I hate (but I’ll do) preseason Top 25 rankings. I actually hate Top 25 rankings earlier than the conference season. Not only are they meaningless but they give the status quo and the best recruiters an advantage over the teams that need to go 9-0 before cracking the Top 10; and in the BCS system, we know that matters. What I will get behind is a good ol’ coach ranking. Unlike a team that changes from year to year, a coach has built a resume that can receive an honest and accurate preseason ranking.
The following rankings reflect in-game coaching, preparation, recruiting, and direction of the program.
1. Nick Saban, Alabama – Somewhere adjacent to Bear Bryant, arguably the best football coach of all time, there is a statue of Nick Saban. When he stepped off the airplane in Tuscaloosa there was a “Beatlesque” conglomerate of fans waiting, and two National Championships (he also added another at LSU) later it was all worth it. Saban recruits top talent, pits that talent against itself using competition to forge the most physically dominant teams in the land, and then unleashes it year after year. After losing more first rounders than some teams see in a decade, Saban will once again have the Crimson Tide near the top.
2. Urban Meyer, Ohio State – When Utah earned the first non-automatic qualifying bid in BCS history, and proceeded to dismantle Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl, Meyer changed things. The offense was new and fun and the future. Other teams operated the spread, but not the way Urban Meyer’s Alex Smith led Utah team did. Since then teams from coast to coast have adopted aspects of Meyer’s spread, and Ohio State went way out of pocket to bring the man to Columbus. At age 47 Meyer is 104-23, and collected two National Championships in his last stint at Florida. We’ll see how quickly Meyer can acclimate Ohio State to his style, but I’d bet my savings on one thing, they’ll score more points than last year while maintaining a typically dominant Buckeye defense.
3. Les Miles, LSU – Who doesn’t love the Mad Hatter? Well, I guess plenty of the SEC doesn’t, but still. Miles replaced Nick Saban and has since gone 75-18; operating a juggernaut in the nations most dominant conference. Miles has one National Championship, and has carried a no. 1 ranking numerous times. Under Miles, LSU has consistently recruited as well as anybody in the country, developed aggressive talent, and inexplicably out-coached others too. Sometimes there is little rhyme or reason for Miles decisions on the field, but his teams have been so physically dominant that his decisions work out. And although you can scratch your head, that doesn’t effect him too adversely.
4. Chip Kelly, Oregon – Kelly is one of the most innovative offensive minds in college football. When you dissect one of Oregon’s offensive staples you understand that the defense literally has no chance. Kelly recruits greasy speed, and if the players execute effectively, his offense is designed to move the football in chunks. Completely opposed to “3 yards and a cloud of dust”, Kelly prefers to pick up 20 and 30 yards at a time. With a career record of 34-6, which is ridiculous, Kelly is ranked before some of the games legendary current coaches.
5. Brady Hoke, Michigan – Before last season the jury was out on what to expect from Hoke, but he passed his entrance exam with flying colors. Erase the memory of Rich Rodriguez, check. Beat Ohio State, check. Win a BCS Bowl, check. Hoke was able to blend Rodriguez spread offense with a more aggressive and fundamental defense, and changed the direction of the program on a dime. From what I’ve seen Hoke is a good game coach, but most impressively is the way he changed the culture in Ann Arbor. Hoke now has Rivals no. 1 ranked recruiting class for 2013 and has things headed up quickly.
6. Lane Kiffin, USC – In a shady sport Kiffin might be the darkest side of the moon, but he is keeping USC at an elite level in the midst of their “sanctions”. Whether or not the Trojans get hammered again by the NCAA is not up to me, but in the meantime, Kiffin is bringing in outrageous talent and will be coaching the preseason no. 1 team in the country. He is 18-7 at USC, and finished 8-5 in his first season, despite having to motivate against a post-season ban. Last year USC finished up their last four games averaging 40.0 plus points per game, and should pick up right where they left off.
7. Chris Peterson, Boise State - Chris Peterson has a career record of 73-6, and has continued to propel Boise State when people expected the program to falter after losing Dan Hawkins to Colorado. Besides for being a master tactician on game day, Peterson is best known for inventing gadget plays and keeping them secret until the perfect time in each big game. Most notably the “Statue of Liberty” counter play he called that beat Oklahoma in overtime at the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, introducing Boise State to a national audience. Peterson should also get credit for recruiting and developing NFL talent and first round draft selections such as 2012′s Doug Martin (Tampa Bay) and Shea McClellin (Chicago).
8. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina – The ol’ ball coach reentered the college ranks after a brief failure in the NFL. After building the 90′s Florida Gator powerhouse, Spurrier took on the challenge of making the Gamecocks of South Carolina a contender. It was a more tedious job than he originally imagined, but South Carolina is starting to round into form. He is 55-35 at South Carolina, but has his best team returning for 2012. While at Florida Spurrier won the 1996 National Championship, and won 6 SEC Championships after Florida hadn’t captured a title in 57 years.
9. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma – I don’t subscribe to the Oklahoma (or Big 12 for that matter) hype machine. Oklahoma has many a time been giving a lofty ranking, beaten average teams and then coasted towards a disappointing BCS game. Besides for beating Florida State and proving themselves legit in the 2000 Orange Bowl, they are 2-5 in BCS bowls. Nonetheless, Bob Stoops has a .802 career winning percentage, a National Championship, and seven Big 12 Championships to his credit.
10. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia – Little is known about the second year head coach at West Virginia, but if you happen to catch a replay of last years Orange Bowl take a gander. Holgorsen had the underdog Mountaineers ready for Clemson, game-planned marvelously and dismantled his opponent 70-33. Holgorsen came to West Virginia from Oklahoma State where he led 2010′s no. 1 ranked offense, and tutored first round pick Brandon Weeden. Prior to Weeden, Holgorsen had a hand in creating Case Keenum, the NCAA’s All-Time Passing leader. The coaching history would say good things are ahead for Mountaineer quarterback Geno Smith (who threw for six TD’s in the Orange Bowl).
I will not cop out with an “others receiving votes” section.