Updated Power Rankings for 2013 Coach of the Year Candidates
As with any college football season, most of the coaching-related discourse in 2013 has revolved around those on the hot seat—guys like Lane Kiffin at USC or Mack Brown at Texas, who either have been fired or might be this offseason.
Negativity, for some reason, is more fun to talk about, but what about the other side of the coin? What about the coaches who have played themselves off of the hot seat, or the ones who have made talk of their job status even more ludicrous than it might have been this summer?
There have been some remarkable coaching jobs in college football this year, whether it be turning around a down-trodden program or raising a good one to newer heights.
Only one man, though, can take home AP Coach of the Year Honors come season's end.
Here's a look at the top contenders.
Nick Saban (Alabama) is the best coach in America, and as usual, he has functioned on a higher plane than everybody else, but that doesn't necessarily mean he has a chance at this award. Fair or not, Coach of the Year usually goes to someone who engineered a turnaround, not the two-time defending BCS National Champion.
Rod Carey (Northern Illinois) has kept the ball rolling in DeKalb, taking over for the departed Dave Doeren but continuing to dominate MAC opponents. The stabilizing presence of quarterback Jordan Lynch has helped, but the job Carey has done should not go overlooked.
Tony Levine (Houston) has done more with less than almost any other coach in America, turning the Cougars into a competitive outlet that has lost two games by six combined points. The job he has done with freshman quarterback John O'Korn has been remarkable.
8. David Cutcliffe, Duke
Football will always play second fiddle in Durham, but Cutcliffe and his staff have given students reason to get excited for a second consecutive season.
Despite less-than-stellar talent, the Blue Devils are 7-2 overall and 3-2 in the ACC, with wins over quality teams like Virginia Tech and reasonable losses against Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh.
Duke hosts Miami this weekend, and if Cutcliffe can engineer a win over the reeling Hurricanes, a trip to the ACC Championship Game would not be out of the question.
If the Blue Devils make it that far, their coach will surely be considered for this award.
7. George O'Leary, Central Florida
O'Leary has helped turn UCF from a plucky also-ran into a legitimate BCS contender.
Unless they fall asleep at the wheel, his Knights will likely win the AAC and play in one the nation's premier bowls this season. Having already beaten Louisville—on the road, no less—and Houston, there are no legitimate threats left on their schedule.
O'Leary has plenty of talent on the roster, especially at the sexy positions, where quarterback Blake Bortles and running back Storm Johnson have both looked like future NFL players.
The job this staff has done in coaching the defense is nothing short of spectacular.
6. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
A tip of the hat goes to defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who might be the top assistant in college football and will probably—if there's any justice left in the sport—land a head coaching job somewhere this offseason.
Still, Dantonio is the engine that makes this team roll and the spirit whom it embodies. That tough, unapologetically ugly brand of football is his trademark, and he has the Spartans executing it at a very high level.
If not for a couple of dubious pass interference calls at Notre Dame, this team might be undefeated and in line for a sleeper run to the BCS National Championship Game.
The Spartans still played poorly enough to lose in South Bend, but were that the case, Dantonio would probably top this list.
5. Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Love him or hate him—and let's be honest: unless you're from Columbus, you probably hate him—it's impossible to ignore what Meyer has done at Ohio State.
The Buckeyes haven't lost since he took over at the start of last season, and even though a number of games have been too close for comfort, that remarkable streak of 21 wins (and counting) deserves to be recognized.
Remember, after all, that Meyer inherited a mess when he came to Columbus, dealing with the wake of Jim Tressel's firing and the one-year bowl ban.
Coaching at OSU still has plenty of advantages, but Meyer's ability to rebuild this team into an immediate national title contender has been unique.
4. Gary Pinkel, Missouri
Pinkel was thought to be on the hot seat this summer, coming off of the worst season of his long career at Mizzou, apparently unfit to coach in the big, bad SEC.
So much for that.
The Tigers have been one of the feel-good stories of the season, proving themselves to be far from a fluke and controlling their fate in the SEC East. They currently hold a one-game lead over South Carolina and Georgia, the latter of which they beat in Athens by a convincing margin.
All of Missouri's success came in spite of the injury to senior quarterback James Franklin, and Pinkel's ability to integrate a redshirt freshman, Maty Mauk, into the lineup was impressive.
Depending on how the Tigers finish out the year, Pinkel could go from COY contender to COY favorite.
3. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
Fisher might be plagued in the same manner as Saban—that is, devalued because his team was supposed to be good and won a BCS bowl last year—but the Seminoles have still far exceeded expectations this year.
They were supposed to contend for an ACC title, sure, but did anyone think this team would have looked quite this dominant? Did anyone think they would have dispatched Clemson 51-14 in Memorial Stadium?
Did anyone think they would control their own BCS fate?
FSU's roster is stacked, but Fisher has been at the helm for long enough (four years) that his recruiting and player development skills are certainly responsible for that talent.
Quarterback Jameis Winston is from another planet, but he's still technically a freshman. Fisher has helped ensure that he's never looked like one.
2. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Auburn was bad last year. Really bad. It was barely FBS team-level bad, stumbling through the schedule en route to a historically pitiful 3-9 record.
Enter Gus Malzahn, the Tigers' former offensive coordinator who engineered a renaissance in his one year at Arkansas State before heading back onto The Plains. Just like that, this team is once again relevant on a national scale.
Though his offense typically has a big passing component, Malzahn has done an expert job at scouting his current roster and tailoring a game plan around its strengths. This team is most adept at running the ball down your throat, and its coach is un-stubborn enough to abandon this pass in favor of that style.
A lesser coach might not be so flexible, and the results would likely reflect that in a bad way. What a perfect hire Malzahn was for the Tigers.
1. Art Briles, Baylor
Even Nate Silver would concede to Art Briles' wizardry, as the old Texan ball coach continues to conjure offense out of mid-air, despite losing All-American type players to graduation or the NFL.
According to Chris Brown of Grantland, Briles recently said his team tries to "score on every snap."
"We do not try to go to the body to set up the knockout shot," Briles said.
That mindset has never enjoyed success quite like it has in 2013, with Baylor currently sitting undefeated and at No. 4 in BCS rankings. It just dismantled Oklahoma at home in what might have been the biggest game in program history.
In every challenge this team has faced, Briles has helped them pass it with flying colors. No coach—save maybe Nick Saban—has a more palpable effect on his team's identity, and it's hard to imagine what this team would look like with a different man at the helm.
If the Bears continue rolling, this award is Briles' to lose.