The top 10 college football coach rankings heading into Week 11 is headlined by coaches of three of the remaining five undefeated teams.
With the end of the regular season sneaking up on everyone, select coaches have risen above their peers in the profession. As such, they’re gaining support in the race for Coach of the Year, a contract extension and possibly a high-profile promotion now that job openings are popping up.
Through 10 weeks of action, the following coaches have so far done the best jobs of exceeding preseason expectations and managing the myriad challenges associated with being the face of a major program.
Week 11 College Football Coach Rankings
Closing In on Top 10:
Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M), Mike Leach (Washington State), Craig Bohl (Wyoming), Scott Frost (UCF), Dabo Swinney (Clemson), Kyle Whittingham (Utah), Matt Rhule (Temple) and Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia)
10. Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech (Last Week – NR)
Fuente makes his debut in the rankings, replacing Kevin Sumlin after Texas A&M fell to Mississippi State. The former Memphis coach arrived in Blacksburg facing a tall order in his first year. Not only was he supplanting a local legend, Frank Beamer, but also he took over a team that had been stuck in neutral since 2012. Through nine games, Fuente has already matched Beamer’s win total of his final two years. And his ACC Coastal Division-leading Hokies could realistically get to 10-2 with remaining games against Georgia Tech, Notre Dame and rival Virginia.
9. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan (9)
The Broncos are 9-0 for the first time in school history, currently jockeying with the Mountain West’s Boise State to determine which Group of Five school lands that coveted New Year’s Six bowl berth. What’s arguably most impressive about Western Michigan’s unprecedented run is the focus and consistency the team has displayed throughout. As the hype machine and attention have cranked up, the Broncos have continued to roll without much resistance, including last week’s 52-20 disposal of Ball State on the road.
8. Gus Malzahn, Auburn (8)
The Tigers got a scare from Vanderbilt, but survived to extend their winning streak to six games. And with Georgia and Alabama A&M up next, the run should be up to eight heading into the Iron Bowl with Alabama. Auburn is Bama’s last threat out of the SEC West. Remember, this is a Tiger team that began the year unranked, and lost two of three out of the gate, before doing a complete about-face. Malzahn showed his mettle as a leader by not allowing 2016 to slip away following the Week 3 loss to Texas A&M.
7. James Franklin, Penn State (10)
The biggest leap of the week belongs to Franklin, whose Lions backed up their No. 12 College Football Playoff ranking by schooling Iowa in every phase of the game. All of sudden, the Oct. 22 stunner over Ohio State no longer looks like a one-off. This Penn State team, from the running of Saquon Barkley to an improved defense, is a legitimate top 10 squad. And it should only continue creeping north in upcoming games with Indiana, Rutgers and Michigan State.
6. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin (7)
The 7-2 Badgers survived Northwestern. Nebraska was ambushed by Ohio State. And just like that, Wisconsin sits in the Big Ten West driver’s seat, with remaining games against Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota. Chryst is understated and not prone to any self-promotion, so he’ll usually fly under the radar, especially compared to the Big Ten’s chattier head coaches. But he has done a bang-up of guiding a roster light on superstars and proven quarterbacks through one of the thorniest schedules in the country.
5. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado (6)
MacIntyre keeps inching closer to the top of the rankings, moving up another notch after his Buffaloes defeated UCLA last week to remain a half-game ahead of USC in the Pac-12 South. Colorado is off to its best start in 11 years, and no one on the planet saw it coming. After a decade of futility and a last place prediction in the preseason, the Buffs have taken the league by storm. They’ve got Arizona this week and then back-to-back games with Washington State and Utah that could catapult MacIntyre into the top spot.
4. Bobby Petrino, Louisville (5)
When the Cardinals need to make a statement, Petrino pushes the right buttons and his kids, namely his sophomore quarterback, deliver. Louisville blasted Boston College, 52-7, behind seven more touchdowns from Heisman frontrunner Lamar Jackson. The one-loss Cards are probably going to be boxed out of the playoffs, since they’ll have gone the final seven games without facing a ranked opponent. But just being in the discussion, and likely copping a New Year’s Six bowl berth, is enough to keep Petrino in the top half.
3. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan (4)
Harbaugh, if he had the time, ought to do a TED Talk on how to energize a program, or any other institution looking for a spark. The guy has been a force of nature, on and off the field, since returning to his alma mater. A little over a year ago, he inherited a 5-7 team from Brady Hoke. Today, the Wolverines are 9-0 and seemingly coasting to a showdown with Ohio State that could translate into a playoff spot. Channeling Harbaugh is his latest QB pupil, Wilton Speight, who’s coming off arguably his best game as the Michigan starter.
2. Nick Saban, Alabama (2)
The Crimson Tide is in full-blown, locked-in championship mode, entering the final three regular season games with Mississippi State, Chattanooga and Auburn. Saban and his kids just navigated a gauntlet of four straight games against teams ranked at kickoff, beating Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas A&M and LSU in succession. Saban is the undisputed best coach in college football. He’s exceeding even his own bar this fall by remaining unbeaten and top-ranked, while using a true freshman, Jalen Hurts, at the most important position on the field.
1. Chris Petersen, Washington (1)
The Huskies are struggling to earn the respect they feel they deserve in the College Football Playoff rankings. But respect has not been a problem for their coach, who’s widely considered to be in the upper echelon of his profession. Sure, there were expectations at the beginning of the year in Seattle. However, U-Dub has sprinted past them by knocking down the first nine challengers, usually in lopsided fashion. To remain ahead of Saban, though, Petersen must handle a rising USC team that was mauled by Alabama on the opening weekend.