Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports released the top 25 Power Five coaches heading into the 2018 season, and Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham cracked the top 25 at No. 25.
Before we get into the rankings, here are the details, curtesy of Fornelli, of how they arrived at these rankings:
“We’ve arrived at one of my favorite times of the year. The moment when my fellow CBS Sports college football scribes and I get together to vote on the best coaches in the Power Five conferences. I love it because even though it’s a poll based on the votes of several people, yet my name is on the byline, so I get yelled at by people for weeks about it.
Yes, let me repeat that: these rankings are based on the results of several different voters that make up our illustrious staff. Now, you might be wondering what parameters we use to rank our coaches. The simple answer is there are no guidelines.
I’m not sure how my colleagues based their rankings, but my approach was likely similar to theirs. I took into account all that a coach has accomplished, and then I considered which coach I’d want to hire the most were I an athletic director with deep pockets and a vacancy to fill. Then we put the results together, and we got our final rankings.”
On Whittingham, Fornelli says,
“He ranked 14th last year while riding a high that saw the Utes go 28-11 from 2014 to 2016. A 7-6 finish to 2017 seems to have hurt his stock a bit. 2017 rank: 14 (-11)”
Whittingham ranks fifth in the Pac-12 behind Washington Huskies head coach Chris Petersen (No. 5), Stanford Cardinal head coach David Shaw (No. 7), UCLA Bruins head coach Chip Kelly (No. 9), and Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach (No. 24). Personally, I think a fall from No. 14 to No. 25 is a bit harsh for a 7-6 season after seeing eight players get drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft. Utah was a very young team last year, and Whittingham had them competitive against the best teams in the Pac-12. The Utes lost by a combined seven points to Stanford, USC, and Washington.
I would probably put Whittingham ahead of Leach. Leach has the better head to head record, but I am not sold on his coaching style and think also assistants deserve a lot of credit for the success WSU has had. I also think Whittingham should be ahead of a few of the Big Ten coaches on the list including Kirk Ferentz of Iowa (No. 23) and Jim Harbaugh of Michigan (No. 18). I would also have Whitt ahead of David Cutcliffe at Duke (No. 22). I think just outside the top 20 or just cracking the top 20 is probably right for Whittingham.
Petersen is a no brainer top choice in the conference after leading Washington to the College Football Playoff and then a Fiesta Bowl appearance combined with all the success he had at Boise State prior to coming to Washington. I honestly would probably have him ahead of Jimbo Fisher (who is ranked No. 4). Shaw obviously has had a ton of success at Stanford. Kelly had an amazing run at Oregon, but he has been out of college football for five years. While he was great at Oregon, in my mind he captured lightning in a bottle, and I am not convinced he can do it again at UCLA. I think opposing coaches will be better able to figure out his offense than during his first tenure in the Pac-12. Kelly very well might be a top 10 coach at UCLA, but I would have him outside the top 10 because he has been away from college football for so long. I already touched on Leach a bit earlier, but I personally would rank him outside the top 25. Leach has helped turn around WSU, but in my opinion, former defensive coordinator Alex Grinch deserves more credit. Leach is not a defensive mind, and it was improved defense that turned WSU around, not Leach’s gimmicky offense.
Where would you rank Whittingham? Does CBS Sports have it right with Whittingham at No. 25, or would you have him higher or lower, and how does he stack up against other Pac-12 coaches?