Ranking All 130 College Football Head Coaches for 2018

Athlon ranks every FBS college football coach for 2018

Ranking all 130 college football head coaches is an impossible task. However, as Athlon Sports has done for each of the last seven seasons leading up to the start of the upcoming year, we set out to sort out every FBS head coach from No. 1 to the bottom.

 

And as expected, for the seventh straight year, Alabama's Nick Saban takes the top spot. Ohio State's Urban Meyer and Clemson's Dabo Swinney are next, followed by Washington's Chris Petersen and TCU's Gary Patterson to round out the top five.

 

When evaluating and ranking all 130 coaches, we established a simple criteria: Everything is considered. 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.

 

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.

 

Every team has different built-in resources available, and hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. Those factors, along with career biography/resume, success in developing talent and landing prospects on the recruiting trail factored into the ranking. Additionally, how well programs value staff (is the head coach better as a CEO or hands-on approach) and the facilities or program resources matter into forming an outlook of how coaches have performed at different stops throughout their career.

 

Again, wins and the overall body of work to this point 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 have accomplished so far and their career trajectory? Remember, you don't get the assistants -- only the head coach. And head-to-head wins or last year's position in the 130 coach list do not matter for this ranking.

 

Athlon's editorial staff has voted on a ranking of coaches for all 10 conferences and the six FBS Independent programs. Here are the results for 130 coaches for 2018:

 

2018 Coach Rankings

 

Power 5: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

 

Group of 5: American | C-USA | MAC | Mountain West | Sun Belt

 

Ranking All 130 College Football Head Coaches for 2018

 

130. Sean Lewis, Kent State

At 31 years old, Lewis will be the youngest coach at the FBS level in 2018. While the Illinois native is short on experience, this is the right hire for a Kent State program that has just two winning seasons since 1988. Lewis began his coaching career in the collegiate ranks at Nebraska-Omaha in 2010 and spent one year at Akron as a graduate assistant (2011). He landed on Dino Babers’ staff at Eastern Illinois for two seasons (2012-13) and followed Babers to jobs at Bowling Green (2014-15) and Syracuse (2016-17). Lewis held the co-offensive coordinator title with the Orange for each of the last two years. Even though Lewis will need time to get acclimated as a head coach, the style of play and experience working under Babers should allow the Illinois native to help Kent State improve over the next few years.

 

129. Brent Brennan, San Jose State

Brennan inherited a program in need of major repair, so it was no surprise his debut resulted in a 2-11 season. Conference play wasn’t kind to San Jose State, as the Spartans lost five games by 20 or more points and notched their only Mountain West victory against Wyoming with quarterback Josh Allen injured and unable to play. Brennan was regarded as a good recruiter prior to his arrival, and San Jose State has inked the No. 7 class in the Mountain West in back-to-back years. The California native knows what it takes to win at this program. He previously worked under Dick Tomey (2005-09) and Mike MacIntyre (2010) with the Spartans as an assistant coach. With a full year under his belt, Brennan should be able to guide this program to a better 2018 season.

 

128. Brad Lambert, Charlotte

Lambert was the first coach for Charlotte’s football program and helped the 49ers transition to the FBS level over the last five years. However, Charlotte is just 17-41 under Lambert’s watch and has yet to record a winning record. After posting a 4-8 mark in 2016, the 49ers slipped to 1-11 last fall and lost to FCS opponent North Carolina A&T. Building a program from scratch is never easy. However, with a new athletic director in place, Lambert needs to show big progress in order to return in 2019.

 

127. Chad Lunsford, Georgia Southern

After an 0-6 start to the 2017 season, Georgia Southern fired coach Tyson Summers and promoted Lunsford to the interim role. Lunsford made the most of the opportunity, guiding the Eagles to a 2-4 finish over the final six contests. While Lunsford was just 2-4, there were signs of improvement in the team’s overall performance and the stint was enough to land the full-time job. The South Carolina native has worked as an assistant at Georgia Southern from 2003-06 and again from 2013-17. He also has stops on his resume from stints at Appalachian State (2001-03) and at Auburn in an off-field capacity from 2009-13. Lunsford pushed the right buttons in an interim role last season and now he’s tasked with getting Georgia Southern’s program back to the top of the Sun Belt. After hiring a good staff, Lunsford appears to be putting the pieces into place for the Eagles to build off last year’s finish.

 

126. Mike Jinks, Bowling Green

With a 6-18 record through two years at Bowling Green, Jinks is facing a critical 2018 campaign. The Falcons have posted back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 2010-11 and have claimed only five MAC victories in that span. Jinks came to Bowling Green after a three-year stint at Texas Tech coaching running backs. Prior to Texas Tech, Jinks worked in the high school ranks at a couple of different stops, including as a head coach at Steele (2006-12) and Luther Burbank (2005). Jinks inked two of the MAC’s top recruiting classes in 2017-18, but the results on the field have to improve in 2018.

 

125. David Beaty, Kansas

Beaty enters 2018 squarely on the hot seat. Although the Texas native inherited a mess from Charlie Weis, progress has been hard to find through his first three years in Lawrence. Kansas is 3-33 under Beaty's watch and has just one Big 12 victory in that span. Beaty came to Lawrence regarded for his work on the recruiting trail, but he's yet to sign a class rated higher than No. 62 nationally.

 

124. Mike Neu, Ball State

Neu’s tenure at his alma mater is difficult to evaluate. The Cardinals went 4-8 in Neu’s debut in 2016 but lost six games by 10 points or less. Any hope of exceeding the four-win campaign quickly dissipated last fall. Ball State was hit hard by injuries at quarterback and running back, which dropped the team to a 2-10 record in Neu’s second year at the helm. Prior to Ball State, Neu worked as an assistant with the Saints (2014-15) and at Tulane (2012-13). He also had a stint as a head coach in the Arena League with the New Orleans VooDoo, going 33-31 over four seasons from 2004-08. Considering the significant injuries last year, Neu’s 2018 team is likely to rebound in the win column and provide a better glimpse of where this program stands in his third season at the controls.  

 

Related: Ranking College Football's Head Coach Hires for 2018

 

123. Everett Withers, Texas State

Withers came to San Marcos after an impressive two-year run at James Madison from 2014-15. Under Withers’ direction, the Dukes went 18-7 and earned two trips to the FCS playoffs. However, Withers has struggled to find success in his two seasons at Texas State. The Bobcats are 4-20 over the last two years and have only one Sun Belt victory in that span. On the positive side, Withers has recruited well. Texas State inked the Sun Belt’s No. 1 class in 2017.

 

122. Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina

The 2018 season will be a critical one for Montgomery. East Carolina is just 6-18 overall and has only three wins in conference play in his two seasons at the helm. Additionally, of the Pirates’ nine losses last year, only one came by seven points or less. For East Carolina to show marked improvement in Montgomery’s third season, fixing a defense that allowed 45 points a game in 2017 is a must. Also, Montgomery must break in a new quarterback after Gardner Minshew left the program as a graduate transfer. Montgomery has some excellent mentors in his coaching career, as he spent from 2006-09 and from 2013-15 working under David Cutcliffe at Duke. He also had a three-year stint with the Steelers and Mike Tomlin from 2010-12.

 

121. Dana Dimel, UTEP

UTEP’s decision to hire Dimel came as a surprise, but the veteran coach brings a wealth of experience to El Paso. After his playing career at Kansas State concluded in 1986, Dimel worked with the program as a graduate assistant until 1988. He was promoted to assistant coach with the Wildcats in 1989 and eventually became the program’s offensive coordinator in 1995. Dimel was hired at Wyoming to replace Joe Tiller in 1997 and went 22-13 in three years with the Cowboys. He left to take over at Houston in 2000 but was dismissed following an 8-26 record over three seasons. After a one-year stint as a graduate assistant at Kansas State (2005) and three years at Arizona (2006-08), Dimel returned to Kansas State as the program’s offensive coordinator. Dimel was able to maximize his talent with the Wildcats, and his background on this side of the ball is crucial for a team that averaged only 11.8 points a game in 2017.

 

120. Mike Bloomgren, Rice

Rice is one of college football’s toughest jobs, and as a first-year coach, Bloomgren will have his hands full with a roster that went 1-11 last fall. However, Bloomgren has experience working with a program under strict academic standards. After all, he worked from 2011-17 at Stanford, including the last five seasons as the program’s offensive coordinator. Prior to joining David Shaw’s staff at Stanford, Bloomgren worked as an assistant with the Jets from 2007-10. Bloomgren has never been a head coach before and will need a few seasons to rebuild the program.

 

119. Turner Gill, Liberty

Gill is tasked with guiding Liberty through a transition to the FBS level. The Flames are 41-29 in Gill’s six seasons and made one trip to the FCS Playoff. Gill is no stranger to the FBS level. After all, he went 5-19 as the head coach at Kansas from 2010-11 and finished 20-30 from '06-09 at Buffalo. After going 2-10 in his first season with the Bulls in 2006, the program improved by three wins the next year, with an 8-6 record in ’08 and a MAC East title. The former Nebraska quarterback is 66-78 in his career as a head coach.

 

118. Tim Lester, Western Michigan

After Western Michigan finished 13-1 and earned a trip to the Cotton Bowl under P.J. Fleck in 2016, the first-year expectations were high for Lester. However, due to an injury to quarterback Jon Wassink and three losses by seven points or less, the Broncos missed out on a bowl and finished 6-6 in Lester’s debut. The former Western Michigan quarterback returns 12 starters for 2018, so there’s optimism about a rebound year in Kalamazoo this fall. Prior to Western Michigan, Lester worked as an assistant at Syracuse and Purdue and worked as a head coach at Saint Joseph’s (2004) and Elmhurst (2008-12).

 

117. Josh Heupel, UCF

Heupel has one of the toughest jobs for any first-year coach in 2018. Not only is Heupel replacing Scott Frost -- one of college football’s rising stars in the coach ranks -- he’s also taking over a program that went 13-0 last season. Needless to say, the bar is set high in Year 1 for Heupel. The South Dakota native takes over in Orlando after spending two years as Missouri’s offensive coordinator. Under Heupel’s watch, the Tigers averaged over 30 points a game in both seasons, including a 37.5 mark that led the SEC in 2017. However, Missouri only averaged only 18 points a game against teams with a winning record last year. Prior to Missouri, Heupel worked as the offensive coordinator at Utah State in 2015 and had a previous stint at Oklahoma from 2006-14. This is Heupel’s first opportunity to be a head coach at the FBS level.

 

116. Luke Fickell, Cincinnati

As an Ohio native and a former Ohio State assistant, Fickell was the right hire to lead the Cincinnati program. The Bearcats finished 4-8 in Fickell’s debut last fall, but there is optimism for the future. Cincinnati inked the AAC’s No. 1 recruiting class by the 247Sports Composite, and there’s enough returning talent on both sides of the ball to expect improvement in the win column this fall. Prior to taking over at Cincinnati, Fickell worked as an assistant at Ohio State from 2002-04 and was promoted to co-coordinator in 2005. He remained in that role until 2011 and spent that season as the program’s interim coach after Jim Tressel's resignation. Fickell returned to the co-defensive coordinator role in 2012 and held that title until he left for Cincinnati.   

 

115. Billy Napier, Louisiana

Napier was considered one of college football’s rising stars in the coordinator ranks last season and should be a good fit with the Ragin’ Cajuns. The Georgia native has spent most of his coaching career in the Southeast. Napier worked as a graduate assistant at Clemson from 2003-04, followed by a one-year stint at South Carolina State. He returned to Death Valley in 2006 and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2009. However, Napier was let go following the 2009 season and landed in Tuscaloosa in an off-field role for Alabama for one year (2011), followed by one season at Colorado State in 2012. Napier returned to Tuscaloosa in 2013 and coached wide receivers until 2016. He was hired as Arizona State’s offensive coordinator prior to 2017, helping the offense improve from 5.2 yards a play to 5.7 last fall. Napier is young (38) and has no previous head coaching experience. However, his background on offense, along with insight gained from working under Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney should pay dividends.

 

114. Jay Norvell, Nevada

Nevada’s final record for 2017 was only 3-9, but the Wolf Pack lost four games by 11 points or less and made considerable progress over the course of the season. Also, Nevada won two out of its final three games, including a 23-16 win over rival UNLV in the season finale. The 2017 season was Norvell’s first as a head coach, and there are plenty of signs this program could be poised to push for a bowl game in 2018. Prior to taking over in Reno, Norvell worked as an assistant coach at a handful of programs, including Nebraska, UCLA, Oklahoma, Texas and Arizona State. If the Wolf Pack pick up where they left off, Norvell could move up this list by a couple of spots by next offseason.

 

113. Mike Sanford, WKU

With successful stops as an assistant at WKU, Stanford, Boise State and Notre Dame, along with experience working under head coaches like David Shaw, Willie Taggart, Bryan Harsin and Brian Kelly, Sanford was considered one of college football’s top coaches on the rise prior to 2017. The Virginia native also inherited a team coming off back-to-back Conference USA championships, which set the bar high for 2017. Inconsistent offensive line play and a lack of a rushing attack prevented WKU from repeating its success of the previous two seasons, as Sanford’s debut ended with a 6-7 record. While last year didn’t meet preseason expectations, the Hilltoppers have plenty of young talent in the program to provide optimism for 2018 and beyond.

 

112. Shawn Elliott, Georgia State

Under Elliott’s direction, Georgia State was arguably the Sun Belt’s biggest surprise in 2017. The South Carolina native took over the program following the 2016 season and overcame an 0-2 start to finish 7-5 overall. Additionally, the Panthers claimed the first bowl victory in school history by defeating WKU in the Cure Bowl. Prior to Georgia State, Elliott worked from 2010-16 at South Carolina, including a stint as interim coach in 2015. Elliott also had a stop as an assistant at Appalachian State from 1997-09.

 

Related: Grading College Football's First-Year Coaches from 2017

 

111. Major Applewhite, Houston

Applewhite was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach after Tom Herman left for Texas after the 2016 season. Applewhite -- a former Texas quarterback -- coached the Las Vegas Bowl in 2016 and went 7-5 in his first full year at the helm. The Cougars finished second in the AAC West with a 5-3 mark but four of the program’s losses came by six points or less. Prior to his tenure at Houston, Applewhite worked as an assistant at Syracuse, Rice, Alabama and with his alma mater. With Ed Oliver back for one more season, along with the emergence of quarterback D’Eriq King, Applewhite should have the Cougars in the mix to win the AAC West in 2018.

 

Related: College Football's Top 20 Teams on the Rise for 2018

 

110. Tony Sanchez, UNLV

Sanchez came to UNLV after a successful run at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas. Through three years, Sanchez has brought improvement to the UNLV program, guiding the Rebels to a 12-24 overall mark. After a 3-9 record in his first year, Sanchez went 4-8 in 2016 and finished 5-7 last fall. Of UNLV’s seven losses last season, four came by 10 points or less, and the program finished on a high note by winning three out of its final five games. With 14 returning starters in place for 2018, Sanchez has a chance to build off last year’s finish and guide the Rebels to their first bowl game since 2013.

 

109. Doug Martin, New Mexico State

New Mexico State will return to the ranks as a FBS Independent in 2018, but the program has momentum following a historic ’17 season. The Aggies finished 7-6 overall, earning New Mexico State’s first winning mark since 2002. Additionally, New Mexico State won a bowl game for the first time since 1960. The seven-win season lifted Martin’s record to 17-44 overall since taking over in Las Cruces. Martin also worked as the head coach at another difficult FBS program (Kent State) from 2004-10. He went 29-53 in that stint with the Golden Flashes, which included a 6-6 mark in 2006.

 

108. Nick Rolovich, Hawaii

Hawaii’s long-term outlook is secure with Rolovich at the controls, but the program is looking to rebound following last year’s 3-9 mark. The Rainbow Warriors were hit hard by injuries and struggled to get stops on defense, leading to a significant regression from the 7-7 record in 2016. The 2016 campaign was Rolovich’s first at the helm, which resulted in a Hawaii Bowl victory over MTSU and the program’s first non-losing season since 2011. A revamped coaching staff should help Rolovich’s quest to get the Rainbow Warriors back on track in 2018.

 

Related: College Football's Top 20 Teams on the Rise for 2018

 

107. Bob Davie, New Mexico

The 2018 season is a critical one for Davie’s future in Albuquerque. The Lobos are 30-45 under Davie’s watch and claimed back-to-back winning seasons in 2015-16. New Mexico also earned two bowl trips in that span and tied for first in the Mountain Division with a 6-2 mark in league play in 2016. However, Davie was suspended 30 days in the spring for a violation of school policy and is under pressure to rebound from last year’s 3-9 campaign. Davie worked as an ESPN analyst prior to taking over at New Mexico but also has a previous stint as Notre Dame’s head coach (1997-01) and worked as Texas A&M’s defensive coordinator from 1989-93.

 

106. Joe Moglia, Coastal Carolina

Moglia was on medical leave for the 2017 season but will return to the sidelines for 2018. That’s good news for a Coastal Carolina program in the midst of a transition to the FBS level. Under the direction of offensive coordinator Jamey Chadwell, the Chanticleers finished 3-9 in their first year at the FBS level. However, Coastal Carolina finished 2017 by winning its last two games, providing the program with momentum headed into the offseason. The Chanticleers went 51-15 in Moglia’s first five seasons, which included four trips to the FCS playoffs. Moglia might have the most interesting background of any FBS coach. After working in the high school and collegiate ranks from 1968-83, Moglia left the gridiron and worked at Merrill Lynch until 2000. In 2001, Moglia was hired as the CEO of TD Ameritrade and remained with the company until 2008. He later worked as an off-field assistant for Nebraska from 2009-10 and led the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL league in 2011.

 

105. Jonathan Smith, Oregon State

There's not a coach that's better suited to lead the way at Oregon State. Smith had a successful playing career with the Beavers from 1998-2001, throwing for 9,680 yards and 55 touchdowns in his career. The California native stayed in Corvallis as a graduate assistant from 2002-03 before landing on Idaho's staff as a quarterbacks coach from 2004-09. Following that stint, Smith worked two years at Montana as the program's offensive coordinator (2010-11) and joined Chris Petersen's staff at Boise State from 2012-13. Smith followed Petersen to Washington and spent the last four seasons as the program's offensive coordinator. Smith has a tough assignment ahead in 2018, as he's inherited a major rebuilding project and a team that won just one contest last fall.

 

104. Herm Edwards, Arizona State

Arizona State certainly won't lack for intrigue in 2018. Edwards hasn't coached at the collegiate level since 1989 and has been out of coaching since 2008. However, in an attempt to close the gap between the Sun Devils and the top tier of Pac-12 South teams (and try something different), athletic director Ray Anderson hired Edwards following the 2017 season. Edwards' personality will certainly add some spice to the Pac-12 this year, but there are plenty of question marks about how this hire will work out. Edwards earned three playoff trips and went 39-41 with the New York Jets from 2001-05. He was traded to Kansas City following the 2005 season and took the Chiefs to the playoffs in his first year (2006). However, the Chiefs finished 6-26 over the next two seasons. Edwards has worked at ESPN since 2009 but has worked in the Under Armour All-America Game.

 

103. Mark Whipple, UMass

In his second stint at UMass, Whipple was handed the tough assignment of helping the program find its footing at the FBS level. The Minutemen went 6-18 in Whipple’s first two years (2014-15) in the MAC and moved to FBS Independence prior to ’16. UMass is also 6-18 over the last two seasons but is coming off its best mark (4-8) since moving to the FBS. The Minutemen have enough personnel and a favorable schedule to push for a six-win 2018 campaign. Whipple is 61-62 during his entire tenure at UMass, which included a FCS Championship in 1998. He also has additional stops at New Haven (1998-93) and Brown (1994-97). Whipple is 133-95 overall as a head coach. He also has stops in his career as a NFL assistant with the Steelers, Eagles and Browns.

 

102. Lovie Smith, Illinois

Smith is just 5-19 as Illinois' head coach over the last two seasons, but a youth movement in 2017 provides some optimism for this fall and beyond. Under Smith's direction, the Fighting Illini are just 2-16 in Big Ten play and averaged a meager 13.1 points a game in league action last fall. In terms of buzz, this was a big-time hire for Illinois. After all, Smith went 81-63 as the Chicago Bears' head coach from 2004-12, including a trip to the Super Bowl in 2006. He also went 8-24 in a two-year run with the Buccaneers from 2014-15.

 

101. Steve Campbell, South Alabama

Campbell is just the second coach in South Alabama history and brings impressive credentials to Mobile. The Florida native went 33-15 over the last four years at Central Arkansas, which included two trips to the FCS playoffs (2016-17). Under Campbell’s watch, the Bears finished ninth nationally in scoring offense last year. Prior to the stint at Central Arkansas, Campbell worked as the head coach at Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College (2004-13) and Delta State (1999-01) and had stops as an assistant at Mississippi State, MTSU and Nicholls State. Campbell is 159-53 during his 20 years as a head coach. Former coach Joey Jones got South Alabama’s program off the ground and competitive within the Sun Belt. Campbell is tasked with elevating the Jaguars to the next level and into contention for the league title.

 

100. Tom Allen, Indiana

As an Indiana native, Allen is the perfect fit to lead the program and certainly knows what it takes to win in Bloomington. After bouncing from stops at Drake, Arkansas State, Ole Miss and USF, Allen was hired as the defensive coordinator at Indiana prior to the 2016 season. The Hoosiers showed marked improvement under Allen's watch, cutting their scoring defense from 37.6 points per game in 2016 to 27.2 in '17. Allen was promoted to head coach after Kevin Wilson resigned following the 2016 season. Indiana navigated a brutal schedule and some key injuries to a 5-7 finish, just missing out on the program's third consecutive bowl game.

 

99. Chris Ash, Rutgers

Rutgers is one of the Big Ten's toughest jobs, but Ash seems to be on schedule in his third year as the head coach. After a 2-10 overall record and winless mark in Big Ten play in his debut, Ash guided the Scarlet Knights to a 4-8 record last fall. Additionally, Rutgers won three Big Ten games (tied for the most in program history since joining the league) and lost two other games by 10 points or less. The Scarlet Knights were more competitive last season and could push for six victories in Ash's third year at the helm. Prior to taking over at Rutgers, Ash worked as an assistant under Urban Meyer at Ohio State (2014-15) and also had stints at Arkansas, Wisconsin, Iowa State and San Diego State.

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2018

 

98. Frank Wilson, UTSA

Wilson was widely regarded as one of college football’s top recruiters prior to taking over at UTSA in 2016. The Louisiana native spent time as an assistant at Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Tennessee and LSU and also had a successful stint as a high school coach in New Orleans, allowing him to build connections throughout the Southeast. The Roadrunners finished 6-7 and claimed the program’s first bowl bid in Wilson’s first year (2016) and finished 6-5 last fall. UTSA is 12-12 through two seasons under Wilson. The Roadrunners are a threat to get back to the postseason once again in 2018, and Wilson’s work on the recruiting trail should start to pay off in the near future.

 

97. Matt Luke, Ole Miss

Luke is the ideal coach to lead the Ole Miss program and landed the full-time job after guiding the Rebels to a 6-6 record as the interim last fall. He's a native of Gulfport, Miss., played at Ole Miss from 1995-98 and worked as an assistant in Oxford from 2002-05 and again from '12-16. In between those stints as an assistant for the Rebels, Luke coached at Tennessee (2006-07) and Duke (2008-11). After a successful 2017 season as the interim coach, Luke was promoted to the full-time role following Ole Miss' victory over Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. The Rebels won three games in SEC play and lost two others by a touchdown or less. After a successful stint as the interim coach, can Luke successfully make the difficult transition to the full-time leader?

 

96. Jay Hopson, Southern Miss

With extensive ties to the state of Mississippi, Hopson seemed like the perfect fit to take over the program in 2016. Through two years, that line of thinking seems to be on track. Southern Miss is 15-11 and has earned two bowl appearances under Hopson’s watch. After finishing 4-4 in Conference USA play in 2016, the Golden Eagles improved to 6-2 in league action last fall. Prior to Southern Miss, Hopson went 32-17 as Alcorn State’s head coach from 2012-15. He also has previous stops as an assistant at Marshall, Southern Miss, Ole Miss, Michigan and Memphis. 

 

Related: College Football's Starting QB Rankings for 2018

 

95. Randy Edsall, UConn

Edsall’s return to UConn didn’t result in a significant jump in wins in his first season, but there were some signs of progress. The Huskies averaged 23.6 points a game -- up from 14.8 in 2016 -- and lost two contests by three points or less. UConn is probably a year away from contending for a bowl game, but Edsall will have a full offseason to implement his program, which should allow the Huskies to build on last year’s small progress. This is Edsall’s second stint in Storrs, as he previously went 74-70 from 1999-10. During that run, UConn won the Big East title in 2010 and played in four consecutive bowl games from 2007-10. Edsall left for Maryland prior to the 2011 campaign and went 22-34 over four-plus seasons with the Terrapins. He’s 99-113 overall as a head coach.

 

94. Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee

Pruitt is the fourth former Nick Saban assistant now serving as an SEC head coach entering the 2018 season. The Alabama native comes to Knoxville after two successful years as the defensive coordinator for the Crimson Tide. Under Pruitt's watch, Alabama's defense led the SEC in fewest points allowed and ranked first nationally in yards per play allowed in 2016-17. Prior to his stint in Tuscaloosa, Pruitt worked under Mark Richt at Georgia from 2014-15 and for one season at Florida State (2013). He also worked for three years as Alabama's defensive backs coach in 2010-12 and worked in an off-field role with the Crimson Tide from 2007-09. Pruitt has assembled a strong resume from three different stops at the FBS level, is regarded as one of college football's top defensive minds and has worked under three of the nation's best coaches -- Saban, Richt and Jimbo Fisher. Pruitt is also regarded as a good recruiter and has extensive ties to the high school ranks in Alabama. Pruitt doesn't have any previous head coaching experience, but his ability to recruit and develop talent should help Tennessee take a step forward.

 

93. Geoff Collins, Temple

Collins had a tough assignment in his first year at the helm. Not only was the program breaking in new schemes, Temple had to replace several key players from its 2016 AAC title team, leading to an early transition period for the new coaching staff. The Owls started 3-5 but finished the 2017 campaign by winning four out of their last five games, including the Gasparilla Bowl over FIU. The late-season surge should give Collins plenty to build on in 2018, as the Owls could be the biggest threat to UCF in the AAC East. Prior to taking over at Temple, Collins worked as the defensive coordinator at Florida, Mississippi State and FIU and spent a year in an off-field role at Alabama in 2007.

 

92. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt

Mason enters his fifth season at Vanderbilt looking to rebound after a disappointing 5-7 record. The Commodores appeared to be on track after finishing 2016 by winning four out of their last seven games and earning a trip to the Independence Bowl. However, they slipped to 1-7 in SEC play, losing five conference games by 20 or more points. Additionally, Vanderbil's defense (Mason's specialty) allowed 43.3 points and 6.9 yards a play in SEC contests. Mason addressed the defense by adding former Stanford and NFL assistant Jason Tarver to take over the play-calling duties. Since taking over on West End, Mason is 18-31 overall and is 6-26 in SEC play. Prior to Vanderbilt, Mason had a successful run as Stanford's defensive coordinator (2012-13) and also had stints with the Vikings, Ohio, New Mexico State, Utah and Bucknell.

 

91. Sonny Dykes, SMU

Dykes is back on the sidelines in a full-time role after a one-year absence. With most of SMU’s staff following Chad Morris to Arkansas, Dykes decided to coach SMU in the bowl game against Louisiana Tech, as the Mustangs lost 51-10 in the Frisco Bowl. In 2017, Dykes worked in an off-field analyst role with TCU, which came one season after he was dismissed at California. From 2013-16, Dykes led the Golden Bears to a 19-30 record and one bowl appearance (2015). Prior to California, Dykes went 22-15 at Louisiana Tech (2010-12) and led the program to a 9-3 record in 2012. Dykes also has stops in his career as an assistant at Kentucky, Texas Tech and Arizona. As a Texas native, Dykes is certainly familiar with what it takes to win and how to recruit in the Lone Star State. Additionally, his high-powered offense should be a good fit at SMU.

 

Related: Grading College Football's Head Coach Hires for 2018

 

90. Barry Odom, Missouri

Missouri was arguably one of college football's most improved teams during the course of the 2017 season. The Tigers started 1-5 but finished by winning six out of their next seven games. During that stretch, Missouri scored at least 45 points in every game, helping the offense finish first in the SEC by averaging 37.5 points a contest in 2017. The Tigers' 7-6 record last year represented a three-game improvement from Odom's first year. In 2016, Missouri finished 4-8 and won just two SEC contests. Prior to taking over as the head coach in Columbia, Odom worked for a year under Gary Pinkel as Missour's defensive coordinator and also had a three-year stint in the same role at Memphis from 2012-14. Can Odom build off the promising second half from 2017? With quarterback Drew Lock returning, the Tigers have enough firepower to exceed last year's seven wins. However, the defense -- Odom's side of the ball -- has to improve after giving up at least six yards a play in SEC contests in each of the last two years.

 

89. Matt Viator, ULM

ULM appears to be on the verge of a breakout season in 2018. Viator has brought small improvement through the first two years of his tenure, finishing 8-16 over that span. However, the Warhawks weren’t far from a winning record in 2017. ULM defeated Sun Belt co-champion Appalachian State and lost four games by 10 points or less last fall. Prior to taking over at ULM, Viator went 78-33 at McNeese State, which also included five trips to the FCS playoffs. With only one winning record since 2001, ULM is one of the toughest jobs in the Sun Belt. However, Viator’s first two years have showed signs of progress. With 15 starters back for 2018, this team is a threat to reach the postseason.

 

88. Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan

Considering Eastern Michigan might be the toughest job in the nation, Creighton has a strong argument to rank higher on this list. The Eagles are 15-34 since Creighton took over in 2014 but went 7-6 in 2016 -- the program’s first winning record since 1995 -- and earned the second bowl trip in school history. Eastern Michigan slipped to 5-7 last fall but lost six games by seven points or less. Prior to his tenure in Ypsilanti, Creighton went 42-22 at Drake from 2008-13, 63-15 at Wabash from 2001-07 and 32-9 at Ottawa from 1997-00.

 

87. Kalani Sitake, BYU

Sitake began his tenure in Provo on a high note. BYU finished 9-4 in 2016, with all four defeats coming by three points or less. However, the second year represented a significant step back. The Cougars slipped to 4-9, with the three FBS victories coming against Hawaii, UNLV and San Jose State -- a combined 10-27 in 2017. Sitake took steps to address the regression, which included an overhaul of his staff. Prior to taking over at BYU, Sitake worked as an assistant at Oregon State and Utah. As a former player, Sitake certainly knows what it takes to win in Provo. Can he get the program back on track this fall?

 

86. Matt Wells, Utah State

Wells was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach after Gary Andersen left Utah State following the 2013 season. The Aggies went 19-9 in Wells’ first two years at the helm and played in the 2013 Mountain West title game. However, Utah State has recorded three consecutive losing seasons since a 10-win campaign in 2014. The Aggies finished 6-7 in 2015, followed by a 3-9 record in ’16. Wells’ team took a step forward last fall, finishing 6-7 overall and 4-4 in league play. The Aggies had some bad luck in close games last year, losing three by six points or less. With 16 starters back, along with the development of quarterback Jordan Love, Utah State is poised to improve off last year’s six wins in 2018.

 

Related: Ranking All 130 Starting QBs for 2018

 

85. Mike Bobo, Colorado State

Colorado State has finished 7-6 overall and 5-3 in Mountain West play in all three seasons with Bobo at the helm. That’s good for consistency, but the Rams want to aim higher in the Mountain West’s Mountain Division. Bobo has guided the program to three consecutive bowl games and helped the offense rank No. 1 in the conference in scoring last fall. The former Georgia quarterback worked in Athens from 2001-14 prior to replacing Jim McElwain as Colorado State’s head coach. Bobo’s ability to reload on offense will be tested in 2018. Quarterback Collin Hill is sidelined indefinitely due to a knee injury, with Washington graduate transfer K.J. Carta-Samuels stepping into the lineup. Can the Rams exceed seven wins? Or is this a rebuilding year to a bigger (and better) 2019 season?

 

84. John Bonamego, Central Michigan

After a 16-year stint in the NFL as a special teams coach, Bonamego was hired at his alma mater to replace Dan Enos prior to the 2015 season. The Chippewas are 21-18 during Bonamego’s three years at the helm and finished second in the MAC West with a 6-2 mark in league play last season. Additionally, Central Michigan has earned a bowl trip in all three years under Bonamego’s watch.

 

Related: College Football's Top 20 Teams on the Rise for 2018

 

83. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

After successful stints as an offensive coordinator at Houston and Texas A&M, Kingsbury took over at his alma mater prior to the 2013 campaign. Texas Tech got off to a fast start under the former Red Raider quarterback, finishing 8-5 overall and claimed a Holiday Bowl victory over Arizona State. But since that eight-win debut, Kingsbury has not won more than seven games and has posted three losing seasons over the last four years. His overall record stands at 30-33 since 2013 and is 6-12 in Big 12 play over the last two seasons.

 

82. Chuck Martin, Miami (Ohio)

Martin appeared to have Miami (Ohio) on the verge of a breakout season in 2017. The RedHawks finished 2016 by winning six out of their final seven games and earned the program’s first bowl trip since 2010. The momentum from 2016 was expected to carry into '17, but an injury to quarterback Gus Ragland prevented Miami from reaching its potential. The RedHawks finished 5-7, losing five games by eight points or less. While Martin’s overall record is just 16-33 in Oxford, he inherited a program in need of major repair and has made progress over the last four years. Prior to taking over at Miami, Martin worked as an assistant at Notre Dame and went 74-7 as the head coach at Grand Valley State from 2004-09.

 

Ed Orgeron, LSU

81. Ed Orgeron, LSU

Orgeron's first full season at the helm in Baton Rouge had its share of ups and downs last fall. LSU started 3-2, including a 37-7 road loss to Mississippi State and a 24-21 defeat to Troy in Baton Rouge. However, the Tigers rebounded to win six out of their last eight games. In Orgeron's interim stint in 2016, LSU went 6-2 and finished No. 13 in the final Associated Press poll. The 15-6 start at LSU is a big improvement from the 10-25 mark Orgeron recorded at Ole Miss from 2005-07. However, question marks remain about the direction of this program. LSU is still looking for the right answers on offense and has yet to close the gap on Alabama. In addition to stints as a head coach at Ole Miss and LSU, Orgeron worked as USC's interim coach in 2013, recording a 6-2 mark over eight contests. He also worked as an assistant at Miami, Syracuse, Tennessee and in the NFL with the Saints. With a tough schedule and a lot of turnover on offense, the 2018 season is critical for Orgeron as he looks to move the program forward and return to the top of the SEC West.

 

80. Mario Cristobal, Oregon

Following Willie Taggart's departure to Florida State, Oregon didn't have to look far for its next coach. The Ducks promoted from within, elevating Cristobal to the top spot after he worked as the team's co-offensive coordinator and line coach in 2017. The Florida native was due for another opportunity to run a FBS program after a stint from 2007-12 at FIU. Cristobal inherited a program in need of major repair and had just joined the FBS level. However, he guided the Panthers to back-to-back bowl games from 2010-11, finishing his tenure with a 27-47 mark. Cristobal joined Alabama's staff in 2013 and remained in Tuscaloosa coaching the offensive line until '16. He also has stints as an assistant at Rutgers and Miami in his career. Cristobal is 0-1 in his Oregon career after leading the program in the Las Vegas Bowl. He's known as a good recruiter, which should only help the Ducks remain in contention for the Pac-12 North title on a consistent basis.

 

Related: Pac-12 Football Predictions for 2018

 

79. Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion

Having Wilder ranked No. 8 in Conference USA is a good indicator of how deep this league is with head coaches. After the football program was dormant for over 60 years, Old Dominion returned to the gridiron in 2009. Wilder was instrumental in building the program from scratch, as well as transforming the Monarchs into a team that was capable of being competitive right away. Old Dominion went 9-2 in 2009 and finished 8-3 the following year. Wilder guided the Monarchs to back-to-back FCS Playoff bids from 2011-12, before the program used the 2013 campaign to reclassify to the FBS level. Old Dominion went 6-6 in its FBS debut and finished 10-3 to earn the program’s first bowl trip in 2016. The Monarchs are 72-37 under Wilder’s direction.

 

78. Rick Stockstill, MTSU

Stockstill enters 2018 ranked sixth among longest-tenured coaches at the FBS level. The former Florida State quarterback is 79-72 since taking over at MTSU in 2006 and has guided the program to seven bowl trips in that span. The Blue Raiders have not had a losing record since 2011 and have finished at least .500 (or better) in C-USA play in each of the last five seasons. Winning the East Division and a C-USA title is the next step for Stockstill at MTSU. Prior to taking over in Murfreesboro, Stockstill worked as an assistant at South Carolina, East Carolina and Clemson. 

 

77. Terry Bowden, Akron

The Zips were the MAC’s biggest surprise last fall, winning the MAC East and reaching the program’s second bowl bid in three years. Bowden’s steady leadership is a big reason why Akron has improved in recent seasons. Prior to Bowden’s arrival in 2012, the Zips won only two games from 2010-11. However, Akron has not won less than five games since 2013, and the 8-5 mark in 2015 was the program’s highest win total. Also, of the three bowl games reached in school history, two of those have come under Bowden’s watch. Prior to taking over at Akron, Bowden went 29-9 at North Alabama (2009-11) and also had previous stints at Auburn (47-17-1), Samford (45-23-1) and Salem (19-13). Bowden’s career record stands at 171-106-2 entering the 2018 season.

 

76. Philip Montgomery, Tulsa

Montgomery enters his fourth year at Tulsa looking to get the program back on track following a 2-10 record in 2017. While last season’s two-win campaign came as a surprise, the Golden Hurricane are just a year removed from winning 10 games in 2016. Additionally, the program showed marked improvement in Montgomery’s first year at the helm in 2015. Tulsa finished 2-10 in Bill Blankenship’s final season but improved its win total by four games, finishing 6-7 in Montgomery’s debut in 2015. Prior to Tulsa, Montgomery worked as the co-offensive coordinator at Houston (2005-07) and Baylor (2008-14). He’s considered one of the top offensive minds in the Group of 5 ranks, helping Tulsa’s 2016 unit average 42.5 points a game.

 

75. Justin Wilcox, California

Wilcox's tenure in Berkeley is off to a good start. While last year's 5-7 mark wasn't an improvement from California's 2016 version under Sonny Dykes, the Golden Bears were a better team and showed significant improvement on defense. Wilcox is known for his background on that side of the ball, as he worked as the defensive coordinator at Boise State, Tennessee, Washington, USC and Wisconsin. The Oregon native assembled a top-notch staff, including offensive play-caller Beau Baldwin. With most of last year's team returning, along with a second year under Wilcox's staff, the Golden Bears should return to the postseason in 2018.

 

Related: College Football Top 25 Rankings for 2018

 

74. Lance Leipold, Buffalo

The Bulls are 13-23 through Leipold’s three years in charge, but the program is on the verge of a breakout year in 2018. Buffalo finished 5-7 in 2015, followed by a 2-10 record in ’16. However, the Bulls took a big step forward last fall, finishing 6-6 and losing all six games by 10 points or less. Last year’s six wins were even more impressive when you consider Buffalo was forced to start three different quarterbacks due to injuries. Prior to taking over at Buffalo, Leipold guided Wisconsin-Whitewater to a 109-6 record from 2007-14. During that stint, the Warhawks won six Division III titles and made the playoffs in seven out of eight years under Leipold’s watch. The jump from Division III to FBS required an adjustment period, but Leipold has Buffalo poised to contend in the MAC East this fall.

 

73. Rod Carey, Northern Illinois

Carey has picked up where his predecessor Dave Doeren left off at Northern Illinois, winning 44 games over the last five seasons. The Huskies slipped to 5-7 in 2016 but rebounded to 8-5 last year and could be the favorite to win the MAC West in 2018. Carey guided Northern Illinois to three consecutive MAC title games from 2013-15, with a conference title over Bowling Green in 2014. Prior to taking over as the program’s head coach, Carey worked under Doeren as an assistant in 2011-12 and also had stops on his resume from Illinois State and North Dakota.

 

72. Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State

Moorhead's resume reads a lot like the coach (Dan Mullen) he replaces in Starkville. Just like Mullen, Moorhead is a Pennsylvania native and has an extensive background on offense. Moorhead's ability to direct an offense was on display over the last two years at Penn State. He inherited an offense that averaged 23.2 points a game in 2015 but improved to 37.6 in '16 and 41.1 in '17. Before calling the plays in Happy Valley, Moorhead went 38-13 as the head coach at Fordham from 2012-15. The Rams went to the FCS Playoffs three times under his watch and won 23 games from 2013-14. Moorhead also has previous stops at Akron (2004-08) and UConn (2009-11). Mullen leaves big shoes to fill in Starkville after guiding the program to eight consecutive bowl trips. However, Moorhead has been a successful head coach and is one of college football's top minds on offense. This hire should work out well for Mississippi State.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Running Backs for 2018

 

71. Chad Morris, Arkansas

Bret Bielema guided Arkansas to three consecutive bowl games from 2014-16, but a 4-8 '17 season signaled it was time for the program to hit the reset button. Morris arrives in Fayetteville after a successful stint at SMU. After inheriting a team that won just one contest in 2014, Morris brought gradual improvement to the program. The Mustangs finished 2-10 in 2015 but improved to 5-7 in '16, followed by a 7-5 regular season mark in '17. Prior to taking over as SMU's head coach, Morris worked as Clemson's offensive coordinator from 2011-14. He also had a brief stop at Tulsa (2010) and went 169-38 as a high school coach in Texas from 1994-09. Morris appears to be the right fit at the right time for Arkansas. Considering Arkansas won't outrecruit Alabama, Auburn, LSU or Texas A&M, a switch to a wide-open offense will help to level the playing field. Also, his extensive ties to the state of Texas can help attract talent to the program. Morris will need a year or two to transition Arkansas to new schemes on both sides of the ball. However, that patience will pay off for the program over the next five seasons.

 

70. Seth Littrell, North Texas

North Texas has showed marked improvement through Littrell’s first two years on campus. After the Mean Green finished 1-11 in 2015, Littrell guided the program to a 5-8 record in 2016. Thanks to a high APR score, North Texas earned a trip to the Heart of Dallas Bowl, losing to Army in overtime. Littrell’s encore in Denton was even better than his debut. The Mean Green finished 9-5 overall and 7-1 in C-USA play, winning the West Division and earning a trip to the New Orleans Bowl. Before taking over at North Texas, Littrell had stops as an assistant at North Carolina, Indiana, Arizona and Texas Tech. He’s also regarded as one of the top offensive-minded coaches in the Group of 5 ranks.

 

Related: College Football's Top 20 Teams on the Rise for 2018

 

69. Doc Holliday, Marshall

After the lowest win total (three) in Holliday’s tenure, Marshall rebounded to 8-5 overall and a 4-4 mark in league play last season. The eight-win campaign allowed the Thundering Herd to earn their fifth bowl trip under Holliday, improving his overall mark in Huntington to 61-42. Marshall has three seasons of at least 10 victories under Holliday, including a 13-1 mark in 2014. Holliday was known as an ace recruiter prior to his stint with the Thundering Herd and has spent time at West Virginia, NC State and Florida as an assistant. With Holliday at the helm, Marshall is a threat every year to win Conference USA’s East Division.

 

68. Butch Davis, FIU

Davis made a big splash in his first year with FIU. The Panthers finished 8-5 overall and 5-3 in league play in 2017, while also earning the third bowl berth in program history. The eight-win season represented a four-game jump in victories from the previous year. Success in the South Florida area is nothing new for Davis. From 1995-00, he guided Miami to a 51-20 record, including an 11-1 mark in 2000. Davis left Miami for a chance to coach in the NFL. He went 24-35 and earned one playoff appearance with the Browns from 2001-04. Davis returned to the collegiate sidelines at North Carolina in 2007. Under his watch, the Tar Heels went 28-23 and posted three consecutive winning records from 2007-10. However, due to an NCAA investigation surrounding the program, Davis was dismissed prior to the 2011 season. The Oklahoma native was never implicated in the investigation. Davis has FIU on the right track and inked the No. 1 recruiting class in Conference USA for 2018 by the 247Sports Composite.

 

67. Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech

Louisiana Tech’s streak of nine-win seasons was snapped at three last fall, but Holtz’s program is poised to rebound and contend for the C-USA West Division title in 2018. The Bulldogs finished 7-6 last year but claimed a bowl victory over SMU to finish out the season. Louisiana Tech is 4-0 in bowl trips, has two West Division titles (2014 and 2016) and is 38-28 overall under Holtz’s direction. Holtz has three previous head coaching jobs on his resume. He went 34-23 at UConn from 1994-98 and guided East Carolina to a 38-27 mark from 2005-09. The Pirates won two Conference USA titles under Holtz’s watch. He later went 16-21 at USF from 2010-12. Holtz is 126-99 overall as a head coach.

 

66. Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Kentucky has made steady progress under Stoops. The Wildcats are 26-36 since 2013 and have not won fewer than five games since a 2-10 debut. Additionally, Kentucky has played in back-to-back bowl contests and has recorded at least a .500 mark in SEC play in each of the last two years. Prior to taking over in Lexington, Stoops worked as the defensive coordinator at Florida State and Arizona. He also had a stint at Miami (2001-03) and spent time at Houston, USF and Wyoming. Kentucky has to break in a new quarterback, but another bowl trip and a potential .500 record in SEC play are within reach.

 

Related: College Football Top 25 Rankings for 2018

 

65. Blake Anderson, Arkansas State

Anderson ranks third on this list among Sun Belt coaches, but little separates the top three names from this conference. Under Anderson’s watch, Arkansas State is 31-20 overall and 26-6 in Sun Belt play over the last four years. The Red Wolves have also earned four bowl trips under Anderson and claimed the Sun Belt title in 2015 with a perfect 8-0 league record. Prior to taking over at Arkansas State, Anderson worked as the offensive coordinator at Southern Miss (2010-11) and North Carolina (2012-13) and had other stints at Louisiana (2007), MTSU (2002-04) and New Mexico (1999-01).

 

64. Charlie Strong, USF

Following a disappointing three-year run at Texas, Strong returned to the state of Florida to replace Willie Taggart at USF. The Bulls fell short against UCF in an epic 49-42 thriller in Orlando last season but still finished 10-2 overall and claimed a victory in the Birmingham Bowl. USF wasn’t quite as dominant as some predicted, yet still ranked No. 21 in the final Associated Press poll. Strong has connections to the Sunshine State from previous stints at Florida (1988-99, 1991-93 and 2003-09) and will have no trouble attracting talent to Tampa. He previously went 37-15 as Louisville’s coach from 2010-13, including 23 wins over his final two years in charge. Strong went 16-21 at Texas but is a better fit at USF and should keep this program near the top of the AAC in 2018.

 

Related: Ranking All 130 Starting Quarterbacks for 2018

 

63. Jeff Monken, Army

Army has taken a significant step forward under Monken’s watch. The Black Knights won just eight games in the three years prior to Monken’s arrival but are 24-26 over the last four seasons. Army went 6-18 in Monken’s first two years but have earned back-to-back bowl trips. The Black Knights went 8-5 in 2016, earning the program’s first postseason bid since 2010. Monken delivered a 10-win season last year, which was Army’s first double-digit win total since 1996. Additionally, Monken has the program on the verge of making history in 2018. With a bowl trip this fall, the Black Knights will earn three consecutive postseason bids for the first time in program history. Prior to taking over at Army, Monken went 38-16 at Georgia Southern and worked as an assistant under Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech and Navy.

 

62. Jason Candle, Toledo

Candle is a rising star in the FBS head coach ranks and has guided Toledo to a 21-7 record since taking over after Matt Campbell departed for Iowa State prior to the 2015 bowl game. In his first full season at the helm, Candle guided the Rockets to a 9-4 record and a trip to the Camellia Bowl in 2016. Last season, Toledo finished 11-3 and claimed the program’s first MAC title since 2004. Candle is also one of the top offensive-minded coaches in the Group of 5 ranks, as his offense averaged 36.4 points a game last fall. In addition to his stint at Toledo, Candle also worked on Mount Union’s staff from 2003-08.

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Starting QBs for 2018

 

61. DJ Durkin, Maryland

After guiding Maryland to a 6-7 record in his first year (2016), Durkin's second team was hit by bad luck and finished 4-8 overall. Injuries at the quarterback position and to standout edge rusher Jesse Aniebonam hindered the Terrapins' ability to take a step forward in Durkin's second year. However, with better luck in the health department, Durkin's third team should return to the postseason in 2018. The Ohio native has experience working under some of college football's top coaches, as he spent time at Bowling Green and Florida under Urban Meyer and at Michigan and Stanford working for Jim Harbaugh. Durkin has quietly raised the profile of Maryland on the recruiting trail. The Terrapins reeled in the No. 18 class in 2017 and inked the No. 28 haul in '18.

 

60. Troy Calhoun, Air Force

When Calhoun ranks as the No. 5 Mountain West coach on this list, it’s a sign the league is deep at the top. Air Force’s 5-7 mark last season is just the third losing record in Calhoun’s 11 years at the Academy. Since taking over in 2007, Calhoun is 82-60 overall and claimed the Mountain Division title in 2015. Air Force also has two 10-win seasons and has played in nine bowl games under Calhoun’s direction. The Falcons return only 10 starters and have to improve a defense that allowed 32.4 points a game last season in order to return to a bowl in 2018.

 

59. Willie Fritz, Tulane

Tulane just missed on a bowl game in Fritz’s second season at the helm last fall, but five-win 2017 campaign was another sign this program is headed in the right direction. And considering Fritz’s track record, it won’t be long (likely 2018?) before the Green Wave returns to the postseason and turns some of the close losses -- eight by 10 points or less over the last two years -- into victories. Fritz is 9-15 overall and 4-12 in AAC play since coming to New Orleans. Prior to Tulane, Fritz went 17-7 at Georgia Southern (2014-15), 40-15 at Sam Houston State (2010-13) and 97-47 at Central Missouri (1997-09). Fritz has won consistently at a high level at all three of his previous head coaching jobs prior to Tulane. The Green Wave is in good hands with the Kansas native guiding the program in 2018 and beyond.

 

58. Steve Addazio, Boston College

Important to note: In any other league, Addazio would rank higher than 14th. That's how deep the ACC is this year in coaching talent. Consistency might be the best way to sum up Addazio's tenure at Boston College. In five years at the helm, he's recorded a 7-6 mark in four of those seasons. The Eagles have reached .500 in ACC play in three out of Addazio's five years and are 31-33 overall since 2013. Prior to taking over at Boston College, Addazio went 13-11 in two seasons at Temple. He also had a stint as an assistant at Florida under Urban Meyer (2005-10) and additional stops at Syracuse, Notre Dame and Indiana. After finishing 2017 with wins in five out of the last seven games, the 2018 version of Addazio's Eagles might be the best of his tenure in Chestnut Hill.

 

Related: College Football 2018 All-America Team

 

57. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado

A year after winning the Pac-12 South, Colorado (as expected) took a step back in the win column. The Buffaloes finished 5-7 overall, just missing out on a bowl game due to two losses by four points or less. The five-win season dropped MacIntyre's overall record to 25-38 overall in Boulder. While MacIntyre has just one bowl trip in five years, the program has made progress under his watch and should improve off last season's record. Prior to Colorado, MacIntyre spent three years as San Jose State's head coach. The Spartans went 6-19 in his first two seasons before showing marked progress in Year 3, finishing 10-2 in the regular season. He also has stops on his resume as an assistant from Duke, Ole Miss, Temple and in the NFL with the Cowboys and Jets.

 

56. Dino Babers, Syracuse

Babers has recorded back-to-back 4-8 seasons to begin his tenure in Syracuse, but the pieces are beginning to fall into place entering 2018. The Orange have pulled off a couple of big upsets (Virginia Tech in 2016 and Clemson in '17) and had close losses to Florida State, Miami, LSU and NC State last season. With three signing classes and the progression of the roster to fit his schemes, Babers has Syracuse poised to improve in 2018. Prior to taking over with the Orange, Babers went 19-7 in two years at Eastern Illinois (2012-13) and 18-9 at Bowling Green (2014-15). He also has stops as an assistant from a handful of programs, including Purdue, Arizona, Texas A&M, Pitt, Baylor and UCLA. Babers is regarded as one of college football's top minds on offense and is 45-32 overall in six years as a head coach.

 

55. Pat Narduzzi, Pitt

After beginning his tenure in the Steel City with back-to-back 8-5 records, Narduzzi's third year resulted in a 5-7 mark. But the Panthers lost three games by six points or less and won three out of their last five contests, providing optimism for a rebound in 2018. Narduzzi is 21-17 overall and 14-10 in ACC play since taking over at Pitt. From 2007-14, Narduzzi worked under Mark Dantonio at Michigan State and was regarded as one of college football's top defensive coordinators. He also has stints in his career at Cincinnati, Miami (Ohio) and Northern Illinois.

 

54. Jeff Tedford, Fresno State

Tedford engineered one of the biggest turnarounds in college football history last season. After Fresno State finished 1-11 in 2016, Tedford (in his first season at the helm) guided the Bulldogs to a 10-4 record in ’17. The nine-win improvement was the biggest of any FBS team last fall. Also, Fresno State claimed the West Division title and won the program’s first bowl game since 2007. Tedford previously worked as the head coach at California from 2002-12, recording a 82-57 record and eight bowl trips over 11 years.

 

Related: Ranking the Mountain West's Quarterbacks for 2018

 

53. Dave Doeren, NC State

NC State is coming off the best season under Doeren's watch. The Wolfpack finished 9-4 last fall, earning a 6-2 record in ACC play and finishing second in the Atlantic Division behind Clemson. Additionally, NC State finished No. 23 in the final Associated Press poll, which was the program's first top 25 finish since 2010. Prior to the 2017 campaign, Doeren posted three winning seasons and bowl trips from 2014-16. Doeren is 34-30 overall and 15-25 in ACC play since taking over in 2013. Prior to NC State, Doeren went 23-4 as the head coach at Northern Illinois (2011-12) and also had stints as an assistant at Kansas and Wisconsin. After taking a step forward in 2017, can Doeren continue to elevate NC State in the Atlantic?

 

52. Craig Bohl, Wyoming

Wyoming has made considerable improvement after a 6-18 start to Bohl’s tenure. The Cowboys finished 8-6 and won the Mountain Division in 2016, followed by an 8-5 campaign last fall. Bohl guided Wyoming to a victory in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, which was the program’s first postseason win since 2009. Additionally, the eight-win campaigns represented the program’s first back-to-back winning records since 1998-99. Bohl’s success at Wyoming comes as no surprise. From 2003-13, he guided North Dakota State to a 104-32 record and won three consecutive FCS titles (2011-13).

 

51. Larry Fedora, North Carolina

Fedora heads into 2018 looking to get North Carolina back on track. After winning the Coastal Division and recording 11 victories in 2015, the Tar Heels are just 11-14 over the last two seasons. Additionally, the three-win campaign of 2017 represented the program's fewest victories since 2006. Fedora is 43-34 overall since taking over in Chapel Hill in 2012 and has four winning seasons in his six-year tenure. Prior to North Carolina, Fedora went 34-19 in four years at Southern Miss, which included a 12-2 campaign in 2011. He also has stops on his resume from stints as an assistant at Oklahoma State, Florida, MTSU, Air Force and Baylor.

 

50. Will Muschamp, South Carolina

There were plenty of doubts about Muschamp's ability to lead a SEC program after his stint at Florida. Under Muschamp, the Gators went 28-21 overall and were just 17-15 in SEC play from 2011-14. However, Muschamp is off to a strong start at South Carolina. The Gamecocks went 3-9 in the year prior to Muschamp's arrival but finished 6-7 in his first season (2016). South Carolina showed marked improvement last fall, recording a 9-4 record and finished second in the East Division. In addition to stints as a head coach at South Carolina and Florida, Muschamp has worked as a defensive coordinator at Auburn (2006-07, '15), Texas (2008-10) and LSU (2002-04). He also worked for one year with the Dolphins in 2005. With a promising quarterback in Jake Bentley, along with the return of receiver Deebo Samuel from injury, the Gamecocks could match last year's nine wins in 2018.

 

49. Bill Clark, UAB

UAB’s return to the gridiron was one of college football’s best storylines from the 2017 season. However, Clark and his staff ensured it was more than just a good story. The Blazers finished 8-5 -- the program’s highest win total -- and earned a trip to the Bahamas Bowl. After a promising 6-6 record in 2014, UAB’s program was disbanded from 2015-16. While the staff could recruit and develop players once the program was restarted, getting to a bowl game and delivering eight wins in 2017 (after a two-year absence) was worthy of Clark being in the national discussion for coach of the year honors. The Alabama native also spent one year (2013) as Jacksonville State’s head coach, delivering an 11-4 record and a FCS playoff trip. As the 2017 season showed, Clark is one of the top Group of 5 coaches in the nation. And with better facilities on the way and momentum on his side, UAB is going to be an even bigger factor in Conference USA’s West Division.

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Starting QBs for 2018

 

48. Matt Rhule, Baylor

As expected, Rhule's first season at Baylor was clearly a rebuilding year. The Bears finished 1-11 but lost five games by 10 points or less. However, the future outlook in Waco is promising for the New York native. Baylor has added back-to-back top-40 signing classes and a handful of talented young players are back (with added experience) for 2018. Prior to taking over at Baylor, Rhule had a successful 28-23 stint at Temple, which included back-to-back 10-win seasons. He also has stints in his coaching career as an assistant at Temple, Western Carolina, UCLA and in the NFL with the Giants.

 

47. P.J. Fleck, Minnesota

Minnesota just missed out on a bowl in Fleck's first season in 2017, finishing 5-7 with three losses by seven points or less. There's no shortage of optimism in Minneapolis with Fleck guiding the program, as Minnesota inked the No. 36 signing class for 2018 -- the program's highest mark over the last five years. Additionally, Fleck seems to be following a similar track to what he accomplished at Western Michigan. After a 1-11 debut in 2013, the Broncos showed steady improvement with back-to-back 8-5 seasons and bowl trips, followed by a breakout 13-1 mark and an appearance in the Cotton Bowl in '16. Fleck has Minnesota trending in the right direction, with six victories and a bowl trip within reach this fall.

 

46. Mike Norvell, Memphis

Norvell inherited big shoes to fill in replacing Justin Fuente in 2016, but Memphis hasn’t missed a beat over the last two years. Under Norvell’s direction, the Tigers are 18-8 overall. Memphis finished 10-3 last fall -- just the program’s second season of double-digit victories -- and claimed the AAC West Division title. The Tigers fell short of an upset bid against UCF in the conference title game last year, losing 62-55 in double overtime. Before taking over for Fuente at Memphis, Norvell worked under Todd Graham at Tulsa (2007-10), Pitt (2011) and Arizona State (2012-15). In addition to his success as a head coach and assistant, Norvell is known for producing high-powered offenses. The Tigers averaged 45.5 points a game last season, up from 38.8 in 2016.

 

Related: College Football 130 Team Rankings for 2018

 

45. Neal Brown, Troy

Brown is one of college football’s top coaches on the rise. The Kentucky native had big shoes to fill in replacing Larry Blakeney in 2015 and went 4-8 in his debut with the Trojans. However, Troy has showed marked improvement since that season. The Trojans are 21-5 over the last two years and claimed a share of the league title last fall with a 7-1 mark in conference play. Troy also scored a huge non-conference victory by defeating LSU in Baton Rouge last season. Brown had previous experience at Troy, working under Blakeney from 2006-09. He also worked as an offensive coordinator from stints at Texas Tech (2010-12) and Kentucky (2013-14). In addition to his track record of building high-powered offenses, Brown is quickly proving he can build a program as a head coach. 

 

Related: Ranking Every College Football Starting QB for 2018

 

44. Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State

Satterfield ranks as Athlon’s No. 1 coach in the Sun Belt for the third consecutive year. The former Appalachian State quarterback replaced legendary coach Jerry Moore in 2013 and helped the program transition to the FBS level. Satterfield went 4-8 in his first season but has recorded four consecutive winning seasons. The Mountaineers finished 7-5 in their first year at the FBS level, followed by an 11-2 record in 2015 and a 10-3 mark in 2016. Appalachian State finished 9-4 last season, which included the program’s third consecutive 7-1 season in league play. Also, Satterfield’s teams in 2016-17 claimed a share of the Sun Belt title.

 

43. Frank Solich, Ohio

Consistent success might be the best way to sum up Solich’s tenure at Ohio. Since taking over in 2015, Solich is 97-71 with the Bobcats and has guided the program to eight bowl appearances over the last nine years. Ohio is also 64-40 in MAC play under Solich and has not had a losing record since 2008. Solich is also the MAC’s longest-tenured coach, and his 13 years at the helm ranks fourth among active FBS coaches. The next step for Solich? Win a MAC title after taking the program to four conference title games since 2006.

 

42. Kevin Sumlin, Arizona

Sumlin wasn't out of work for long when his tenure ended at Texas A&M following the 2017 regular season. The Alabama native was scooped up by Arizona to replace Rich Rodriguez and inherits a team capable of winning the Pac-12 South in 2018. Sumlin played his college ball at Purdue and was an assistant at a couple of programs -- Wyoming, Minnesota, Purdue, Texas A&M and Oklahoma -- before landing his first head coaching job at Houston in 2008. Under Sumlin's watch, the Cougars went 35-17 over four years. Houston's offense ranked among the nation's best during that span, which included a 12-1 season in 2011. Sumlin was hired at Texas A&M prior to 2012 and oversaw the transition to the SEC. The Aggies started fast under Sumlin, finishing 11-2 in 2012 and 9-4 in '13. However, the program went 8-5 in three consecutive years, followed by a 7-5 mark in the regular season in 2017. Sumlin is a good recruiter and has a style of play that should work well in the Pac-12.

 

41. Bryan Harsin, Boise State

Harsin was the perfect replacement for Boise State once Chris Petersen left for Washington. And through four seasons, Harsin has maintained the high level of success that the program has been accustomed to in recent years. The Broncos are 42-12 and have claimed two Mountain West titles since 2014. Additionally, Boise State has posted at least 10 victories in three out of Harsin’s four years. The Broncos claimed the Group of 5 bowl spot in the New Year’s Six in 2014 and could be the early favorite to reach that level once again in 2018. Harsin also spent one year as Arkansas State’s head coach in 2013 (7-5) and had previous stints as an assistant at Boise State (2002-10) and Texas (2011-12).

 

Related: Way-Too-Early College Football 130 Team Rankings for 2018

 

40. Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia

Virginia was arguably the biggest surprise in the ACC last season, as the Cavaliers finished 6-7 in Mendenhall's second year in Charlottesville. That represented a four-win jump from his debut in 2016. Mendenhall is no stranger to success. From 2005-15, he went 99-43 at BYU. The Cougars did not have a losing record under Mendenhall and won at least eight games in nine seasons. Mendenhall also has stops on his resume from stints as an assistant at Northern Arizona, Oregon State, Louisiana Tech and New Mexico.

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Starting QBs for 2018

 

39. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

Johnson has compiled a career record of 182-93 as a head coach at three different stops -- Georgia Southern, Navy and Georgia Tech. During his 21-year tenure as a head coach, Johnson has posted only four losing seasons. Johnson heads into 2018 at Georgia Tech looking to steer the program back on track following last year's 5-6 record -- the program's second losing mark over the last three seasons. However, Johnson has recorded only one losing mark in ACC play since taking over in Atlanta in 2008. Additionally, he's guided the program to an ACC title in 2009 and two Orange Bowl trips (2009, '14). Johnson previously went 45-29 at Navy from 2002-07 and 62-10 with two FCS national championships at Georgia Southern from 1997-01.

 

38. Clay Helton, USC

Helton is off to a solid start at USC, going 21-6, claiming the 2017 Pac-12 title, and two New Year's Six bowl appearances in his first two full years on the job. Helton was promoted to interim coach during the 2015 season and finished 5-4 in his stint. However, Helton showed enough in that run to be promoted to head coach, and he's 27-10 overall in his tenure in Los Angeles. Helton worked from 2010-15 as an assistant at USC, holding the offensive coordinator title since '13. He has other stops on his resume from stints at Memphis, Houston and Duke. Helton has to replace standout quarterback Sam Darnold, but back-to-back top-five signing classes will make the transition to the 2018 team a little easier. 

 

Related: Pac-12 Football 2018 All-Conference Team

 

37. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

Holgorsen got off to a fast start in Morgantown. He took over the program prior to the 2011 season, guiding the Mountaineers to a 10-3 record, an Orange Bowl victory over Clemson and a share of the Big East title. Additionally, Holgorsen guided West Virginia in its transition to the Big 12. Over the last six years, the Mountaineers are 43-34 under Holgorsen's watch. West Virginia finished 10-3 overall and 7-2 in Big 12 play in 2016, which was the program's best mark since joining the conference. With quarterback Will Grier and one of college football's top receiving corps, the Mountaineers should be among the nation's top 25 teams, giving Holgorsen a chance to match the 10-win campaign from two years ago.

 

36. Willie Taggart, Florida State

Taking over as Florida State's head coach is a homecoming of sorts for Taggart. The Florida native starred as a quarterback at Bradenton Manatee High School and grew up a fan of the Seminoles. After a successful high school career, Taggart played quarterback at WKU from 1994-98. He transitioned to coaching with the Hilltoppers in 1999 under Jack Harbaugh and remained in Bowling Green until 2006. Taggart spent the next three years working with Jim Harbaugh at Stanford as the running backs coach from 2007-09, before returning to WKU as the program's head coach in 2010. Taggart inherited a program in need of major repair. After a 2-10 record in his first year, the Hilltoppers showed marked improvement, going 14-11 over the next two seasons. Taggart was hired at USF prior to the 2013 season and went 6-18 in his first two years. The Bulls went 19-7 over the next two seasons, which helped Taggart land the top spot at Oregon. In his only year in Eugene, Taggart went 7-5 in the regular season. Taggart is 47-50 overall as a head coach but didn't inherit the best situations at WKU and USF. He should have no trouble elevating Florida State back into contention for the ACC title in the near future.

 

Related: ACC 2018 All-Conference Team

 

35. Dave Clawson, Wake Forest

Clawson arrived at Wake Forest in 2014 with a reputation of turning around programs. He landed his first head coaching job at Fordham in 1999 and went 29-29 over five seasons, including 19 wins over the final two years. Clawson took over at Richmond in 2004. After a losing record in his debut, the Spiders posted three consecutive winning records, including an 11-win campaign in 2007. After a one-year stint as Tennessee's offensive coordinator in 2008, Clawson was hired as Bowling Green's head coach prior to the 2009 season. The Falcons went 14-23 in Clawson's first three years but finished 18-8 from 2012-13 and won the MAC title in his last season. After four years in Winston-Salem, it's clear he has the Demon Deacons on the right path. Wake Forest went 9-15 in the two seasons prior to Clawson's arrival and went 6-18 over his first two years (2014-15). However, the Demon Deacons are 15-11 over the last two seasons, including a .500 mark (4-4) in ACC play last fall.

 

34. Lane Kiffin, FAU

FAU’s first season under Kiffin was a huge success. The Owls improved their win total by eight games from the previous year, claimed the Conference USA title thanks to a 41-17 victory over North Texas and defeated Akron in the Boca Raton Bowl. Additionally, FAU finished the season with a 10-game winning streak. As expected, Kiffin’s offense was prolific. The Owls averaged 40.6 points and nearly 500 yards a game last year. From 2014-16, Kiffin worked as Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator at Alabama. The Crimson Tide won one national championship and ranked among the SEC’s best in scoring offense in Kiffin’s three years in Tuscaloosa. Prior to Alabama, Kiffin went 7-6 at Tennessee (2009) and 28-15 at USC (2010-13). The Kiffin-at-FAU experiment was high on intrigue last season. As evidenced by Kiffin’s one year at the helm, the Owls will once again be must-see football throughout the 2018 campaign.

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2018

 

33. Jeff Brohm, Purdue

It's clear the Big Ten is a deep league for head coaches when Brohm ranks No. 9 in the conference. After working as an assistant at Louisville, FAU, Illinois, UAB and WKU from 2003-13, Brohm landed his first head coaching job with the Hilltoppers in 2013. Under Brohm's direction, WKU emerged as one of college football's top teams on offense and claimed 30 victories from 2014-16. The Hilltoppers won back-to-back Conference USA titles in 2015-16 and finished the season ranked 24th in the polls in '15. Purdue showed marked improvement in Brohm's first year, improving its win total by four games from 2016, finishing 7-6 with a victory over Arizona in the Foster Farms Bowl. Brohm will continue to elevate Purdue in the Big Ten West in 2018.

 

32. Matt Campbell, Iowa State

Campbell is quickly moving up in the coaching ranks. The Ohio native guided Toledo to a 35-15 record after taking over as the program's head coach prior to the 2011 Military Bowl. Under Campbell's direction, the Rockets won at least nine games in three out of his four years. Campbell was hired at Iowa State prior to the 2016 season and finished 3-9 in his debut. However, the Cyclones showed marked improvement last fall. Campbell's team beat both Oklahoma and TCU -- the two teams that played in the Big 12 Championship Game -- en route to an 8-5 record. The eight-win season was the program's highest win total since 2000. Campbell is a rising star in the coaching ranks, and Iowa State will make plenty of noise with the Mount Union product leading the way.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Running Backs for 2018

 

31. Mike Leach, Washington State

Leach is known for producing some of college football's top offenses via the Air Raid attack and has delivered 14 winning records in his 16 years as a head coach. He went 84-43 at Texas Tech from 2000-09, which included an 11-win campaign in 2008. Leach took over at Washington State prior to 2012 and posted losing records in his first three years in Pullman. However, the Cougars have won at least eight games in each of the last three seasons, compiling a 26-13 record with two trips to the Holiday Bowl in that span.

 

30. Rocky Long, San Diego State

Long has transformed San Diego State into an annual Mountain West title contender and one of the top Group of 5 teams in the nation. The Aztecs are 64-29 under Long’s direction, earning a bowl trip in all seven seasons and claiming two Mountain West titles since 2011. San Diego State has recorded seven double-digit win seasons in program history, with three of those coming under Long. Also, the 11 victories in 2015 and 2016 tied the best mark in school history. Long also has a previous stint as New Mexico’s head coach, recording a 65-69 record from 1998-08. He also has stops on his resume from stints at UCLA, Oregon State and TCU as an assistant coach.  

 

29. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy

Niumatalolo was promoted to head coach after Paul Johnson left for Georgia Tech at the end of the 2007 season. Since then, the Hawaii native has reeled off 84 wins over the last 10 years, which is the most by a head coach in Navy history. Under Niumatalolo’s direction, the Midshipmen have played in nine bowl games over the last 10 seasons. Additionally, Navy only has one losing record during that span. Niumatalolo guided the program through a transition period into the American Athletic Conference, and as expected, the level of success hasn’t changed. The Midshipmen won 11 games and finished No. 19 nationally in 2015 and claimed the AAC West Division title in 2016 with a 9-5 record overall.

 

28. Tom Herman, Texas

High expectations surrounded Herman's debut in Austin last fall. Herman arrived at Texas following a successful two-year run at Houston. The Cougars went 13-1 in Herman's debut (2015), defeated Florida State in the Peach Bowl and finished No. 8 nationally. Houston followed that up with a 9-3 showing in the regular season, as his tenure ended with a 22-4 mark. Last fall, Herman went 7-6 leading the Longhorns, losing five games by 10 points or less. Prior to his stints as a head coach, Herman was one of college football's top assistant coaches at Ohio State (2012-14) and also had stints at Rice, Texas State and Iowa State. After inking the No. 3 signing class this year, Herman is starting to put the pieces into place for Texas to get back into contention for the Big 12 title.

 

27. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Ferentz is the nation's longest-tenured head coach going into the 2018 season. During his time in Iowa City, Ferentz has recorded 143 victories, guided the program to 15 bowl trips and finished six times in the final Associated Press top 25 poll. Also, Iowa went to the Rose Bowl in 2015 and has won at least eight games in four out of the last five years. Since 2007, the Hawkeyes have just one losing season (2012). It's a sign of the Big Ten's coaching depth when Ferentz ranks No. 8 in the league. 

 

26. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

In terms of a debut, it doesn't get much better than what Riley accomplished in 2017. And it wasn't a typical transition to the head coach role for the Texas native. Bob Stoops decided to retire in June, prompting athletic director Joe Castiglione to promote Riley from offensive coordinator to head coach. Riley simply guided Oklahoma to a 12-2 season, won the Big 12 title and came up just short of a Rose Bowl victory against Georgia in the CFB Playoff. Additionally, Riley's high-powered attack averaged 45.1 points per game (the most by a Power 5 team), with quarterback Baker Mayfield also taking home the Heisman Trophy. Prior to Oklahoma, Riley worked as East Carolina's play-caller from 2010-14 and also coached at Texas Tech under Mike Leach from 2007-09.

 

Related: Big 12 Football 2018 All-Conference Team

 

25. David Cutcliffe, Duke

Duke is one of the toughest Power 5 jobs in college football, but Cutcliffe has transformed this program into a consistent winner in the ACC. In addition to his success as a head coach, Cutcliffe is highly regarded for his work on offense, especially in developing quarterbacks. Cutcliffe joined Tennessee's staff in 1982 and remained with the Volunteers until 1998 when he was hired as the head coach at Ole Miss. The Rebels went 44-29 under Cutcliffe's direction, finishing 10-3 overall and No. 13 nationally in 2003. After another stint at Tennessee, Cutcliffe was hired as Duke's head coach prior to the 2008 season. He inherited a program in need of major repair. The Blue Devils won just four games over the previous four years. Duke finished 4-8 in Cutcliffe's first season and went 11-25 over the next three years. However, the Blue Devils showed marked improvement starting in 2012. The program has played in five bowl games over the last six years, won the 2013 Coastal Division title and finished No. 23 nationally that year. Following a 4-8 mark in 2016, Duke improved to 7-6 last season. Cutcliffe gets the most out of his players, which helps the Blue Devils close the talent gap with the rest of the Coastal.

 

24. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

Kelly enters his ninth season at Notre Dame with a 69-34 overall mark, and the program rebounded to 10-3 last fall after a losing mark (4-8) in 2016. The Fighting Irish played in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game and have three seasons of at least 10 victories during Kelly’s tenure. While Kelly has experienced the highs (national title appearance) and has two finishes in the top 12 of the Associated Press poll over the last three years, the program also has four years without a top 25 finish. Kelly has been successful at several stops in his career. He went 34-6 at Cincinnati (2006-09), finished 19-16 at Central Michigan (2004-06) and recorded a 118-35-2 at Grand Valley State (1991-03). During his tenure with the Lakers, Kelly guided the program to two Division II Championships. Kelly has a career mark of 240-91-2 in his four head coaching stops.

 

Scott Frost

23. Scott Frost, Nebraska

It's probably safe to assume Frost will be moving up in these rankings over the next couple of seasons. The former Nebraska quarterback has returned to Lincoln to restore the program to national prominence. Frost has established an outstanding resume in a short amount of time. After a short NFL career, Frost worked as a graduate assistant at Nebraska and Kansas State, followed by a two-year stint at Northern Iowa as a defensive assistant. He joined Oregon's staff in 2009 and was promoted to offensive coordinator in '13. Frost called the plays for the Ducks' high-powered offense until he was hired as UCF's head coach prior to the 2016 campaign. The Knights made dramatic progress in Frost's first year, improving from 0-12 in 2015 to 6-7 in '16. UCF took another big step forward in 2017, finishing 13-0 and No. 6 nationally in the final Associated Press poll. This is one of the top hires for the 2017-18 coaching carousel, as Frost should win in a big way at his alma mater.

 

22. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

There's no coach better suited to lead Wisconsin than Chryst. After all, he is a native of Madison, played his college ball with the Badgers and worked as an assistant under Barry Alvarez in 2002 and '05, followed by a stint under Bret Bielema from 2006-11. Chryst landed his first FBS head coaching opportunity at Pitt in 2012 and went 19-19 over three seasons with the Panthers. The Madison native left Pitt for Wisconsin in 2015 and has thrived since taking over the program. The Badgers are 34-7 over the last three seasons, including a 13-win campaign in 2017. Additionally, Wisconsin is 22-4 in Big Ten play during that span and has two New Year's Six bowl victories.

 

Related: Ranking College Football's Top 50 RBs for 2018

 

21. Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech

The transition from Frank Beamer to Fuente has been seamless in Blacksburg. The Hokies are 19-8 under Fuente's two seasons at the helm and claimed the 2016 Coastal Division title. Additionally, Virginia Tech has finished in the top 25 in back-to-back years and is slated to begin 2018 ranked once again. Before taking over in Blacksburg, Fuente brought marked improvement to Memphis. The Tigers won five games in the three years prior to Fuente's arrival but claimed four victories in his first year (2012). After a 3-9 mark in 2013, Memphis won 19 games over the next two seasons and finished No. 24 nationally in the final Associated Press poll that year. In addition to his success as a head coach at two different stops, Fuente is one of college football's top offensive minds and has a strong track record of developing quarterbacks.

 

Related: ACC Football 2018 Predictions

 

20. Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Thanks to regular season victories against Georgia and Alabama last year, Auburn was on the doorstep of reaching the CFB Playoff. However, a loss to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game dropped the Tigers to the Peach Bowl (and an eventual loss to UCF). While Auburn fell short of the conference title and playoff berth, last season's 10 victories were the most for the program since 2013. Malzahn guided Auburn to the SEC title and an appearance in the national championship in 2013 but went 23-16 from '14-16 and had only one winning record in conference play during that span. Prior to taking over as Auburn's head coach, Malzahn spent the 2012 campaign at Arkansas State, guiding the Red Wolves to a 9-3 record during the regular season. He also called the plays for the Tigers during their 2010 national championship and had stints at Tulsa (2007-08) and Arkansas (2006). Malzahn is one of college football's top minds on offense and heads into 2018 armed with a new seven-year, $49 million dollar contract.

 

19. Kyle Whittingham, Utah

Whittingham enters 2018 as the Pac-12's longest-tenured coach. His 13 years at the helm in Salt Lake City also places him among the top five in in the nation in that respect. Whittingham's longevity isn't the most notable thing about his tenure, however. He's produced consistent winners since working as a co-head coach with Urban Meyer in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl. Whittingham is 111-56 over the last 13 years and has just two losing records in that span. Utah has five finishes in the top 25 since 2008, including a No. 2 rank in the Associated Press poll in '08. After finishing with back-to-back 5-7 seasons from 2012-13, Utah posted three consecutive years of at least nine victories. The Utes finished 7-6 last fall but are poised to challenge for the Pac-12 South title in 2018.

 

Related: Ranking College Football's Top 50 RBs for 2018

 

18. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

Northwestern's program continues to reach new heights under Fitzgerald's watch. The former Northwestern linebacker was promoted to head coach prior to the 2006 season following the tragic death of Randy Walker. After a 10-14 record through his first two years on the job, Fitzgerald has guided the Wildcats to eight bowl games over the last 10 seasons and has just two years of fewer than six wins in that span. Additionally, Fitzgerald has led the program to three seasons of at least 10 victories. Prior to Fitzgerald's tenure, Northwestern had only two years of at least 10 victories and had made just six bowl trips. Last season's 7-2 mark in Big Ten play was the best conference record in Fitzgerald's tenure in Evanston.

 

17. Dan Mullen, Florida

After a successful run at Mississippi State, Mullen was picked to help Florida return to a spot among the nation's best. And there's no shortage of familiarity in Gainesville, as Mullen spent 2005-08 working under Urban Meyer at Florida, and former Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin now works in the same role with the Gators. Mullen finished his tenure at Mississippi State with a 69-46 overall mark and a 33-39 record in SEC play. Those marks are even more impressive when you consider Mississippi State is the toughest job in the SEC West, and Mullen had only one season of fewer than six victories (2009). Additionally, prior to Mullen's arrival, the Bulldogs had 13 bowl trips in program history. Under Mullen, Mississippi State went to eight postseason contests. The program also ranked No. 1 in the first CFB Playoff rankings in 2014. The Pennsylvania native also has stops on his resume from stints at Notre Dame (graduate assistant from 1999-00), Bowling Green and Utah. At Florida, Mullen will have better access to talent and is taking over one of the top 10 jobs in college football. Considering his level of success at Mississippi State, that should translate well in Gainesville.

 

Related: SEC Football 2018 All-Conference Team

 

16. Bobby Petrino, Louisville

In addition to his ability to produce high-powered offenses, Petrino continues to win at a high level, averaging nine wins a year in his 13 seasons as a head coach. The Cardinals are 34-18 since joining the ACC in 2014, finishing at least .500 or better in all four years. The 2016 season was the high point of Petrino's second stint at Louisville. The Cardinals won nine games, finished 7-1 in ACC play and quarterback Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy. Petrino previously worked as Louisville's head coach from 2003-06, compiling a 41-9 record and two finishes in the top 10 of the final Associated Press poll. He left for Arkansas in 2008, going 5-7 in his first year before recording three consecutive winning campaigns. The Razorbacks finished No. 5 nationally after recording 11 wins and a Cotton Bowl victory in 2011. Including an 8-4 record at WKU in 2013, Petrino is 117-48 overall as a head coach in the collegiate ranks.

 

15. Bill Snyder, Kansas State

Just how important is Snyder to Kansas State football? Consider this: Prior to Snyder's arrival, the Wildcats had just one bowl trip in program history and won just nine games over the previous six years. However, Kansas State has thrived under Snyder's direction. Snyder guided the program to 11 consecutive bowl games from 1993-2003, including two trips to the Fiesta Bowl. Additionally, K-State's '03 team claimed the Big 12 title and finished 11-4 overall. Snyder retired following the 2005 season but returned to the sidelines in Manhattan in 2009. The Wildcats have continued to have success in Snyder's second act, claiming the Big 12 title in 2012 and playing in eight straight bowl games. Snyder is 210-110-1 since taking over as Kansas State's head coach. In addition to his ability to develop players and maximize the talent on the roster, Snyder has found a way to win consistently at one of the Big 12's toughest jobs.

 

14. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

Gundy has recorded a 114-53 overall record since taking over at his alma mater prior to the 2005 season. Oklahoma State has won at least seven games in each of the last 12 years and has not posted a losing mark since 2005. Additionally, Gundy has helped to elevate the program into a consistent top 25 team. The Cowboys have finished in the final Associated Press poll seven times under his watch, including No. 3 in 2011. Oklahoma State also has four 10-win seasons over the last five years. Gundy's 114 victories are the most by any coach in program history.

 

Related: Big 12 Football 2018 Predictions

 

13. Mark Richt, Miami

The U is a program on the rise with Richt at the controls. The Hurricanes are 19-7 over the last two seasons, with a 12-4 mark in ACC play. Miami won the Coastal Division title in 2017 for the first time since joining the league. Additionally, the Hurricanes were in the mix for a spot in the CFB Playoff deep into last season. Richt arrived in Coral Gables after accumulating a 145-51 record at Georgia from 2001-15. Under Richt's direction, Georgia won two SEC titles (2002 and '05), recorded at least double-digit victories in nine seasons and finished No. 2 in the final Associated Press poll in 2007. Richt has already made a difference in just two years at Miami. Look for the upward trend to continue in 2018.

 

Related: College Football Top 25 Rankings for 2018

 

12. Chip Kelly, UCLA

Kelly has returned to the collegiate ranks following a stint in the NFL and a stop as a college football analyst for ESPN. How long will it take Kelly to elevate UCLA into Pac-12 title contention? If the past is any indicator, it won't be long. Kelly went 46-7 at Oregon from 2009-12 and won at least 12 games in each of his last three seasons. The New Hampshire native is widely regarded as one of college football's top offensive-minded coaches. Kelly went 26-21 with the Eagles from 2013-15 and finished 2-14 with the 49ers in '16. UCLA's hire of Kelly was one of the top coaching moves for the 2017-18 carousel. This should work out well for the Bruins.

 

11. David Shaw, Stanford

Shaw continues to raise the bar for success at Stanford. After taking over following Jim Harbaugh's departure to the NFL, Shaw is 73-22 over the last seven years and guided the program to three Pac-12 titles. Additionally, the Cardinal have not won fewer than eight games under Shaw's watch and also have three trips to the Rose Bowl. Stanford is also 49-14 in Pac-12 action since the start of Shaw's tenure in 2011.

 

Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2018

 

10. Kirby Smart, Georgia

Smart makes a huge jump in the coach rankings following a successful 2017 season. In his first year at the helm in 2016, Georgia finished 8-5 overall and 4-4 in SEC play. However, Smart's second team was only a couple of plays away from winning the national championship, falling 26-23 in overtime to Alabama. The Bulldogs finished 13-2 overall, claimed the SEC title and dominated rivals Georgia Tech and Florida by a combined score of 80-14. Georgia is also winning on the recruiting trail. After finishing with the No. 7 class in 2016, the Bulldogs inked the No. 3 haul in '17 and claimed the best class by the 247Sports Composite this cycle. Smart was one of the nation's top assistant coaches at Alabama prior to his arrival in Athens and is one of college football's top defensive minds. After two years, it's clear he's on a fast track to a place among the top coaches in the nation and has Georgia (his alma mater) poised to contend for a playoff spot once again in 2018.

 

Jim Harbaugh Coach

9. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Sorting out the coaches ranked 2-4 in the Big Ten might be the toughest part of this assignment. Michigan has improved significantly since Harbaugh arrived in Ann Arbor but is still looking to take the next step and win a conference title. The Wolverines went 10-3 in Harbaugh's debut in 2015 -- up from 5-7 in Brady Hoke's last year. Michigan went 10-3 again in 2016 and came just a couple of plays away from beating Ohio State in Columbus to win the Big Ten East. In a rebuilding year, the Wolverines slipped to 8-5 last fall. With only six returning starters and three quarterbacks receiving snaps due to injury, it's no surprise Michigan slipped to 5-4 in league play in 2017. However, Harbaugh's track record is strong. He went 29-6 in three years at San Diego (2004-06), finished 29-21 at Stanford, including a 12-1 mark in 2010. Additionally, he finished 44-19-1 in four years with the San Francisco 49ers and guided the team to an appearance in Super Bowl XLVII. With one of the nation's best defenses returning, along with the arrival of quarterback Shea Patterson, Harbaugh's team should be in the mix to win the Big Ten title in 2018.

 

Related: Big Ten 2018 All-Conference Team

 

8. James Franklin, Penn State

After a 14-12 start to his tenure in Happy Valley, Franklin has elevated Penn State back among the nation's top programs. The Nittany Lions are 22-5 over the last two seasons and have earned back-to-back trips to New Year's Six bowl games. Additionally, Penn State claimed the 2016 Big Ten title and have lost only three contests in league play over the last two years. Franklin's credentials with the Nittany Lions are impressive, but don't forget about his stint at Vanderbilt. The Commodores -- arguably the toughest job in the SEC -- went 24-15 under Franklin's watch and finished in the final polls in back-to-back years (2012-13). In addition to his on-field success, Franklin is one of college football's top recruiters.

 

7. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

Michigan State was one of college football's most improved teams last season, recording a seven-win jump from 2016 to '17. With last year's 10-3 record and second-place finish in the East Division in mind, Dantonio jumps back to the No. 2 spot among Big Ten coaches. He's 100-45 since taking over in East Lansing in 2007 and has just two losing records in that span. Additionally, Michigan State has claimed three Big Ten titles since 2010 and earned a trip to the CFB Playoff in '15. Prior to his stint at Michigan State, Dantonio went 18-17 in three years at Cincinnati (2004-06) and worked as an assistant at Kansas (1991-94), Michigan State (1995-2000) and Ohio State (2001-03).

 

Related: Big Ten Football Predictions for 2018

 

6. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M

Texas A&M aimed high and successfully landed its top coaching target of the 2017-18 carousel, as Fisher left Tallahassee for a 10-year, $75 million dollar deal in College Station. As the contract indicates, the Aggies want to be a serious player in the SEC West. With standout facilities and fertile recruiting territory, Fisher should have no trouble helping this program move forward in the SEC over the next few years. Fisher had a tough assignment at Florida State, replacing legendary coach Bobby Bowden in 2010. After going 19-8 over his first two seasons, Fisher guided the program to three consecutive ACC titles (2012-14) and a perfect 14-0 season in 2013 to claim the national title. Injuries derailed Fisher's final year in Tallahassee, as Florida State finished 7-6 overall. However, Fisher's career mark at Florida State was an outstanding 83-23. It's no secret the SEC West will present new challenges for Fisher. However, he's already off to a strong start on the recruiting trail and there's enough talent to be a top 25 team in 2018.

 

Related: SEC Football 2018 Predictions

 

5. Gary Patterson, TCU

Patterson enters 2018 as the nation's second-longest tenured coach and takes over the top spot in Athlon's Big 12 coach rankings. The Kansas native took over as TCU's head coach for the 2000 bowl game and has guided the program through three different conference transitions. The Horned Frogs moved from the WAC to Conference USA prior to 2001 and shifted to the Mountain West in '05. The program landed in the Big 12 before the 2012 season, and through all of the changes, TCU hasn't missed a beat with Patterson at the helm. He's guided the program to a 160-57 record and has just three losing seasons in 17 years as the head coach in Fort Worth. TCU has also claimed at least a share of six conference titles, finished No. 2 nationally in 2010 and just missed out on the CFB Playoff in '14. In addition to his success as a head coach, Patterson is one of college football's top defensive minds and has guided TCU's defense to rank consistently among the best in the nation.

 

4. Chris Petersen, Washington

Washington is a program on the rise with Petersen at the helm. The Huskies are 22-5 over the last two years, including a 12-win season and a trip to the CFB Playoff in 2016. Washington finished 10-3 last year, which gave the program its first back-to-back seasons of double-digit victories since 1990-91. Petersen is 37-17 since taking over in Seattle and has lost only three Pac-12 games over the last two years. Prior to taking over at Washington, Petersen went 92-12 at Boise State from 2006-13. During that span, the Broncos played in two BCS bowls and finished No. 4 nationally in 2009.

 

3. Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Clemson has joined the ranks of college football's annual contenders under Swinney's direction. The Alabama native was promoted to interim coach in 2008 following the dismissal of Tommy Bowden. After a 4-3 mark in the final seven games of that season, Swinney guided the Tigers to a 9-5 mark in 2009 and the Atlantic Division title. Clemson went 16-11 over the next two seasons but has not won fewer than 10 games in each of the last six years. The Tigers have claimed three consecutive ACC titles, won the 2016 national championship and have earned a trip to the CFB Playoff in each of the last three years. Swinney is 101-30 since taking over in Death Valley and has Clemson poised to challenge for the national title once again in 2018.

 

2. Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Meyer has been a model of consistency and success at a high level since becoming a head coach in 2001. Over the last 16 years, Meyer has assembled an overall record of 177-31 and has claimed three national championships. One of those titles came at Ohio State, as the Buckeyes won the inaugural College Football Playoff in the 2014-15 season behind third-string quarterback Cardale Jones en route to a 14-1 overall record. Since taking over in Columbus, Meyer is 73-8 overall and has lost just three Big Ten contests. He's claimed two conference titles in that span and has finished just once outside of the top six in the final Associated Press poll. Meyer went 65-15 at Florida from 2005-10, winning the 2006 and '08 national titles. Additionally, Meyer compiled a 17-6 mark at Bowling Green (2001-02) and went 22-2 during an impressive two-year run at Utah (2003-04).

 

Related: Ranking All 130 Teams for 2018

 

Nick Saban Coach

1. Nick Saban, Alabama

Saban is the easy pick as the SEC's No. 1 coach and there's really no debate about his place in the hierarchy of college football coaches in 2018. With five national titles in nine seasons at Alabama, the West Virginia native continues to set the bar high for the rest of college football. In addition to winning national championships, Saban has lost only 12 games over the last nine years and has not won fewer than 10 games during that span. Remarkably, Alabama has only one season of more than two losses (2010) since 2008. Prior to taking over in Tuscaloosa, Saban went 48-16 with a national championship at LSU from 2000-04, compiled a 34-24-1 mark at Michigan State (1995-99) and went 9-2 at Toledo in 1990. He also had a two-year stint with the Dolphins, finishing 15-17 overall from 2005-06. At age 66, Saban doesn't show any signs of slowing down. He's one of the top defensive minds in the nation, continues to reel in elite talent and produces teams capable of winning the national title every year. Whenever Saban decides to retire, his resume is likely to be the best of any coach in college football history.

 

 

Podcast: Athlon Breaks Down the 130 Coach Rankings

Event Date: 
Thursday, June 21, 2018 - 17:09

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