I am going to preface this entire article right here. Yes, I probably do hate your coach because I do not have them as high on the list as you think they should be. With that being said, this is how I would rank the top 10 coaches currently coaching in college football. There is no exact system, but there are factors taken into consideration such as longevity, championships, win percentage, recruiting, and sustainability.
11 – Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M) – Alright, I lied. I added an 11th coach because I wanted to put Jimbo Fisher in here but I personally could not justify him in front of the others on this list. Fisher is one of the best coaches in college football right now and he is proving it by building a winning program at Texas A&M. The biggest blemish on his resume is his last year at Florida State where the wheels fell off. He won a National Championship with Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston, and has won nine or more games in nine of his 11 seasons. Texas A&M finished in the top five this season for the first time since 2012. Fisher will have A&M competing for the duration of his tenure.
10 – Mack Brown (North Carolina) – Honestly, I expect people to disagree with this one. I understand that readers might think this is too high for Mack Brown. Since 1990, Mack Brown has one losing season. While at Texas, his teams finished in the top 10 a total of seven times. So far at North Carolina, he has turned the program around. Since Mack Brown’s first tenure at North Carolina, the Tar Heels have only finished ranked once (2015). In Brown’s season season, the Tar Heels finished 17th in the coaches poll. Brown led North Carolina to their first New Year’s Six Bowl game. Mack Brown may be turning 70 this year, but he is still one of the best coaches in college football.
9 – James Franklin (Penn State) – If we all ignore the 2020 Penn State season, it is easy to see why Franklin makes the list. His career record is 84-43 and that includes three years at Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt finished ranked in back to back seasons for the first time in the school’s history under Franklin. From 2016-2019, Franklin won 11 games in three of the four seasons including appearances in the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and Cotton Bowl. Penn State has produced All-Americans such as Saquan Barkley and Micah Parsons under Franklin’s watch. There have been bumps in the road at Penn State, including going 4-5 this past season causing some mumbling that Franklin’s seat could be warming up. I expect Penn State to bounce back this year and Franklin to have another good season.
8 – Mario Cristobal (Oregon) – I think this will be an unpopular opinion among readers. That is very fair to judge my placement of the Oregon head coach. First, let’s address his tenure at FIU. Many believe he should not have been fired, and I agree with that. Cristobal inherited a team at FIU that had not won a game in four seasons. He took FIU to bowl games in back to back years and had a down season following and was fired. Since he began coaching at Oregon, he has taken recruiting to a new level. In three seasons, he was won the Pac-12 twice. While his team was not supposed to be there this season and made the championship on technicalities, they still won the championship. Oregon should be a contender next year with a young talented defense.
7 – Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern) – Pat Fitzgerald might be my favorite coach on this list. Northwestern has four 10 win seasons in their history, and three of them are with Fitzgerald as head coach. The other was when he was a player and took them to the Rose Bowl in 1995. Northwestern has won the Big Ten West twice in the last three years and made a bowl game in five of the last six seasons. The Wildcat program has been to a total of 16 bowl games, 10 of them have been with Fitzgerald at the helm. Northwestern has to recruit different than many other programs because of academic standards. Fitzgerald knows how to develop talent and build a winning culture. He recently signed a 10 year extension, so he will not be going anywhere anytime soon.
6 – Matt Campbell (Iowa State) – When you talk about developing talent, Matt Campbell has to be in that discussion as well. The Cyclones are currently in the midst of their best stretch in program history. Iowa State has only finished ranked three times, and Campbell had them 9th overall when the 2020 season came to a close. Campbell has one losing season to his name and it was his first season at Iowa State. Since his first season he is 32-19. He has build a winning culture in Ames, Iowa and has been a candidate for numerous jobs. Campbell has beaten Oklahoma numerous times and made the Big 12 title game for the first time in 2020. As long as Matt Campbell is running the show at Iowa State, they are in good hands.
5 – Kirby Smart (Georgia) – If you look around the internet, many writers speculate that Kirby Smart has not done enough with the talent on his team. While there may be some merit to that argument, he has been putting Georgia in the top 10 consistently. In five seasons at Georgia, Smart has finished in the top eight in four of those seasons. One of those seasons included a trip to the National Championship where they took Alabama to overtime. Smart is 52-14 in his five seasons and seems to be on the upswing. Georgia is coming into 2021 with high expectations and will be looking to make it back to the College Football Playoff. Smart has recruited well enough that the team’s goal should be in reach.
4 – Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma) – 37 year old Lincoln Riley has only been the coach at Oklahoma for four seasons, but he has won the Big 12 in all four. Riley has made the playoffs three times but is yet to win a game in the playoffs. Reaching the playoffs once is a major feat, making it three times puts you in a tier of your own. Riley has been an offensive mastermind watching two of his quarterbacks win the Heisman and another one place second. His current quarterback, Spencer Rattler, is expected to contend for the Heisman this season. Riley has recruited at a high level and is starting to see improvements on the defensive side of the ball. Oklahoma will continue to be the top dog in the Big 12 under Lincoln Riley.
3 – Ryan Day (Ohio State) – Some might view this as a homer pick putting him in the top three, but he a top five coach right now. Day has yet to lose a game in the regular season with his losses coming the playoffs to Clemson and Alabama. Prior to him taking over, there was speculation he would be ride what Urban Meyer built but it is being obvious he is building his own monster in Columbus Ohio. Ryan Day is proving to be one of the best recruiters in the country with the Buckeyes finishing number two in recruiting in 2021. While Day still needs to improve and ensure he makes good hires on both sides of the ball, it is evident that Ohio State will not be fading. Expect the Buckeyes to be the favorites in the Big Ten for the foreseeable future.
2 – Dabo Swinney (Clemson) – Personally, I do not like Dabo Swinney, but you cannot deny what he has done with the Clemson program. Swinney has made the playoffs in all but one season. Clemson has two National Titles under Swinney and they have been king of the ACC for nearly a decade. Swinney has won at least 10 games in each of the last 10 seasons. That accomplishment alone puts at the top of our list. Since 2015, the Clemson Tigers have finished no worse than 4th. Along with his two National Titles, Clemson has also made two other appearances in the National Title game. Swinney has built one of the top programs in college football, and one that will not be going away anytime soon.
1 – Nick Saban (Alabama) – If you thought this was going to be anyone else, you are cynical. I could list his national titles and we could leave it there. Saban is a career 256-65-1. Following his first year at Alabama, the Crimson Tide have finished outside the top 10 just once. Meanwhile he has won six National Championships at Alabama and another one while at LSU. In his last 10 seasons, Saban has lost a combined 12 games. Saban is not only the best coach in college football right now, Saban is the best coach in college football history. We are witnessing a dynasty we may never see again. It is alright to hate Saban, but you can also appreciate the greatness.
Honorable Mentions: Dan Mullen (Florida), PJ Fleck (Minnesota), Kyle Wittingham(Utah), Jamey Chadwell (Coastal Carolina), Bill Clark (UAB)