If you were handed the opportunity to pick any coach to lead your team through the bowl season, who would it be?
There are elite coaches scattered throughout the college football landscape, but 10 stand out as guys that would lead a team to the bowl promise land if given the opportunity.
A lot goes into a good bowl coach with traditional wins and losses not always translating to successful bowl records. Some coaches can’t handle the big stage while others thrive on it.
Bowl season is getting ready to start, and if I had a choice of coaches to lead my team these 10 would be at the top of the list.
Pat Fitzgerald has done more than any other coach with less over the past seven years than any other coach in college football. Northwestern had not been to the postseason consistently prior to Fitzgerald’s promotion to head coach.
The Wildcats will play in their fifth straight bowl game when they play in the Gator Bowl to finish 2012.
One bad sign for Fitzgerald is that he is 0-4 in bowl games, but his teams are always competitive despite being outmatched. In two of four games played the Wildcats lost in overtime. The other two were lost by a total of 14 points.
Given an equal roster of top talent and Fitzgerald becomes one of the best coaches in the country. His acumen land him on this list, but his post season record push him to the final spot.
Bowl Record: 0-4
Todd Graham may have bounced around a bit before he landed in Tempe, but he is on the way to pushing Arizona State to the top of the Pac-12 South.
Graham wins everywhere he goes only mounting one losing season in his head coaching career. More importantly, he wins in the postseason. Graham is 3-1 in bowls coached, and got a 2011 Pitt team to the BBVA Compass Bowl.
In his first season with the Sun Devils they are 7-5 and set to face off with Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Graham has a shot to finish with a 4-1 bowl record.
This would be a solid choice for any team needing a one game coach in bowl season as he is always successful, but if it was my team he would ditch the concert-like microphone for a traditional headset—it’s awkward.
Bowl Record: 4-1
Chip Kelly is one of the most impressive first team head coaches in the game. Rarely do coaches walk into a successful program and make it better—Kelly has done that for the Ducks.
The one area that Kelly has lacked coaching acumen is bowl games. Despite that, he did walk away with a Rose Bowl win last season, and his offense always makes his team a factor in a bowl game.
The speed that the Ducks have offensively is superior to nearly every team in major college football. That factor alone makes it tough to bet against a Kelly led team walking away with a win.
His 1-2 overall postseason record is cause for concern, but Kelly is a good coach. He has his team in their fourth BCS bowl game this season with a chance to hit .500 in the post season. A win will solidify his place among the coaching elite in FBS.
Bowl Record: 1-2
Kyle Whittingham has been with the Utah program since the 1994 season. He has been the head coach since 2005 and has been a big part of the rise of the Utes program in the past decade.
Under his guidance the Utes have been to seven straight bowls, including a BCS win over Alabama in 2008. Utah will not be bowl eligible this season, but there is no denying the coaching ability of Whittingham in the postseason.
Whittingham has put together a 7-1 bowl record at Utah, as well as a 71-32 overall record with the school. His teams always play with intensity on defense, and are explosive on offense.
This guy wins the big games. If you needed a bowl coach for one game, this would be your guy. His first win for Utah was in 2004 when he took over the team for the Fiesta Bowl. The Utes won the game 35-7.
Bowl Record: 7-1
Bronco Mendenhall has a lengthy coaching resume that includes a lot of winning. Since taking over the BYU program in 2005 he has gone 73-29 and led the Cougars to eight bowl games.
Mendenhall is leading the Cougars on a three game postseason win streak with a chance at a fourth straight win coming in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 20.
The postseason success is undeniable as Mendenhall has his teams ready to play consistently. He has never had a losing season at BYU, and his winning bowl record give him the nod on these power rankings, closing out the bottom of the Top 10.
Bowl Record: 5-2
Brian Kelly is a postseason winner. He has guided teams successfully to bowl wins in FBS, and championships through the Division II playoff system.
He brings his team to the largest stage in college football this January as his Irish are set to play for the BCS National Championship, but if his history is any indication as to what will happen, Irish fans should feel very comfortable heading into the game.
Kelly has gone 3-2 in bowl games, led teams to seven and gone 11-4 in playoff tournaments, winning two national titles at Grand Valley State. Kelly thrives on the big stage.
The Fighting Irish will head into the national title game with one of the most experienced winners in college football. Kelly would be a great leader for any team in the postseason.
Bowl Record: 3-2
Playoff Record: 11-4
How could you not love Les Miles?
He has the passion and edginess that makes any head coach great. He is leading the Tigers to the Chick-fil-A Bowl this season, but his 10-win Tigers were just a few notches away from landing in the BCS.
Miles is a winner despite the quirkiness that drives some LSU fans nuts. He is an on-field genius at times, and always finds ways to motivate his teams to big wins.
Bowl games have been no different as Miles has gone 6-4 with two teams in his coaching career. Miles is 5-2 in bowls at LSU, including two BCS bowl wins.
He may be a little crazy from time to time, but the guy wins games. Anyone would take Miles if given the chance.
Bowl Record: 6-4
Bob Stoops has guided the Sooners to a bowl game in every season since he took over the program in 1999. Stoops has a 7-6 overall bowl record, and he has never guided the Sooners to a losing season.
For all the grief that Stoops gets for not winning national titles every year at Oklahoma, he wins big.
There have been some hiccups in the past few appearances in the BCS, but there hasn’t been any success outside of the SEC in those games in the past half-decade anyway. Not giving Stoops his due is ridiculous.
The Sooners head into a 14th straight bowl game this season, marking their ninth BCS bowl game under Stoops.
Bowl Record: 7-6
Urban Meyer is one of the winningest coaches currently gracing the sidelines in college football today. He took over a mediocre Buckeyes football program this year and turned them into an undefeated squad despite no shot at the postseason.
Meyer can motivate and gets the best football out of his players on a consistent basis.
He also wins big in bowl games. Meyer is 7-1 in the postseason as a head coach, winning four BCS bowl games in four chances, two of which were national titles.
This Buckeyes team would be in the BCS if not for sanctions this year, but heading into 2013 they will be a favorite to make a run at the national title.
This is a coach that wins ballgames no matter the setting.
Bowl Record: 7-1
Love him or hate him, Saban is one of the best coaches in college football. He has taken the Crimson Tide to four BCS bowl games, and three national title games. This January he has the chance at winning his second straight title.
Saban also coached LSU to a national title in 2003, as well as taking that program to two BCS bowl games. He was undefeated in those games. In five BCS appearances so far in his career, Saban is 4-1.
The ability to continue to bring teams to the highest bowl landscape in the land is simply amazing. Nick Saban has shown that year in and year out he can produce the most effective and disciplined football teams in the country.
The big stage is where Saban thrives as his 4-1 BCS record shows. Give me Saban over any other coach in college football if a national title is on the line.
Bowl Record: 7-6