The top 10 college football coach rankings heading into Week 13. The top two coaches shuffled spots this week.
As the importance of every game and every Saturday reaches a fevered pitch in November, the jockeying for position in the 2016 Coach of the Year has heated up as well. The biggest plummets in the rankings belonged to Bobby Petrino and Kyle Whittingham, whose teams were upset by Houston and Oregon, respectively. The biggest beneficiaries? Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo and USC’s Clay Helton, who cracked the top 10 for the first time.
Through a dozen 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 13 College Football Coach Rankings
Closing In On Top 10
Craig Bohl (Wyoming), Urban Meyer (Ohio State), Jim Harbaugh (Michigan), Scott Frost (UCF), Justin Fuente (Virginia Tech), Mike Riley (Nebraska), Bob Stoops (Oklahoma), Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State), Bobby Wilder (Old Dominion), Bob Davie (New Mexico) and Will Muschamp (South Carolina)
10. Bobby Petrino, Louisville (3)
Petrino’s charge toward National Coach of the Year came to a screeching halt last week in Houston. The Cougars dominated his Cards with 11 sacks in a 36-10 blowout. Still, Petrino remains in the top 10 for all he and his team accomplished in the first 11 weeks. Louisville entered the playoff discussion with a 63-20 obliteration of Florida State on Sept. 17, and will likely be home to this year’s Heisman winner. Plus, the Cards can all but lock down a New Year’s Six bowl berth with a win this week versus rival Kentucky.
9. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy (NR)
Niumatalolo makes his maiden 2016 voyage into the top 10, but he’s no stranger to well-deserved accolades and national notoriety. There is apparently no hurdle too steep for the ninth-year coach. Not only did he have to replace legendary QB Keenan Reynolds this fall, but also his successor, Tago Smith, was lost for the year in the opener. Not a problem. Will Worth has stepped in to rush for 22 scores and 1,074 yards, while leading the Midshipmen to wins over Houston and Notre Dame and a spot in the American Athletic Conference title game.
8. Clay Helton, USC (NR)
This looked virtually impossible at the end of September. The Trojans were 1-3, generating a buzz that new AD Lynn Swann might want to contemplate new leadership. But Helton never buckled. Despite being a head coach for the first time, he has calmly piloted Troy to a seven-game winning streak, including wins over a pair of top 10 teams, Colorado and Washington. Helton has been a key figure in the development of redshirt freshman QB Sam Darnold, and his handling of the team during its most vulnerable stage bodes well for the future, both his and his program’s.
7. Mike Leach, Washington State (7)
Yeah, Leach lost some traction after his Cougars fell for the first time since Week 2, a 38-24 loss to Colorado in Boulder. However, little has changed for the coach or the program. Wazzu is still a win over Washington this Friday from taking the North Division. And two wins from capturing the Pac-12 title and appearing in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2002. And no one saw this kind of potential from a team most felt wouldn’t finish the regular season in the top three of its own division.
6. Chris Petersen, Washington (8)
Petersen moves up a couple of spots, not coincidentally around the same time that his Huskies nudged back into prime playoff real estate. If the Huskies can win their final two games, Friday in Pullman and a week later in the Pac-12 Championship Game, they’ll likely begin the postseason as the No. 4 seed in the College Football Playoff. In other words, rarified air for a program that before this season hadn’t won 10 games since 2000. U-Dub bounced back from its lone smudge, the loss to USC, to pound Arizona State a week ago.
5. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin (5)
Pull out the preseason magazines. By most accounts, this was supposed to be a mediocre season in Madison. But from Day 1, the Badgers have flipped the script. They beat LSU in the opener, the first of three wins over teams that were top 10 at kickoff. And after losing back-to-back games with Ohio State and Michigan, two of the top teams in the country, Wisconsin has reeled off five straight wins to reduce its magic number for winning the Big Ten West to one, a victory over Minnesota or a Nebraska loss to Iowa.
4. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan (6)
“Best season in school history” is not the kind of statement that gets thrown around often or lightly, since most programs have been operational for a century or longer. But that’s exactly what Fleck has engineered in Kalamazoo, a first-ever 11-0 start, a spot in the Top 25 and a shot of landing a Cotton Bowl berth. In his fourth season on the job, he’s turned Western Michigan into a nationally known entity, which usually nets a young coach a significant promotion commensurate with the achievement.
3. James Franklin, Penn State (4)
Franklin has moved up a rung, taking Bobby Petrino’s spot in the three-hole. And if the chips fall right, like beating Michigan State and a Michigan loss to Ohio State, Franklin and his Nittany Lions are going to win the Big Ten East. It’s been a remarkable turnaround initiated by a coach who was fielding heavy criticism after early losses to instate Pitt and the Wolverines by 39 points. But Franklin has stayed the course and continued to develop his young talent, ripping off seven straight wins to improbably move into the top 10.
2. Nick Saban, Alabama (1)
No, this one-spot drop has nothing to do with the Tide’s lackluster showing last week against Chattanooga. This is about Mike MacIntyre and his Buffs. Saban is having one of his best seasons as a head coach. Bama operates with remarkable consistency, maintaining a razor-like focus on the next game and the next opponent. Winning at this level is hard. Winning at this level when you’re supposed to can be brutally difficult. Saban is the best coach in the game, and it might be time for him to be honored accordingly for the job he’s done in 2016.
1. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado (2)
The Buffalo administration was patient with MacIntyre, who entered this season with a 10-27 mark through three years. The payback for that patience has been nine wins, a Pac-12 South lead and more eyeballs on Boulder than the past 10 years combined. Colorado is relevant again, beating ranked Washington State a week ago to move within a win over Utah Saturday from appearing in the Dec. 3 Pac-12 Championship Game. Only Washington in the league is ranked higher than the Buffs, hard to fathom for a team pegged in the preseason to finish in the division cellar.