coach after Pete Lembo left to be an assistant at Maryland. Neu’s first year had its share of ups and downs. The Cardinals started 3-1 but finished 4-8 and won only one game in MAC play. However, six of Ball State’s eight losses came by 10 points or less. The Indiana native previously worked in the NFL as an assistant with the Saints, spent two years at Tulane (2012-13) and also had a stint in the Arena Football League from 1998-08. The former Ball State quarterback hopes to get the Cardinals back in the postseason this year for the first time since 2013.
Related: MAC Football 2017 Predictions
124. Paul Haynes, Kent State
Haynes enters 2017 squarely on the hot seat. The former Kent State defensive back is just 12-35 at his alma mater over the last four years. Additionally, the Golden Flashes have managed only eight wins in MAC games during that span. Prior to taking over as Kent State’s head coach, Haynes worked at a handful of programs as a defensive assistant, including Arkansas, Ohio State, Michigan State and Louisville. Defense has been a strength for the Golden Flashes over the last two years, finishing second in the MAC in fewest yards per play allowed. However, Kent State’s offense hasn’t finished higher than 11th in the league in scoring.
123. Doug Martin, New Mexico State
Martin has the unique distinction of coaching at two of college football’s toughest jobs. Before taking over at New Mexico State, Martin guided Kent State to a 29-53 record from 2004-10. The Golden Flashes had three seasons of at least five wins (and one six-win campaign) under Martin’s direction but never recorded a winning mark. Progress has also been tough to come by in Las Cruces. The Aggies are 10-38 under Martin and have yet to eclipse three wins in a season.
122. Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina
Montgomery arrived at East Carolina regarded for his work as an offensive assistant at Duke (2006-09 and 2014-15) and also in the NFL with the Steelers from 2010-12. However, his debut resulted in a 3-9 record last season and the Pirates are likely to be picked near the bottom of the American Athletic Conference once again in 2017. To speed up the rebuilding process, Montgomery picked up a couple of graduate transfers, including former Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk, Clemson running back Tyshon Dye and Minnesota defensive end Gaelin Elmore. East Carolina has missed out on bowl games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2004-05.
121. Tyson Summers, Georgia Southern
It’s no secret high expectations surround the Georgia Southern job, as it’s one of the best in the Sun Belt and has a lengthy track record of success. With that in mind, it’s no surprise Summers is already under pressure to turn things around after a 5-7 record in 2016 – his first in Statesboro. The Eagles finished 2016 on a high note by beating Troy, but the five-win season represented a four-win regression from 2015. Prior to taking over at Georgia Southern, Summers worked as a defensive coordinator at Colorado State and UCF, while also spending time as an assistant at UAB. The Georgia native hopes to show progress in his second season in Statesboro.
120. Tim Lester, Western Michigan
Lester is the MAC’s only new coach for 2017. And the former Western Michigan quarterback has some big shoes to fill. Former coach P.J. Fleck elevated the program’s profile on the recruiting trail and led the Broncos to a MAC title, Cotton Bowl appearance and a No. 15 finish in the Associated Press poll in 2016. Can Lester continue the momentum in Kalamazoo? As a former player and assistant (2005-06) with the program, Lester has a good idea of what it takes to win at Western Michigan. Additionally, he’s accumulated experience as an assistant with Power 5 programs Purdue (2016) and Syracuse (2013-15) over the last four seasons. Lester has previous head coaching experience from a stint at Saint Joseph’s (2004) and Elmhurst (2008-12). He went 40-23 over five years between those two programs.
119. Brad Lambert, Charlotte
Starting a program from scratch is no easy assignment. That’s exactly the task Lambert has navigated over the last four seasons with the 49ers as the first coach in program history. After two years as a FCS Independent, Lambert guided Charlotte through a transition to the FBS ranks. The 49ers are 6-18 since joining the FBS level and 16-30 overall under Lambert. He’s yet to record a winning record, but the program took a step forward by winning four games overall and three in league play last season.
118. Sean Kugler, UTEP
Kugler took over at his alma mater prior to the 2013 season and is likely facing a make-or-break 2017 campaign. After a 2-10 debut, the Miners finished 7-6 and played in the New Mexico Bowl in 2014. However, UTEP is just 9-15 over the last two seasons and has won only five conference games in that span. Kugler came to El Paso after working for three years with the Steelers as the offensive line coach. However, the offense has not finished higher than ninth in the league in scoring in Kugler’s tenure and standout running back Aaron Jones must be replaced this offseason.
117. Major Applewhite, Houston
Applewhite has big shoes to fill in replacing Tom Herman at Houston. Under Herman’s watch, the Cougars went 22-4 over the last two years, won the Peach Bowl in the 2015 season and claimed the American Athletic Conference’s No. 1 recruiting class in 2016. While Herman won’t be easy to replace, Applewhite was also instrumental in the program’s success over the last two seasons as the program’s offensive coordinator. After leading the American Athletic Conference in scoring in 2015, the Cougars ranked fifth by averaging 35.8 points per game last season. The former Texas quarterback also has experience as an assistant from stints at Texas, Alabama, Rice and Syracuse. Applewhite already has one game as the program’s head coach under his belt (Las Vegas Bowl), but the real work begins in 2017.
116. Luke Fickell, Cincinnati
Fickell has strong roots throughout Ohio. He’s a native of the state, played his college ball at Ohio State and also worked with the Buckeyes as an assistant coach. That experience and background should help Fickell continue to build on those connections on the recruiting trail for the Bearcats. The Ohio native also spent 2011 as Ohio State’s interim coach after Jim Tressel resigned prior to the season. Fickell guided Ohio State to a 6-7 mark that year and was retained on Urban Meyer’s staff as a co-defensive coordinator in 2012. Over the last couple of seasons, Fickell has teamed with Chris Ash and Greg Schiano to mold some of the nation’s top defenses. While Fickell was an interim coach for one season, this is his first opportunity to run a program on a full-time basis. With his experience in the state of Ohio, Fickell should be a solid hire for Cincinnati as it looks to rebound after winning 11 games over the last two years.
115. Lance Leipold, Buffalo
After a successful stint at Wisconsin-Whitewater, Leipold is looking to replicate that success at Buffalo. In two years with the Bulls, Leipold is 7-17 and 4-12 in conference action. That’s a far cry from the 109-6 record at Wisconsin-Whitewater, along with the six Division III championships. However, the track record of success from his previous stop should provide some confidence this coaching staff will help the Bulls take a step forward over the next few seasons. Buffalo returns 14 starters for 2017, including quarterback Tyree Jackson, standout linebacker Khalil Hodge and one of the MAC’s top offensive lines.
114. Mark Whipple, UMass
Life as a FBS Independent isn’t an easy path, and the Minutemen finished 2-10 in their first year since leaving the MAC after the 2015 campaign. Whipple has experienced plenty of success throughout his career, posting a 129-87 overall mark over three different programs. He previously guided UMass to 49 wins from 1998-03 and claimed the 1998 FCS National Championship. After coaching stops with the Steelers, Browns, Eagles and as Miami’s offensive coordinator, Whipple returned to UMass prior to the 2014 season. He’s struggled to rekindle the success from his first stint with the Minutemen, as UMass is just 8-28 over the last three years.
113. Justin Wilcox, California
Wilcox returns to the West Coast for his first head coaching opportunity. The former Oregon defensive back spent most of his coaching career on the West Coast prior to a stint in 2016 as Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator. Under Wilcox’s direction, the Badgers finished third in the Big Ten by limiting opponents to just 15.6 points a game last fall. The Oregon native’s one season at Wisconsin came after two years as the defensive play-caller at USC (2014-15). He also worked in the same role at Washington (2012-13), Tennessee (2010-11) and Boise State (2006-09). Wilcox also spent three years as California’s linebacker coach from 2003-05. Considering the Golden Bears have not finished higher than eighth in the Pac-12 in scoring defense over the last five years, choosing a coach with a solid defensive background should fix some of the issues on that side of the ball. And to help ease Wilcox’s transition to head coach, he hired two proven coordinators and former head coaches – Beau Baldwin on offense and Tim DeRuyter on defense.
112. Geoff Collins, Temple
The outlook on Temple’s program has significantly changed over the last 10 years. After being dismissed from the Big East after 2004 and forced to spend time as an Independent (2005-06) and a stint in the MAC (2007-11), the Owls returned to the Big East in 2012 and remained in the league as it shifted to the American Athletic Conference. This program has taken a significant step forward on the gridiron in recent years, as Temple has four bowl appearances since 2009 and posted 20 wins over the last two years – the most in a two-year stretch in program history. Collins has big shoes to fill in replacing Matt Rhule but was one of college football’s rising stars in the assistant ranks and is poised to keep the program performing at a high level. Collins helped Florida’s defense rank among the SEC’s best from 2015-16 and also had previous stops in his career at Mississippi State (2011-14), FIU (2010) and UCF (2008-09). This is the first head coaching job for Collins.
111. Tony Sanchez, UNLV
Entering his third year in charge, Sanchez has UNLV trending in the right direction. The Rebels went 3-9 in his debut but improved to 4-8 last season and could push for a bowl game in 2017. Prior to taking over at UNLV, Sanchez had a successful run as the head coach at Bishop Gorman High School. From 2009-14, Sanchez guided the high school to an 85-5 record and posted three undefeated seasons. Making the jump from high school coach to the collegiate ranks has been relatively seamless for the California native. Expect Sanchez to climb this list in future seasons.
110. Chris Ash, Rutgers
As expected, Ash’s first season at Rutgers was a struggle. The Scarlet Knights finished 2-10 overall and winless in Big Ten play (0-9). The problems weren’t just limited to wins and losses. A deeper look at the stats showed just how far this program has to go to catch the middle of the conference. Rutgers was held scoreless in four games and gave up 40 points a contest in Big Ten action. It’s no secret Ash is going to need another year or two to recruit and restock the roster. However, judging by his track record as an assistant at Ohio State, Arkansas and Wisconsin, Ash should help this program take a step forward in the next couple of seasons.
109. David Beaty, Kansas
Beaty only has two wins through his first two seasons in Lawrence, but Kansas is making progress. The Jayhawks ended a 19-game losing streak in Big 12 play by defeating Texas last year and finished 2-10 overall. While there are few moral victories, Kansas lost two other Big 12 games by seven points or less last fall. Beaty is accumulating the right pieces and upgraded his staff with the addition of play-caller Doug Meacham this spring. The Texas native needs more time to turn this program around.
108. Paul Petrino, Idaho
The Vandals are moving back to FCS after the 2017 season, but Petrino and his staff have a chance to close out the FBS run with another solid year. Idaho had a breakthrough season last fall, finishing 9-4 and claiming a postseason victory over Colorado State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The nine wins represented the program’s first winning mark since 2009 and equaled the total number of victories recorded from 2011-15. Petrino is 15-33 overall at Idaho and returns enough talent to push for back-to-back bowl games for the first time in program history.
107. Tom Allen, Indiana
After Kevin Wilson’s dismissal in early December, Indiana athletic director Fred Glass didn’t have to look far for his replacement. Allen – an Indiana native – was promoted to head coach after spending 2016 as the program’s defensive coordinator. The Hoosiers’ defense showed marked improvement under Allen’s watch. After giving up 6.4 yards per play in 2015, Indiana cut that total to 5.1 last season. Even though Allen now carries the head coach title, he’s still going to play a key role in shaping the defense. However, this will be his first full year as the program’s head coach, and the Big Ten’s East Division is one of the toughest in college football. Prior to Indiana, Allen worked as a defensive coordinator for one year at USF (2015) and spent three years as an assistant at Ole Miss. He’s 0-1 in his head coaching career after Indiana lost 26-24 to Utah in the Foster Farms Bowl.
106. Lovie Smith, Illinois
It’s not often a program can hire a coach who led a team to a Super Bowl appearance, but that’s exactly the opportunity Illinois was awarded last season. Athletic director Josh Whitman aimed high after his arrival in March and secured Smith with a significant six-year deal. As expected with a late start and a roster in need of repair, Smith’s debut was a struggle. Illinois finished 3-9, with two of those wins coming in Big Ten action. And with less than 10 returning starters for 2017, Smith is facing a tough second act in Champaign. Prior to taking over at Illinois, Smith spent two years at Tampa Bay’s head coach and finished with an 8-24 mark. His tenure in Chicago was significantly better, as Smith guided the Bears to an 81-63 record and a berth in the Super Bowl for the 2010 season. Smith was a big-name hire at the right time for Illinois. However, it’s going to take a few years to turn this program around.
105. Barry Odom, Missouri
Odom had a difficult assignment in replacing Gary Pinkel – Missouri’s all-time winningiest coach – prior to the 2016 campaign. And as expected, Odom’s debut had its share of ups and downs. The Tigers started 2-2 but lost five in a row to enter November with a 2-7 mark. Victories in two out of the last three games helped to close out the 2016 campaign on a high note and prevent a winless season in SEC play. While Odom’s debut resulted in the fewest wins for the program since 2001, there’s optimism for 2017. The offense returns nearly intact, and the defense played better after Odom assumed play-calling duties late in the season. Prior to taking over for Pinkel, Odom helped Memphis’ defense improve significantly from 2012-14 and also worked as an assistant at Missouri from 2009-11 and again in 2015 as the coordinator. Can Odom’s team build off a promising close to the 2016 season?
104. Joe Moglia, Coastal Carolina
Moglia might have the most interesting background of any college football head coach at the FBS level. After a coaching career that spanned from 1968-83 at a few high schools and Lafayette and Dartmouth, Moglia decided to venture into business. He worked at Merrill Lynch and eventually became the CEO of Ameritrade in 2001 and remained in that role until 2008. Moglia went back into coaching in 2009 as an assistant in an off-field role at Nebraska and was later hired as the head coach with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League in 2011. Coastal Carolina picked Moglia as its head coach prior to the 2012 season and the move has worked out well for the program. The Chanticleers are 51-15 over the last five seasons and have won at least eight games every year. This is Coastal Carolina’s first year at the FBS level, but the program is in good shape with Moglia at the controls.
103. Jay Hopson, Southern Miss
As a native of Mississippi and a former Southern Miss assistant, Hopson was a good pick to replace former coach Todd Monken after he left for the NFL last season. The Golden Eagles had their share of ups and downs in Hopson’s first year, as the program was picked to win Conference USA’s West Division in the preseason, yet finished 7-6 overall and 4-4 in league play. An injury to quarterback Nick Mullens and an unlucky minus-17 turnover margin played a huge role in the seven-win season, but Southern Miss finished on a high note by winning the New Orleans Bowl. Hopson previously went 32-17 in four years at Alcorn State and also has stops on his resume as an assistant at Memphis, Michigan, Ole Miss and Marshall.
102. John Bonamego, Central Michigan
Central Michigan was left in a difficult position following coach Dan Enos’ departure to Arkansas just before National Signing Day in 2015. However, the program was able to a familiar face in Bonamego as its next head coach. The veteran NFL assistant accumulated a wealth of experience at the next level working as a special teams coordinator and was a player at Central Michigan in the 1980s. Bonamego’s last collegiate experience prior to taking over as CMU’s head coach came in 1998 at Army. The Chippewas proceeded to go 7-6 in Bonamego’s first year and claimed a share of the MAC West title with a 6-2 mark in league play. The record in 2016 was nearly identical (6-7) but featured a slight regression in conference wins (three). Central Michigan has been to back-to-back bowl trips under Bonamego’s watch.
101. Matt Viator, ULM
Viator came to ULM after a successful 10-year run at McNeese State and guided the Warhawks to a 4-8 mark in his debut last fall. While the four-win season may not move the needle, Viator had to overcome the loss of his starting quarterback (Garrett Smith) in mid-October. ULM also showed progress late in the year by winning two out of its final four games. During his tenure at McNeese State, Viator led the Cowboys to a 78-33 record and five trips to the FCS playoffs.
100. Frank Wilson, UTSA
Wilson has always garnered plenty of praise and accolades for his work on the recruiting trail. But after one season at UTSA, the former LSU assistant is more than just a good recruiter. The Roadrunners showed marked progress in his first year, finishing 6-7 overall and 5-3 in league play. Additionally, UTSA earned its first bowl trip in program history and finished second in Conference USA’s West Division. Prior to taking over at UTSA, Wilson worked as an assistant at LSU, Tennessee, Southern Miss and Ole Miss. He also spent time as the head coach at O.P. Walker High School in Louisiana from 2000-03. The Roadrunners are trending up entering 2017.
99. Seth Littrell, North Texas
Littrell was a rising star in the coordinator ranks before his hire last season at North Texas. And after his first year in Denton, it’s clear the Mean Green are trending in the right direction. After finishing 1-11 in 2015, Littrell guided North Texas to a 5-8 mark and a bid in the Heart of Dallas Bowl in his debut. The four-game improvement from 2015 to 2016 was the most by any team in Conference USA’s West Division last year. Prior to North Texas, the Oklahoma native worked at Texas Tech, Arizona, Indiana and North Carolina and emerged as one of the nation’s top offensive-minded coaches. Littrell’s 2015 offense with the Tar Heels led the ACC in scoring (40.7 ppg) and ranked third in 2014.
98. Rod Carey, Northern Illinois
Northern Illinois set the bar high for the rest of the MAC in recent years. The Huskies reeled off six consecutive West Division titles and recorded at least 11 wins every year from 2010-15. Carey was promoted to head coach after Dave Doeren left for NC State, with this first game coming in the Orange Bowl against Florida State. Northern Illinois went 23-5 over Carey’s first two years and lost only one game in MAC play. However, the Huskies have been hit hard by injuries at the quarterback position over the last two years and slipped to 13-13 in that span. And for the first time since 2007, Northern Illinois did not make a bowl appearance last season. Can Carey get the Huskies back on track in 2017?
97. David Bailiff, Rice
With tough academic standards, maintaining and building a consistent winner at Rice is not easy. Bailiff has managed to navigate the difficulty of this job to deliver 56 wins since 2007 and guide the program to four bowl appearances, including a Conference USA title in 2013. Additionally, after having just one season of double-digit victories prior to 2007, the Owls also have two 10-win campaigns under Bailiff’s direction. However, since an 8-5 record in 2014, Rice is just 8-16 over the last two years and went 3-9 – its lowest win total since 2009 – last season. Can Bailiff turn things around for the Owls in 2017?
96. Jeff Tedford, Fresno State
After a four-year absence, Tedford is back as a head coach at the FBS level at his alma mater. While Tedford’s tenure at California ended with a 3-9 record in 2012 and his dismissal, he accumulated an 82-57 record from 2002-12 and guided the Golden Bears to nine winning seasons. Additionally, Tedford’s 82 wins are the most in California school history. Following his departure from Berkeley, Tedford had a limited role with the Buccaneers in 2014, worked as the head coach for the BC Lions in 2015 and was an offensive consultant for Washington last year. The state of California is familiar territory for Tedford and his background on offense should provide immediate help for a Fresno State attack that managed only 17.7 points per game last season. However, Tedford posted two losing records over his final three years as California’s head coach and has not worked in an on-field role at the college level since 2012.
95. Matt Wells, Utah State
Is 2017 a make-or-break year for Wells at Utah State? The former Aggie quarterback was promoted to head coach in 2013 after Gary Andersen left to take the top spot at Wisconsin. Wells guided the program to a 19-9 record in his first two seasons, which included a trip to the Mountain West Conference title game in 2013. However, Utah State is just 8-16 over the last two years and finished 1-7 in league play in 2016. Adding to the difficulty of a significant turnaround in 2017 is a depth chart that returns only nine starters. Can Wells get Utah State back in contention for a bowl in 2017?
94. Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan
Eastern Michigan is one of the nation’s toughest jobs, so it’s no surprise Creighton gets a significant bump in the coach rankings after a breakthrough season. After guiding the Eagles to a 3-21 record from 2014-15, Creighton led EMU to a 7-6 mark last season. The seven wins represented the program’s first winning record since 1995. Additionally, the trip to the Bahamas Bowl was Eastern Michigan’s first postseason bid since 1987. Creighton had three previous stops as a head coach on his resume prior to taking over at Eastern Michigan. He went 32-9 at Ottawa from 1997-00, 63-15 at Wabash from 2001-07 and 42-22 at Drake (2008-13).
93. Nick Rolovich, Hawaii
Hawaii showed marked improvement in Rolovich’s first season. The Rainbow Warriors improved their win total by four games from 2015 and claimed the program’s first bowl bid since 2010. And with 13 returning starters in place for 2017, Rolovich’s team could be the biggest threat to San Diego State and the top spot in the Mountain West’s West Division. Prior to taking over at Hawaii, Rolovich worked as Nevada’s offensive coordinator from 2012-15 and had a previous stint at Hawaii from 2008-11. The former Rainbow Warrior quarterback is a coach on the rise.
92. Randy Edsall, UConn
Edsall is back at UConn after leaving the program after the 2010 season. Under Edsall’s direction from 1999-10, the Huskies won 74 games, claimed the Big East title and a BCS bowl bid in 2010 and won at least eight games from 2007-10. Edsall left Storrs as the program’s winningest coach and spent from 2011-15 at Maryland. The Terrapins went 2-10 in Edsall’s first year but showed progress with a 4-8 mark in 2012 and back-to-back bowl games in 2013-14. However, Edsall was dismissed after a 2-4 start in 2015 and spent the 2016 season in an off-field role with the Lions. While Edsall’s return came as a bit of a surprise, he knows what it takes to succeed at UConn. Additionally, his hire of Rhett Lashlee as coordinator should provide some immediate punch for an offense that averaged only 14.8 points per game last year.
91. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
Kingsbury is 24-26 through four seasons at his alma mater and enters 2017 squarely on the hot seat. The former Texas Tech quarterback took over the program in 2013 after joining the collegiate ranks as an assistant in 2008. Kingsbury spent four years at Houston, followed by a successful one-season stint at Texas A&M in 2012. The Red Raiders appeared to be trending in the right direction after an 8-5 mark in Kingsbury’s debut. However, the program has one winning record over the last three years and is just 13-23 in Big 12 play since 2013. Scoring points hasn’t been a problem for Texas Tech, but the defense has surrendered over 40 points a game in three consecutive seasons.
Related: Big 12 Football Predictions for 2017
90. Terry Bowden, Akron
Bowden has an extended track record of success, accumulating a 164-99-2 career mark at five different coaching stops. The high point of Bowden’s five-year run at Akron came in 2015. The Zips finished 8-5 – the highest win total in Akron history – and earned the program’s first bowl victory with a win over Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Bowden is 24-37 over five seasons with the Zips and has won at least five games in each of the last four years. The son of coaching legend Bobby Bowden started his career as a graduate assistant with the Seminoles in 1982 and landed his first head coaching gig at Salem in 1983. He guided the Tigers to a 19-13 record from 1983-85 and spent one year at Akron as the program’s quarterbacks coach in 1986 before taking over at Samford in 1987. Bowden went 45-23-1 with the Bulldogs and was hired at Auburn prior to the 1993 campaign. The Tigers went 47-17-1 under Bowden’s direction, including an 11-0 mark in 1993. Bowden resigned as Auburn’s head coach during the 1998 season and didn’t resurface on the sidelines until 2009 at North Alabama.
89. Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana
Hudspeth started his tenure at Louisiana with four consecutive 9-4 seasons and a perfect 4-0 mark in New Orleans Bowl appearances. As a result, Hudspeth’s stock was on the rise, and the Mississippi native became one of the top Group of 5 coaches in the nation. But over the last two seasons, Louisiana is just 10-15 and has not finished higher than fifth in the Sun Belt. Despite the two-year setback, Hudspeth is still 46-31 overall at Louisiana. Prior to guiding the Ragin’ Cajuns, Hudspeth was the head coach at North Alabama (66-21) and had stints as an assistant at Mississippi State (2009-10) and Navy (2001).
88. Joey Jones, South Alabama
Entering his ninth season at South Alabama, Jones ranks as the Sun Belt’s longest-tenured coach. The Mobile native was hired to build the program from scratch in 2008 and has guided the Jaguars to a 48-42 record since 2009. Additionally, the program has two bowl trips in that span, as well as four straight seasons of at least five wins – not bad for a program that joined the FBS level in 2012. Prior to South Alabama, Jones had a short stint as Birmingham-Southern’s head coach and also spent time in the high school ranks in the state of Alabama.
87. Butch Davis, FIU
After a six-year absence, Davis is back on the sidelines and in familiar territory. The Oklahoma native has extensive experience and connections to the state of Florida, including a stint as Miami’s head coach (1995-00) and a previous four-year run as an assistant with the Hurricanes from 1984-88. Despite dealing with NCAA scholarship sanctions and a bowl ban in 1995, Davis guided the program to a 51-20 mark over six seasons. He was hired away from Coral Gables to coach the Browns in 2001 but lasted only four years, compiling a 24-35 record. Davis resurfaced at North Carolina in 2007 and inherited a program coming off back-to-back losing records. However, the Tar Heels quickly showed improvement under Davis, finishing 8-5 in three consecutive years. His tenure in Chapel Hill ended due to a NCAA investigation following the 2010 campaign. Davis is a proven winner and regarded for his past work on the recruiting trail. This should be a good hire for FIU.
86. Mike Sanford, WKU
WKU is the only Conference USA program with at least eight victories in each of the last four seasons. While Jeff Brohm leaves big shoes to fill, the Hilltoppers won’t be slowing down anytime soon. That’s due to Sanford’s arrival, as the 35-year-old coach is one of the offseason’s top hires. Sanford takes over at WKU after two seasons at Notre Dame, where he helped the Fighting Irish average over 30 points a game in back-to-back years. He also has previous stints at Boise State (2014), WKU (2010) and Stanford (2011-13). Sanford has worked under a few standout coaches, including Brian Kelly (Notre Dame), Willie Taggart (WKU) and David Shaw and Jim Harbaugh at Stanford.
85. Scott Frost, UCF
In his first year in Orlando, Frost guided UCF to a six-game improvement in the win column, which tied for the biggest jump in victories among FBS teams from 2015 to 2016. Frost’s success with the Knights comes as no surprise. The former Nebraska quarterback quickly moved through the ranks as an assistant. After stints as a graduate assistant at Nebraska (2002) and Kansas State (2006), Frost was hired at Northern Iowa (2007-08) and at Oregon (2009-15). The last three seasons of Frost’s time in Eugene were spent as the team’s offensive coordinator, guiding the Ducks to the No. 1 spot in the Pac-12 in scoring for three consecutive years. UCF could be the biggest threat to USF in the American Athletic Conference’s East Division in 2017.
84. Bob Davie, New Mexico
Davie inherited a program in need of major repair after Mike Locksley’s three-year stint (2009-11) in Albuquerque. After winning just three games in that span, the Lobos won four in Davie’s debut (2012) and followed that season with seven victories over the next two years. While the rebuilding process wasn’t easy, New Mexico has now posted back-to-back winning records and claimed a share of the Mountain West’s Mountain Division title in 2016. The Lobos are 16-10 over the last two years and the nine-win campaign in 2016 was the program’s highest since 2007. Prior to New Mexico, Davie went 35-25 in five seasons at Notre Dame and has a career 62-61 record.
83. Chad Morris, SMU
SMU has made steady progress under Morris and appears primed for a breakthrough year in 2017. The Mustangs finished 2-10 in Morris’ debut (2015) but improved to 5-7 last season and just missed on a bowl after losing two games by eight points or less. After a lengthy career as a high school coach in Texas (1994-09), Morris was hired as Tulsa’s offensive coordinator in 2010. The Golden Hurricane averaged a healthy 41.4 points per game that season, which caught the attention of Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. Morris was hired by Swinney prior to the 2011 campaign and was instrumental in the development of the Tigers’ high-powered offense from 2011-14. Additionally, Morris helped recruit Heisman finalist and NFL first-round pick Deshaun Watson to Death Valley. With plenty of ties and recruiting experience in the state of Texas, Morris is the right coach to transform SMU into a consistent winner.
82. Mike Bobo, Colorado State
Colorado State has finished 7-6 in each of Bobo’s two seasons in Fort Collins and seems poised to turn a corner in 2017. The Rams started 2-3 last year but rallied to win four out of their last six, including a 63-31 victory over Mountain West champion San Diego State. Additionally, four of Colorado State’s losses in 2016 came by 11 points or less. With most of the core returning for 2017, Bobo’s team should be able to push Boise State and Wyoming for the Mountain West’s Mountain Division title. Another positive sign for Bobo: Colorado State is opening a new stadium this season. That certainly won’t hurt his efforts on the recruiting trail or ability to elevate this program in the Mountain West.
81. Ed Orgeron, LSU
Orgeron is getting a second chance as a head coach in the SEC after a solid 6-2 stint as LSU’s interim coach last season. LSU is a dream job for the Louisiana native, and the Tigers are banking on Orgeron filling the CEO role, with well-paid coordinators Matt Canada (offense) and Dave Aranda (defense) essentially serving as head coaches on their side of the ball. The offense was a weakness under former coach Les Miles, but this unit played better after Orgeron loosened the reins last season, and the addition of Canada should pay immediate dividends. Orgeron’s first tenure in the SEC (2005-07) at Ole Miss did not go well. The Rebels were just 10-25 under his watch and won only three SEC games in that span. However, after a 6-2 run as USC’s interim coach in 2013, along with the stint last season, it seems Orgeron has learned a lot since the three-year run at Ole Miss. Orgeron should be better prepared for this stint at LSU, but is he the right hire to help the program close the gap on Alabama?
80. Lane Kiffin, FAU
Kiffin was instrumental in Alabama’s success and development on offense over the last three seasons. He helped the Crimson Tide average over 35 points a game in three consecutive years and led the SEC by posting 38.8 points per contest in 2016. Kiffin’s acumen on offense is no secret and he won’t have trouble attracting talent to Boca Raton. How will Kiffin handle his third opportunity to coach at the FBS level? There’s certainly some baggage with this hire, but Kiffin went 7-6 at Tennessee in 2009 – a two-game improvement from 2008 – and finished 28-15 at USC. This hire has a chance to pay big-time dividends for FAU.
79. Doc Holliday, Marshall
After leading Marshall to 33 wins from 2013-15, Holliday enters 2017 looking to get the program back on track. The Thundering Herd regressed to 3-9 last season, which was the fewest wins under Holliday’s watch. The West Virginia native is 53-37 in seven years at Marshall and has guided the program to four bowl trips. The Thundering Herd claimed the 2014 Conference USA title and also finished No. 23 in the final Associated Press poll that season. Holliday is a good recruiter and should be able to get the program back on track over the next two years.
78. Bill Clark, UAB
UAB’s football program has experienced quite a journey since the 2014 season. After the program was eliminated following the regular season finale in December of 2014, president Ray Watts reversed his decision and reinstated the team the following June. While the two-year shutdown was unnecessary, UAB’s program is back and in a much better position. Additionally, the Blazers still have the right man for the job in Bill Clark. The Alabama native has extensive coaching ties to the state, as he worked as a high school for several seasons before landing on South Alabama’s staff in 2008. After five years with the Jaguars, Clark was hired as Jacksonville State’s coach in 2013. He went 11-4 with the Gamecocks that year and left to take over at UAB prior to the 2014 season. The Blazers went 6-6 in Clark’s debut – a four-game improvement from 2013. With a new practice facility under construction, along with the ongoing talk of a new stadium, Clark has the necessary resources to build a solid program in Birmingham.
77. Chuck Martin, Miami
The RedHawks were one of the nation’s most improved teams over the course of the 2016 season. After an 0-6 start, Miami finished with six straight wins in the regular season and barely lost to Mississippi State in the St. Petersburg Bowl to finish 6-7. The six-win mark in Martin’s third season was the highest for the program since a 10-win campaign in 2010 and eclipsed the victory total (five) from his first two years (2014-15). Martin took over in Oxford after a successful stint as an assistant under Brian Kelly at Notre Dame (2010-13) and previously led Grand Valley State as the program’s head coach, recording two Division II titles and 74 wins from 2004-09. Martin clearly has Miami trending up entering the 2017 season.
76. Jason Candle, Toledo
Candle is a rising star in the MAC and leads a Toledo team that could be the favorite to win the conference in 2017. The Ohio native was promoted to head coach after the 2015 regular season when Matt Campbell left to take over at Iowa State. The Rockets won Candle’s first game (2015 Boca Raton Bowl) and finished 9-4 last year, with three losses coming by five points or less. From 2012-15, Candle called the plays for Toledo’s high-powered offense, which led the conference in scoring in 2014. He was hired by Tim Beckman at Toledo in 2009 and remained in an assistant capacity when Campbell was promoted to head coach prior to the 2012 season. He also has a previous stop on his resume from a stint at Mount Union (2003-08).
Related: MAC Football Predictions for 2017
75. Jeff Monken, Army
Monken is coming off a breakthrough season at West Point. Army finished 8-5, defeated rival Navy and claimed the Heart of Dallas Bowl trophy after a 38-31 overtime victory over North Texas. Last year’s bowl trip was Army’s first since 2010 and the eight-win season was the highest since the Black Knights posted 10 in 1996. Monken is 14-23 overall in three years at West Point. Prior to Army, Monken went 38-16 at Georgia Southern from 2010-13 and also had a stint at Georgia Tech and Navy as an assistant under Paul Johnson.
74. Jim Mora, UCLA
Last season’s 4-8 record was the first losing mark for UCLA under Mora’s watch. While the four-win season was the program’s lowest since 2010, it’s hard to dock Mora too much in the overall landscape since quarterback Josh Rosen was lost midway through the year with a shoulder injury. How quickly can Mora get the Bruins back on track? He’s 41-24 over the last five years, including two 10-win campaigns. Additionally, UCLA won the 2012 Pac-12 South title and has a winning record in league play in four out of the last five years. Recruiting talent hasn’t been a problem for Mora with a 13.8 average finish in national team rankings since 2013. However, the Bruins are just 25-20 in Pac-12 games from 2013-16.
73. Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion
Old Dominion returned to the gridiron in 2009 after the program was disbanded in 1941. Wilder was tapped as coach to build the program from scratch after spending nearly his entire coaching career as an assistant coach at Maine (1990-06). The Monarchs quickly showed how far Wilder was able to take this program in a short amount of time. Old Dominion started 17-5 from 2009-10 as a FCS Independent and later qualified for the FCS playoffs in the Colonial Athletic Association in 2011-12. After spending one season (2013) as a FCS Independent, the Monarchs made the jump to the FBS level and Conference USA. Wilder led the program to a 6-6 record in its FBS debut, followed by a 5-7 mark in 2015 and a breakthrough 10-3 season last fall. The Monarchs also scored the program’s first bowl trip and victory in the Bahamas Bowl.
72. Rick Stockstill, MTSU
Stockstill is Conference USA’s longest-tenured coach and has successfully led MTSU to five consecutive non-losing seasons. Since taking over the program in 2006, the Blue Raiders are 72-66 under Stockstill and have earned six postseason trips. Additionally, MTSU has just one season of fewer than five wins and recorded 10 victories – the program’s highest since joining the FBS level in 1999 – in the 2009 season. Stockstill should have the Blue Raiders in the mix to win Conference USA’s East Division title in 2017.
71. Mike Norvell, Memphis
Norvell is one of college football’s top coaches on the rise entering 2017. In his first year at Memphis, Norvell picked up where Justin Fuente left off, guiding the Tigers to an 8-5 record. The Tigers easily handled Kansas, beat eventual American Athletic champ Temple and defeated Houston in the regular season finale. And with the lethal pass-catch combination of quarterback Riley Ferguson and receiver Anthony Miller returning in 2017, Memphis should be picked near the top of the conference and could be the favorite in the West Division. Norvell has been on a fast rise through the coaching ranks after beginning his career at Central Arkansas in 2006. After spending one season there, Norvell was hired as a graduate assistant by Todd Graham at Tulsa in 2007 and was later promoted to an on-field assistant in 2009. After four years with the Golden Hurricane, Norvell worked as an offensive coordinator under Graham at Pitt (2011) and again to Arizona State (2012-15).
70. Kalani Sitake, BYU
Sitake’s first season at the helm in Provo registered as one of the best debuts by a new coach in 2016. The Cougars finished 9-4, defeated FBS opponents Arizona, Michigan State and Mississippi State and lost all four games by three points or less. Sitake set the bar high at his alma mater following Bronco Mendenhall’s departure to Virginia after the 2015 season. With stints as an assistant under Gary Andersen and Kyle Whittingham, he’s also learned from two of the Pac-12’s top coaches. Expect Sitake to climb this list over the next few years.
69. Blake Anderson, Arkansas State
Arkansas State experienced its share of coaching turnover since 2010. The program cycled through five different coaches from 2010-14, as Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn and Bryan Harsin each left Jonesboro for a more high-profile job. While the coaching turnover created some headaches, stability isn’t a question anymore with Anderson entering his fourth season at the helm. Under Anderson’s watch, Arkansas State is 24-15 since 2014 and has played in three consecutive bowl games. Additionally, the Red Wolves are 20-4 in league play, losing only one Sun Belt contest over the last two seasons.
68. Neal Brown, Troy
Brown’s stock is on the rise after an impressive 2016 season. After replacing long-time coach Larry Blakeney, Brown went 4-8 in his first season at the helm in 2015. But the Trojans showed marked improvement last fall by finishing 10-3 and beating Ohio in the Dollar General Bowl. The 10-win campaign was the first double-digit victory total by the program at the FBS level. Additionally, the bowl win was Troy’s first since 2010. At 37-years-old, Brown is one of college football’s youngest coaches and has been on a fast rise through the coaching ranks after spending time as an assistant at Troy, Texas Tech and Kentucky prior to 2015. The Trojans should be co-favorites with Appalachian State for the league crown in 2017.
67. Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech has emerged as one of Conference USA’s top programs under Holtz’s direction. He took over in Ruston prior to 2013 after Sonny Dykes left for California and guided the Bulldogs to a 4-8 record that season. However, Louisiana Tech has earned three straight seasons of nine victories and three consecutive postseason trips. The Bulldogs have also earned two West Division titles and have not lost more than two games in league play since 2013. Prior to Louisiana Tech, Holtz went 16-21 at USF (2010-12), 38-27 at East Carolina (2005-09) and 34-23 at UConn from 1994-98. Holtz has a career record of 119-93.
66. Frank Solich, Ohio
Solich is the MAC’s longest-tenured head coach and has transformed Ohio into one of the most consistent programs in the conference. The Bobcats have not had a losing season since 2008 and made eight bowl games over the last nine years. Solich has accumulated an 88-67 overall mark at Ohio and guided the program to four MAC Championship appearances. Prior to taking over at Ohio, Solich went 58-19 at Nebraska from 1998-03 and worked under legendary coach Tom Osborne from 1983-97 as an assistant.
65. Kirby Smart, Georgia
Smart was hired to elevate Georgia into an annual contender in the SEC, and the former Alabama assistant has plenty of work to do after an 8-5 debut in 2016. The Bulldogs finished 4-4 in SEC play last season, which was the program’s first non-winning record in conference action since 2010. However, Smart’s team wasn’t too far removed from double-digit wins. Georgia lost three of its games by three points or less, including a one-point defeat to rival Georgia Tech. After coaching in the shadow of Nick Saban at Alabama for nine seasons, Smart landed the opportunity to coach at his alma mater after Georgia parted ways with Mark Richt. Smart is regarded for his work on defense, but his ability to land elite recruiting classes (No. 3 nationally in 2017) will help the Bulldogs quickly replenish the roster. After one season, plenty of questions remain about Smart and whether or not he can elevate Georgia in the national conversation. However, the work on the recruiting trail, along with the returning talent this season, should provide better insight into this tenure in 2017.