The definitive ranking of the top 25 coaches in college football

Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports /
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LSU Football
Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports /

5. Matt Campbell — Iowa State

I absolutely love Matt Campbell. I think he’s easily one of the best coaches in college football. And if he was anywhere else, he’d probably have a team in the College Football Playoff already. Iowa State is far from a powerhouse, yet Campbell has turned the Cyclones into a consistent top 25 program. Campbell went 3-9 in his first season at Iowa State in 2016. He hasn’t had a losing season since. This past year, the Cyclones went 9-3 and finished No. 9 in the final AP top 25 poll. Finding that kind of success at Iowa State is incredible.

4. Lincoln Riley — Oklahoma

Lincoln Riley is in a similar situation as Ryan Day. Riley took over a program that was in great shape (after Bob Stoops surprisingly retired). Riley won 12 games in each of his first three seasons as the Sooners’ head coach. This past year, in a pandemic shortened season, Riley went 9-2 and led Oklahoma to a win in the Cotton Bowl. The Sooners have reached the College Football Playoff three times under Riley. And the program hasn’t finished ranked lower than No. 7 since Riley took over in 2017.

3. Ed Orgeron — LSU

Is this a homer pick? I don’t think so. Ed Orgeron doesn’t get enough credit for being a great head coach. Maybe it’s because of his failure at Ole Miss 15 years ago. Or maybe it’s because some national analysts treat Coach O like a caricature. Whatever the reason, it makes no sense. Orgeron can coach. He’s 45-14 at LSU — including the greatest season in college football history. This past season, Orgeron dealt with an impossible situation. The Tigers lost 14 players to the NFL. And then the program suffered numerous opt-outs. On top of that, LSU had a bad fit at defensive coordinator (Bo Pelini). Despite those obstacles, Orgeron still managed to lead the program to a 5-5 record, including wins over Ole Miss and Florida to close the season.

2. Dabo Swinney — Clemson

Dabo Swinney landed the Clemson job the same way Orgeron landed the LSU job. Swinney was the interim coach and then he was promoted to the full-time head coach. It was a move that didn’t move the needle. Swinney went through some growing pains, but he’s now built a juggernaut at Clemson. Swinney hasn’t lost more than two games in a season since 2014. The Tigers have won two national championships under Swinney, and they’ve won seven ACC titles. There’s only one active coach who’s had more success than Swinney.

1. Nick Saban — Alabama

Not really sure this needs much of an explanation. Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach of all time. And he’s still the best current college football coach, too. Alabama is the favorite in essentially every game. That’s going to be the case until Saban retires.

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