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The Athletic (Stewart Mandel and Bruce Feldman) released their Top 25 rankings for current head coaches:

 

https://theathletic.com/2464812/2021/03/23/mandel-ranking-the-top-25-college-football-coaches/

 

https://theathletic.com/2464853/2021/03/23/feldman-ranking-the-top-25-college-football-coaches/

 

Mandel

 

1. Saban (Alabama)

2. Swinney (Clemson)

3. Kelly (Notre Dame)

4. Riley (Oklahoma)

5. Day (Ohio State)

6. Smart (Georgia)

7. Fisher (Texas A&M)

8. Orgeron (LSU)

9. Mullen (Florida)

10. Campbell (Iowa State)

11. Fickell (Cincinnati)

12. Fitzgerald (Northwestern)

13. Monken (Army)

14. Chryst (Wisconsin)

15, Whittingham (Utah)

16. Clark (UAB)

17. Franklin (Penn State)

18. Fleck (Minnesota)

19. Cristobal (Oregon)

20. Freeze (Liberty)

21. Ferentz (Iowa)

22. Leipold (Bufalo)

23. Shaw (Stanford)

24. Kiffin (Ole Miss)

25. Allen (Indiana)

 

Feldman

 

1. Saban (Alabama)

2. Swinney (Clemson)

3. Kelly (Notre Dame)

4. Riley (Oklahoma)

5. Franklin (Penn State)

6. Fisher (Texas A&M)

7. Oregeron (LSU)

8. Day (Ohio State)

9. Campbell (Iowa State)

10. Smart (Georgia)

11. Fitzgerald (Northwestern)

12. Whittingham (Utah)

13. Ferentz (Iowa)

14. Shaw (Stanford)

15. Patterson (TCU)

16. Mullen (Florida)

17. Leipold (Buffalo)

18. Monken (Army)

19. Cristobal (Oregon)

20. Fickell (Cincinnati)

21. Chryst (Wisconsin)

22. Harbaugh (Michigan)

23. Leach (Mississippi State)

24. Freeze (Liberty)

25. Allen (Indiana)

 

Both guys ranked BK #3, which was somewhat surprising. I think he is for sure Top 10 and borderline Top 5. I think he does more with less than many of the other coaches in the Top 10 because ND doesn't recruit as well as most of the Top 10, but recruiting is part of it. Personally, I'd have Riley and Day above BK. Not sure about Fisher or Smart - I think I'd have BK above them both.

 

I agree with Mandel's rankings more than Feldman's. I think both have Ed Oregeron too high. Yes, he won a National title (which is more than what all but 3 coaches on the list can say), but he really seemed to catch lightning in a bottle with Burrow and Brady in 2019. Feldman has James Franklin way too high at #5. I also don't understand why Mack Brown isn't on either list - he won a National Championship and proved last year that he has UNC in a good spot (his recruiting is also really good). I think both have Mario Cristobal from Oregon too low - he should be borderline Top 10. Good to see ND's next coach - Luke Fickell/Matt Campbell - on both lists.

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Wide disparity on Penn State’s Franklin

 

I think he’s top 10. Winning at Vandy should be enough to cement that by itself. However, outside of last yr, he’s had Penn St at 9-10 wins every yr, which is what they were in the 90s and mid 00s.

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Kelly is properly ranked at #3

 

I think he could be anywhere from 3-7. It’s hard to get a real gauge for a few reasons: Ryan Day has been extremely successful but it’s with Urbana’s players, he could be an elite coach we just don’t know. Secondly, coaches like Campbell and Fitzgerald don’t have the greatest records, but they’ve built their programs into respectability under the most difficult circumstances.

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Luke Fickell at #20 is crazy. He should be closer to top ten.

 

He has gone 31-6 last 3 years at a program that was down when he took over.

 

Fickell needs to prove himself at a power 5 school before he is rated higher. Many thought Scott Frost would turn Nebraska around after his great run at UCF but it is not that easy in Power 5 conferences unless you get a job at one of the top tier schools where you can recruit against the traditional powers. Cincinnati has an edge over many group of 5s with a solid recruiting base in Ohio just as UCF had in Florida.

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Fickell needs to prove himself at a power 5 school before he is rated higher. Many thought Scott Frost would turn Nebraska around after his great run at UCF but it is not that easy in Power 5 conferences unless you get a job at one of the top tier schools where you can recruit against the traditional powers. Cincinnati has an edge over many group of 5s with a solid recruiting base in Ohio just as UCF had in Florida.

 

Exactly. And he bombed miserably at his only season at tOSU. Now I know he could of learned from his mistakes. But I would pass personally.

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Luke Fickell at #20 is crazy. He should be closer to top ten.

 

He has gone 31-6 last 3 years at a program that was down when he took over.

 

Dantonio, Kelly, and Jones would say different. Unfortunate that they hired Tommy Tuberville to ruin that program for a few years. Overall, it was a great success.

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I think the question with this list every year is what they are measuring. If you are measuring in a vacuum of wins and losses then Kelly is somewhere in the land of 3-10ish. He's had worse a worse season than the rest of the top 10, hasn't won a major bowl game, making him the only top 10 coach on either list to not have a major bowl win. But he's been to the college football playoff as much as anyone outside the top 2, which has to count for something.

 

If you we are asking who we think are the best coaches in the sense of "Give these coaches X team. Who does the best?" I think it's a lot more subjective but also think Kelly would fall a lot farther down the list for a lot of people, myself included. This is very obviously subjective, but over the last few years, all else being equal, does anyone think, ND would have been noticeably worse with, Kirby Smart, Lincoln Riley, Ryan Day at the helm? What about guys like Fickell or Matt Campbell? I think there's more guys than most think that could achieve what Kelly has achieved, if given the opportunity.

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Brian Kelly might be better appreciated by some ND fans (myself included) if he did not have to "reinvent" himself after a 31-20 stretch from 2013 to 2016 during which he seemed to have put things on cruise control. Does a top 3 coach really average 7.75 wins and 5 losses for a four year period at a Tier 1 program? After 25 years as a head coach, he should not have needed on-the-job training.

 

Even now, it seems mind-blowing that it took him 10 years as ND's coach to acknowledge that he should actually try to get Top 5 classes if he wants to actually win a major bowl game or a play-off game before he retires.

Edited by jbrown_9999
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