Andrew Luck is the best player in college football. Who is the best coach in the BCS top 25?
So often football coaches say "It's not about the Xs and Os, it's about the Jimmys and Joes."
The gist is that those creating and calling the plays on the sidelines don't mean nearly as much as those assigned to run said plays.
OK, so that's a noble (and probably quite fair) assessment, but that doesn't mean you or I could take Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Charles Woodson and friends, call them the Green Bay Packers and win a Super Bowl.
With the first BCS rankings just released Sunday night, we figured we'd take a look at those who write up the Xs and Os.
Here is a highly unscientific ranking of the 25 coaches, starting at 25, in the BCS rankings. And remember, it is hardly a jab to be at or near the bottom of this list.
Without question, Zook is one of the best recruiters on this list. He is able to convince kids and their parents that Illinois (and previously Florida) was and is the place to be.
However, the coaching part of the job always has been his weak link.
Remember, it was Zook who recruited the majority of Urban Meyer's first national championship team in Gainesville. As much as Gator fans cringe when they hear Zook's name, they can't deny that,
On the flipside, Zook was demoted from defensive coordinator in his first stint at UF and got fired with the elite talent he recruited the second time around. Meyer was able to utilize a bunch of parts that weren't exactly perfect fits in his spread offense (i.e. quarterback Chris Leak), and win college football's ultimate prize.
No doubt Zook has learned from his days at UF, and no doubt he is a better coach than he was then. He led Illinois to a season-opening record of 6-0 this year, didn't he?
But still, someone had to be 25th.
This ranking is based more on experience (or the lack thereof) than anything.
Holgersen is highly respected in the coaching community, but this is just his first season as a head coach.
As an assistant through the years at places like Valdosta State, Mississippi State, Texas Tech and Houston, Holgersen earned a reputation as an offensive whiz. And now, he has West Virginia ranked 15th in the first BCS poll of 2011.
It wouldn't be an outlandish statement to suggest Holgersen could be 10-15 spots higher than this within three years.
A former quarterback at Brigham Young, Sarkisian is in the middle of his best season yet at Washington.
Despite losing a first-round pick at quarterback in Jake Locker, the Huskies have opened 5-1 in Sarkisian's third season on the job.
Washington is just 17-14 in his three years, but part of building a program is being afforded the time to actually build it.
And UW appears to be on the rise, just like Sarkisian.
This one was a toughie.
After all, how do you rank a coach in his first season who hasn't yet lost a game?
That is the dilemma with Shaw, whose official title with the Cardinal is (no kidding) the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football/Football Coach.
Prior to being named Stanford's 34th Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football/Football Coach, Shaw built a strong resume as the offensive coordinator for four years under former Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football/Football Coach Jim Harbaugh.
Twice during his tenure as an assistant (2009 and 2010), Shaw led the Cardinal to school records for points in a season. Shaw also tutored a pair of Heisman Trophy finalists in running back Toby Gerhart and quarterback Andrew Luck.
Prior to joining Stanford, Shaw was the offensive coordinator at the University of San Diego. And before that he spent nine seasons as an assistant in the NFL, working for the Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Ravens.
Shaw's father, Willie, coached for 33 years in the NFL, so there is also coaching in his blood.
A linebacker at Purdue from 1983-86, it would be easy to think Kevin Sumlin's background is on the defensive side of the ball.
However, that isn't the case for Houston's fourth-year head coach, who also has been an offensive assistant at Oklahoma, Washington State, Minnesota, Texas A&M, Wyoming and his alma mater.
Led by quarterback Case Keenum, the Cougars are leading the NCAA in passing and have opened 6-0. During Sumlin's four years at Houston, the Cougars have gone a combined 29-16, including 1-1 in bowl games.
One of the country's hottest young coaching prospects, Sumlin has been rumored to be a candidate for the Arizona job, which opened earlier this season when Mike Stoops was let go.
Known as one of the nation's top recruiters, Mark Richt has done a nice job at Georgia, going 101-36 since he was hired in 2001.
During that span Richt also has led UGa to three SEC East titles and a pair of outright conference championships.
However, that hasn't been enough to stop the grumbling among Bulldogs' faithful, who have watched as Southeastern Conference rivals Florida, LSU, Alabama and Auburn all have brought home at least one BCS national championship in the last five years.
Still, Richt, the backup at quarterback to Jim Kelly when both attended Miami, was named the SEC coach of the year in 2002 and 2005, so he has the respect of the media and his peers.
A Michigan assistant from 1995-2002, Brady Hoke "came home" in the offseason and has gone 6-1 in his first seven games as the Wolverines' head coach.
Prior to that, he was the head coach first at Ball State (2003-08), his alma mater and San Diego State (2009-10).
The younger brother of Chicago Bears' defensive backs coach Jon Hoke, Brady Hoke has a defensive background. In his final season at BSU he went 12-1 and had Ball State, yes Ball State, among the most talked about teams in college football.
Since his re-arrival in Ann Arbor, many players have talked openly about a different, tougher attitude than existed under previous coach Rich Rodriguez.
Hoke is just 53-51 overall as a head coach and just 1-1 in bowls. Look for those numbers to change dramatically—in a positive manner—the next few years.
Prior to being hired at Michigan State, Dantonio led the Cincinnati Bearcats to their first winning record in more than two decades. That came in 2004.
Since arriving at MSU in 2007, the former defensive back at South Carolina has gone 38-20 and led the Spartans to the 2010 Big Ten championship.
He also has battled health issues and suffered a heart attack on Sept. 10, 2010, just hours after leading Michigan State to a 34-31 victory against Notre Dame. He was back coaching full-time less than a month later, and the Spartans finished 11-2.
Dantonio also has had stints as a defensive assistant at Purdue, Kansas and Ohio State, among others.
He has an overall record of 56-37, including a 38-20 mark at MSU.
Long considered one of college football's brightest defensive minds, Pelini is 35-13 since he was hired by Nebraska in 2008.
From the coaching cradle of Youngstown, Ohio, Pelini was a highly-respected defensive coordinator for the Cornhuskers, LSU and Oklahoma before he served as the head coach in Lincoln.
A former Ohio State free safety, Pelini has also served as an assistant with the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers.
Also 3-1 in bowl games, Pelini could be 10 spaces higher on this list within three years.
Only 41 years old, Swinney has done wonderful things at Clemson since taking over for Tommy Bowden in 2008.
The Tigers have gone 26-15 (1-2 in bowls), but more than anything Swinney has done a tremendous job building a program.
He has gone into Florida and signed some of the Sunshine State's top prospects (like standout freshman wide receiver Sammy Watkins). He was also instrumental in convincing All American tailback C.J. Spiller not to transfer from Clemson to Florida.
Swinney's players love him, and the Tigers look to be a program on the rise.
He's a man... and he's a heckuva coach.
A former Oklahoma State quarterback, Mike Gundy has gone 53-29 since being promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach at his alma mater in 2005.
Big 12 South champions in 2010, the Cowboys are on the rise and could threaten Big 12 (and in-state) powerhouse Oklahoma as early as this season.
Gundy, 44, has an offensive background and has led OSU to a 3-2 mark in bowl games. He could have the Cowboys in a BCS game come January.
No matter where he has been—be it Georgia Southern, Navy or Georgia Tech—Paul Johnson has coached winners.
The head coach at GSU from 1997-2001, he led the Eagles to two Division I-AA National championships. Then, at the Naval Academy, he led his teams to bowls in every season but his first and went 11-1 against Air Force and Army.
Now the head coach of the Yellow Jackets, Johnson has won two ACC Coastal Division titles and an overall conference championship in just three seasons in Atlanta.
Now in his second go-around in Manhattan, Kansas, Bill Snyder has led a resurgence at Kansas State.
In his two runs with the Wildcats (1989-2005 and 2009-present), Snyder has gone 153-80-1 (including 6-6 in bowl games).
He also led K-State to the Big 12 championship in 2003.
How beloved is Snyder at Kansas State? The Wildcats play in Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium.
The Badgers' head coach since taking over for Barry Alvarez, Bielema has continued the winning tradition Alvarez started.
Under Bielema, Wisconsin is 55-16 and won the 2010 Big Ten championship. The Badgers are only 2-3 in bowls with Bielema guiding them.
The only coach in UW history to win 11 regular-season games, Bielema has done it twice, in 2006 and 2010.
When he was hired at Auburn prior to the 2009 season, many Tigers' alumni (Charles Barkley included), grumbled aloud.
After all, this was a guy who went a combined 5-19 in two seasons at Iowa State and somehow was getting a promotion to the nation's top conference.
No one is grumbling now.
Since Chizik's arrival, Auburn is 26-7 and won the 2010 BCS national championship. Even Barkley has said he was mistaken in his initial assessment.
As impressive as last season was, he might actually be doing an even better job this year.
With Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton and Lombardi Award-winning defensive tackle Nick Fairly now playing in the NFL, Chizik has the young Tigers at 5-2, including last Saturday's victory against Florida.
One of three men (Arizona State's Dennis Erickson and South Carolina's Steve Spurrier are the others) on this list to be a head coach in both college football and the NFL, Sherman will be leading Texas A&M into the Southeastern Conference next season.
Sherman was the coach of the Green Bay Packers from 2000-2005, and went a very respectable 59-43, winning three division titles as Brett Favre's boss. He has been Texas A&M's coach since 2008, and has gone 22-21 in College Station, 0-2 in bowl games.
His background is on the offensive line, and he was an OT/DE at Central Connecticut State from 1974-77.
Sherman has had assistant coaching stops at Tulane, Holy Cross, UCLA and with the Seattle Seahawks and Houston Texans, among others.
Prior to Frank Beamer's arrival in 1987, did anyone really talk about football at Virgina Tech?
Now, can anyone remember the last time the Hokies weren't ranked?
A Virginia Tech cornerback from 1966-69, Beamer has gone 200-95-2 (8-10 in bowl games) at his alma mater.
The Hokies are consistently among the college football's best in the often-overlooked aspect of special teams. They produced a Heisman Trophy-winner in quarterback Michael Vick.
So his exit from the Atlanta Falcons was clumsy, unprofessional and inconsiderate: There is no denying that.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's look at the man's resume.
At Louisville (2003-06) and Arkansas (2008-present), Petrino is 69-25, including 3-2 in bowls. The Cardinals finished 11-1 in 2004 and 12-1 in 2006—that's Louisville, folks!
His brilliantly conceived and implemented offense has turned Arkansas into one of the nation's most fun teams to watch. And if it wasn't for the powerhouses at LSU and Alabama this year, the Razorbacks would be the talk of the nation's best conference.
Bob Stoops became a nationally known name in 1996. When he was the defensive coordinator under Steve Spurrier, Florida won the national championship.
Prior to that, Spurrier's Gators had been known as an offensive powerhouse without much of a reputation on the other side of the ball.
Oklahoma hired Stoops as head coach in 1999, and since then, the former Iowa Hawkeyes' defensive back has gone 134-31 with just two losses in Norman, Okla.
He's only 3-5 in BCS bowl games and 6-6 in all bowls (the same record as Nick Saban), but how many coaches can say they have brought their teams to that many postseason games?
The Head Ball Coach has won at every college stop he's made. Don't listen when people say "Old Ball Coach," because he's never referred to himself that way.
He led Duke—Duke!—to a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship in 1999. From 1990-2001, he won six Southeastern Conference titles and one national championship at his alma mater, Florida.
When he left the Gators, Spurrier had grown tired of recruiting, even if his zeal for coaching hadn't been deflated.
After a forgettable stint with the NFL's Washington Redskins, Spurrier took over a South Carolina program with low expectations and has made a winner out of the Gamecocks. Since Spurrier arrived in 2005, he has built a program that has surpassed (at least temporarily) Florida as the top dog in the SEC East.
Additionally, he has become a great recruiter again, evidenced by his signing of the nation's No. 1 recruit, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, last year.
Kelly has been the mastermind of creative offenses from coast to coast.
He was first noticed after leading New Hampshire to big-time numbers as the offensive coordinator from 1999-2006. Oregon hired him for the same job, and by 2009, he was the head coach.
He has led the Ducks to a 26-5 record since then, including a berth in last season's BCS title game. If there is one knock, it could be that he is 0-2 in bowls.
Still, at a youthful 47, he is a coach on the rise leading a once-doormat program to the top of the Pac-12.
The only two-time winner of the Paul "Bear" Bryant National Coach of the Year Award, Petersen has done a brilliant job at one of college football's most faraway outposts, going 67-5 since he was promoted from the offensive coordinator's position in 2006.
Rarely do you see Boise State signing one of the nation's top recruiting classes, but year-in, year-out, the Broncos are there as "BCS busters."
And it isn't as if Boise State has solely beaten up on patsies (though the Broncos have done that, too), BSU has won a pair of BCS bowl games (the Fiesta in 2007 and 2010), beating highly-ranked Oklahoma and TCU, respectively.
One of the most highly-respected coaches in all of college football, Brown is 223-109-1 all-time with an 11-7 record in bowl games.
Since he arrived in 1998, Brown has led the Longhorns to the 2005 BCS national championship, as well as six Big 12 South Division championships and a pair of outright Big 12 titles.
A former running back at Vanderbilt and Florida State, Brown also has been a head coach at Appalachian State (1983), Tulane (1985-87) and North Carolina (1988-1997).
Brown also has served as an offensive assistant at FSU, Iowa State, Louisiana State and Oklahoma, among others.
His current Longhorns are young, but look for them to be back in the Top 10 in 2012.
Yes, he can be a bit odd. Yes, he makes some unconventional moves.
But very few in college football win like Louisiana State's Les Miles.
Within two years he turned Oklahoma State (3-8 the season before he arrived) into an annual bowl-caliber team.
Then, he moved on to LSU, and made it so the Tigers didn't slip after the departure of Nick Saban.
Overall, Miles is 97-38, including 6-3 in bowl games. And in 2007, he led the Tigers to the BCS national title.
Could another be on the way in 2011?
Yeah, he's not perfect—his exit from the Miami Dolphins and to Alabama was poorly handled on his end.
But there is no question Nick Saban can coach.
He has won two BCS national titles (2003 at Louisiana State and 2009 at Alabama) and may be on his way to a third this year with the Crimson Tide.
A defensive mastermind, Saban is also one of the nation's top recruiters, annually convincing numerous elite prospects they'd rather be in Tuscaloosa than in sexier cities like Miami, Los Angeles, Baton Rouge and Gainesville, to name a few.
He sends his players to the NFL. And, more than anything, the man wins, evidenced by his 140-53-1 overall head coaching record.
One slight nitpicking negative is that he is just 6-6 all-time in bowl games.
But he's No. 1 on this list.