Who’s the best coach in college football, is an ever-changing debate–though some like Charlie Weis will likely never be part of that debate–but it’s fun to dream about, even if you’re a tortured Kansas fan like myself. Five years ago, Mack Brown and Pete Carroll would have garnered votes for the top spot. Now Brown’s out at Texas, while Carroll has the Seahawks on top of the NFL–we’d take either at KU. In any case, here are the current 10 best coaches heading in 2014:
10. David Shaw (34–7 record in 3 seasons)
Shaw has taken what Jim Harbaugh quickly built at Stanford and sustained it. The Cardinals have won at least 11 games in each of his three seasons there and have made it to a BCS Bowl game every single year.
9. Chris Peterson (92–13 record in 8 seasons)
Peterson had been coveted by every athletic director at every big school ever since he and his upstart Broncos beat Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl to cap a 13–0 season—the first of two undefeated runs at Boise State. Now heading into his first season at Washington, Peterson’s mettle will be tested against Pac-12 powers Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, and USC.
8. Frank Beamer (224–109–2 record in 27 seasons)
Beamer didn’t make it to a bowl game until his seventh season with the Hokies, way back in 1993, but Virginia Tech has gone bowling every season since. Though his team has gone a mediocre 13–11 the last two seasons, they’ve won 10 or more games 13 times in his tenure.
7. Jimbo Fisher (45–10 record in 4 seasons)
Fisher hasn’t been around long at Florida State, but with a national title already in hand and a returning Heisman winner under center this season, his future prospects look better than ever.
6. Bill Snyder (178–90–1 record in 22 seasons)
Snyder doesn’t have a national championship to highlight his résumé, but perhaps no one has orchestrated a more impressive turnaround with such a lowly program. Consider this, when he led the Wildcats to a 9–2–1 record in 1993, it was the first time they had reached the eight-win plateau since 1931. Overall, with Snyder at the helm they’ve won 66 percent of their games—without him they’re just 257–483.
5. Les Miles (123–45 record in 13 seasons)
Like Shaw at Stanford, Miles inherited a freshly rebuilt program that he’s maintained for nine years now and has won a national title to boot. Known more for his recruiting prowess and tough defense, Miles originally made a name for himself at Oklahoma State in beating OU in each of his first two seasons.
4. Bob Stoops (160–39 record 15 seasons)
“Big Game” Bob Stoops hasn’t actually won the title game since 2000, his second season in Norman, but his Sooners have won 10 or more games 11 times in the 13 seasons since and appeared in three more championship tilts. In addition, Stoops has owned the very competitive Big 12, winning eight conference titles in his time there.
3. Steve Spurrier (219–79–2 record in 24 seasons)
Just three years ago, Spurrier’s place in this discussion would have been up in the air after posting a mediocre 44–33 record through six seasons at South Carolina, following a 12-year run at Florida in which he averaged more than 10 wins a season. But Spurrier has done it again, putting the Gamecocks among the elite with back-to-back-to-back 11–2 seasons while competing in the toughest conference in the country.
2. Urban Meyer (128–25 record in 12 seasons)
Meyer’s run at Florida is one of the reasons why the SEC has been the toughest conference in the land. Urban teamed up with Tim Tebow to win two national championships during his six seasons with the Gators. But after taking a year off, he hasn’t skipped a beat at Ohio State, posting a sparkling 24–2 record since taking over two years ago.
1. Nick Saban (170–57–1 record in 18 seasons)
Although many of the positions on this list are up for debate, there’s no arguing that Saban is the best coach out there. With one title at LSU and now three more at Alabama, Saban’s four BCS titles are twice what anyone else has won. The guy who’s responsible for bringing both LSU and Alabama back to the forefront of college football, has averaged an incredible 12 wins a season over the last six years with the Crimson Tide, while continually bringing in the top talent.