Grading Every Coach in the BCS Top 25
The end of the college football season is less than a month away. While there are still a lot of games remaining, at this point in the season, we have a good indication as to how good teams really are.
Some teams are better than others solely based on talent. Other teams have benefited from some excellent coaching decisions.
There are teams in the BCS Top 25 because of their coaches and others in spite of them.
We are nearing the end of the season. Report cards are in, and here is a letter grade for every coach in the BCS Top 25.
Matt Campbell, No. 25 Toledo
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Toledo is probably the team in the rankings that people know the least about. The Rockets are 8-2 so far this season, with their only losses coming in overtime at Arizona in the season opener and Tuesday night at home against Ball State.
Head coach Matt Campbell has continued what former head coach Tim Beckman had going before he left for Illinois.
Campbell is a relatively young head coach, and he has a very bright future, as do the Toledo Rockets.
He is off to an excellent start with a victory over Cincinnati. Look for that to continue down the road.
Pat Fitzgerald, No. 24 Northwestern
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It seems like Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern have gotten better each and every season he has been there.
The Wildcats are sitting at 7-2 right now, still with an outside shot to win the Big Ten and play in the Rose Bowl. The one-point loss to Nebraska on Oct. 20 might prove costly, however.
Fitzgerald does not nearly have the level of talent to work with as a lot of other coaches, but he gets as much out of what he has as any coach in the country.
This guy could be in line for a big-time job down the road.
Kyle Flood, No. 23 Rutgers
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Even though Rutgers lost to Kent State less than two weeks ago, the Scarlet Knights are having a much better season than many anticipated under new head coach Kyle Flood.
They are 7-1 with some tough challenges remaining on their schedule, but have a legitimate shot to qualify for a BCS bowl.
Flood has done an excellent job, picking up where former head coach Greg Schiano left off.
The defense has been more than stellar, ranking sixth in the country and allowing only 14 points a game. The former offensive line coach can coach a little defense as well.
Tommy Tuberville, No. 22 Texas Tech
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The Texas Tech Red Raiders suffered through a season of injuries last year, but this season, the team has responded rather nicely.
It is 6-3 overall, but has lost two games in a row. The hard part of its schedule is out of the way.
With an outstanding shot to win at least two of their three remaining games, the Red Raiders could be headed for a New Year's Day bowl game.
Part of the reason for the turnaround has been head coach Tommy Tuberville. He has done an outstanding job, particularly with quarterback Seth Doege, who is one of the premier passers in the nation.
This team has come out of nowhere to be nationally ranked at this point in the season.
Dan Mullen, No. 21 Mississippi State
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Mississippi State really looked like one of the surprise teams in the country two weeks ago, but after being manhandled by Alabama and Texas A&M over its past two games, the Bulldogs are heading down a tough path.
With that being said, it is hard to question the turnaround that they have had under head coach Dan Mullen.
The group will be in its third straight bowl game, and Mullen is 28-19 over his four seasons there.
Winning two out of its final three games would be huge for this team.
Sonny Dykes, No. 20 Louisiana Tech
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Sonny Dykes is not a household name like most other coaches on this list, but he has done quite a job this season with Louisiana Tech.
The Bulldogs are 8-1, with their only loss coming by two points against Texas A&M. With the exception of Oregon, they have the best offense in the country.
Louisiana Tech has the talent to score points on just about anybody, and that is due in large part to the style of Dykes.
Look for him to find an even better head-coaching job within the next few years.
Lane Kiffin, No. 19 USC
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There is no question that the biggest disappointment in the country so far this season has been the USC Trojans.
They have been penalized more than any team and have totaled 171 of them to be exact. That is due in large part to coaching.
The talent level on this team is extraordinary, particularly at the skill positions. Kiffin has not been able to do much with that talent.
Considering how well he did last season in terms of preparing the team for each and every game, regardless of the opponent, he has done just the opposite this season.
Jim Mora Jr., No. 18 UCLA
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Jim Mora Jr. has done quite a job in his first season as head coach of UCLA. The Bruins had one of the most disappointing finishes of any team in the country last season, and this year, they appear headed to the Pac-12 title game.
Mora Jr. has plenty of experience, but had never been a head coach at the collegiate level.
He is doing an outstanding job and has plenty of talent helping him out. Freshman quarterback Brett Hundley has been outstanding, as has senior running back Johnathan Franklin.
This program is clearly headed in the right direction under the leadership of Mora.
Mack Brown, No. 17 Texas
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Texas has seemingly turned the season around in recent weeks with wins over Texas Tech, Kansas and Baylor.
That comes after two straight losses to West Virginia and Oklahoma. After the 63-21 loss to Oklahoma, most people wrote Texas off this season, but as it looks now, the Longhorns are one of the top-three teams in the Big 12.
Mack Brown has been much maligned for most of the season, but has done a nice job improving the defense in recent weeks.
Still, with the talent Texas has, the defense should be much better.
Bo Pelini, No. 16 Nebraska
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In a down year for the Big Ten, Nebraska looks like the cream of the crop as far as bowl-eligible teams are concerned.
The Cornhuskers have two losses and appear headed to the Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin.
Head coach Bo Pelini has done a solid job this season. The development of quarterback Taylor Martinez has been the biggest reason for Nebraska's success so far this year.
Even through injuries, Nebraska has continued to improve and looks like it has a Rose Bowl in its future.
Kevin Sumlin, No. 15 Texas A&M
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Kevin Sumlin was one of the most sought-after coaches of the past few years, and Texas A&M made a great hire a little less than a year ago.
He was known at Houston as an offensive genius, and while he has shown that at Texas A&M this season, he has also done a great job on the defensive side of the ball.
The transition to the SEC is not an easy task, but Sumlin has made it seem that way thus far for the Aggies.
There is still a long way to go, but Texas A&M has been much better than expected this season.
David Shaw, No. 14 Stanford
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David Shaw did not have an easy job at all coming into this season; he had the unenviable task of trying to replace Andrew Luck.
So far so good for the Cardinal, as Stanford is sitting at No. 14 in the latest BCS standings. It is 7-2 and still in the race for the Pac-12 title with some tough games remaining.
Shaw does not have nearly as much talent at his disposal as a lot of other teams ranked as high as the Cardinal, but gets as much out of his talent as almost anybody in the country.
He has proved to be an excellent hire so far for Stanford in his first two seasons.
Dabo Swinney, No. 13 Clemson
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Dabo Swinney appears to have Clemson headed in the right direction, as the Tigers have won five in a row since a loss at Florida State earlier in the season.
The offense is one of the most explosive in the country, and Swinney has had Clemson up for every game so far this season.
This team cannot experience any letdowns from here on out. If everything falls into place, the Tigers will find themselves in a BCS bowl game, or even winners of the ACC.
Swinney and Clemson have done a solid job in 2012.
Bob Stoops, No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners
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This is another typical season for Oklahoma. The Sooners lost the two biggest games they played in this year, and both of those losses came at home.
Once again, Stoops and his squad fell flat on their face in the games that mattered most.
There is plenty of talent to be a national-title contender, but Oklahoma has battled through injuries and suspensions over the past year.
All of that has caught up to it, and it looks like another typical disappointing season for Oklahoma. With that being said, it has lost to two very talented teams.
Mike Riley, No. 11 Oregon State
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No team has come out of nowhere and vaulted into the national spotlight like Oregon State.
Head coach Mike Riley was on the hot seat coming into the season, maybe more so than any coach in the country.
The Beavers are 7-1 and knocking on the door of a BCS Bowl berth. They have persevered through injuries at some key positions, including quarterback Sean Mannion.
When it comes to national coach of the year, Riley is at the top of the list at this point in the season.
Jimbo Fisher, No. 10 Florida State
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After looking like a serious national-title contender, Jimbo Fisher allowed his Florida State Seminoles to lay an egg once again this year, losing to North Carolina State, 17-16.
That seems to be an all-too-familiar occurrence for Florida State over the past few seasons.
While the Seminoles have done an excellent job recovering since the loss, it knocked them out of contention for a national championship.
Not playing for the national championship is still somewhat of a disappointment no matter what happens the rest of the way.
Charlie Strong, No. 9 Louisville
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Charlie Strong is another coach who takes intensity to a whole new level.
He has quickly built quite a program at Louisville. The Cardinals are in excellent hands under Strong, and if he hangs around, this team will continue to be near the top of the national rankings.
This season, Strong has coached Louisville to an undefeated record, as it eyes a BCS bowl game. There have been a slew of close games over the past few weeks, and Strong has led Louisville to victories in all of them.
He is certainly one of the best young coaches in college football right now.
Steve Spurrier, No. 8 South Carolina
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South Carolina is another of the two-loss SEC teams, and a team that has certainly had its fair share of ups and downs.
Head coach Steve Spurrier guided the Gamecocks to a dominating win over Georgia, but the team has not looked particularly good in recent weeks.
Spurrier will have a chance to prove his worth, as star running back Marcus Lattimore is now out for the year.
It will be interesting to see if he can rally the troops and get South Carolina to a BCS bowl game.
Les Miles, No. 7 LSU
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Before the debacle against Alabama, it would have been safe to say that Les Miles had done a pretty good job so far in 2012.
After some of the awful calls he made against the Crimson Tide, LSU is sitting with two losses.
While it is pure speculation whether those decisions ultimately cost him the game, it seemed like Miles did everything he could to throw the game to Alabama.
With a 7-2 record, LSU has been a bit of a disappointment, but there is still a long way to go. The Tigers remain in the race for a BCS bowl game.
Will Muschamp, No. 6 Florida
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Florida is another team that has made a serious climb up the rankings after starting the season near the bottom of the polls.
The Gators have done it with defense, led by head coach Will Muschamp. He is a defensive-minded coach, and that has shown this year.
Florida has not looked nearly as good in recent weeks, but is still one of the most pleasant surprises—not only in the SEC, but in the entire country.
Not many coaches have done a better job this season than Muschamp.
Mark Richt, No. 5 Georgia
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The Georgia Bulldogs have had a solid season so far this year, and most figured they would be exactly where they are at this point.
Mark Richt's squad was No. 6 in both preseason polls and sits at No. 5 this week.
After a blowout loss at South Carolina a month ago, Richt has done an excellent job regrouping his team and coming up with three three straight victories, including a win over previously No. 2-ranked Florida.
Some say Georgia has the talent to be undefeated right now, but at 8-1, it is hard to complain.
Brian Kelly, No. 4 Notre Dame
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There are not many coaches in college football with more fire than Brian Kelly. The man is one of the most intense in the game.
This year, he has taken Notre Dame from a team that was not even ranked in the preseason AP Poll to one of the top teams in the country.
And he has done it in completely atypical fashion; the offensive mastermind has a team that has one of the best defenses in the country.
That has single-handedly led to the success of the Fighting Irish, as the offense has been very inconsistent.
Chip Kelly, No. 3 Oregon
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Chip Kelly is an offensive genius. Everybody knew that going into the season.
This year, he has taken it to a whole new level, and the Oregon offense looks like one of the best the college-football world has ever seen.
Kelly has plenty of talented athletes, but it is his system that has guided Oregon to its dominance over the years.
The 2012 season has been no different, and once again, Kelly is doing a great job. This Oregon team, however, may be his best yet.
Bill Snyder, No. 2 Kansas State
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No coach in the country has done a better job so far this season than Bill Snyder. The man might be a bad interview, as he displayed after the victory on Saturday over Oklahoma State, but the truth is, he is an amazing coach.
The Wildcats started the season near the bottom of the Top 25 and have now risen to No. 2 in the latest BCS standings.
They do have talent, but nobody could see this coming into the season. There were five teams ranked ahead of the Wildcats in their own conference before the season began. For a team predicted to finish in the middle of the Big 12, the Wildcats have certainly exceeded expectations, thanks in large part to Snyder.
Nick Saban, No. 1 Alabama
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Once again, Nick Saban has done a remarkable job coaching the ultra-talented Alabama team he has put together.
It is not only the No. 1 team in the nation, but also has far and away the best defense in the country.
While there are still some challenging games remaining, Alabama has looked unbeatable all season long.
Some may think they do it on talent alone, but Saban does a tremendous job of getting his team ready for each and every game.