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College Football Coach Rankings 2020: Pac-12

David Shaw, Stanford
My "Coach Rankings 2020" aims to compile a definitive list of the best coaches in the sport in each Power Five league. To do this, I tried to weigh the current trajectory of the coach's program, past success at current school and former schools, as well as recruiting impact. Obviously this list is highly subjective, and there should be plenty of spirited debate about which order these coaches fall. Next up is the Pac-12, another league that has seen a lot of turnover at the head coaching position in the last few years.

1. Kyle Whittingham, Utah
Record at Utah: 131-64
Record Overall: 131-64
Notable Accomplishments: 3 Pac-12 South Division Titles, Two BCS Bowl Victories, One Conference Title

It's not often a program makes two home run hires in a row, but Utah did just that when they hired Kyle Whittingham after Urban Meyer left for Florida. Whittingham has been with the Utes since he took over as D-Line coach in 1994, rising up the ranks to head coach. Since 2005, he was overseen the program rise from "BCS buster" to a respectable, consistent Power Five winner. The 2008 campaign, when Utah went 13-0, will live in the school's history forever, but Whittingham has shown he can lead the Utes to other highs, including three division titles in the Pac-12 South. They've missed the postseason twice since '05, a testament to Whittingham's ability to lead any type of roster to success. At a place like Utah, he isn't ever going to bring in elite-level high school talent, but Whittingham has sent a ton of players to the NFL, especially on the defensive side of the ball. After placing the Utes in the Playoff conversation this past fall, it will be fascinating to watch him reload in Salt Lake City. Both their quarterback and record-setting tailback move on, as well as a number of key pieces on defense.

2. Mario Cristobal, Oregon
Record at Oregon: 21-7
Record Overall: 48-54
Notable Accomplishments: 2 Conference Titles, Pac-12 North Division Title, Sun Belt Coach of the Year (2010)

Mario Cristobal's career path has been interesting to watch, as he first got his start as head coach with Florida International. At the time, he was 36 years old, and the first Cuban-American head coach in college football. He did a solid job at FIU but after a down 2012 campaign, in which the Panthers fell to 3-9, he was let go. After landing at Alabama until 2016 he arrived in Eugene and became the head coach when Willie Taggart left. He was done a superb job in his two years with the Ducks, and the program's trajectory has really risen. Cristobal has always been known as a great recruiter, but he's also earning his stripes as a in-game head coach. He did an excellent job with Oregon, who was a loss to Arizona State away from a second Playoff berth. Cristobal has a bunch returning, and even greater things could be in store for 2020. If Oregon keeps improving at this pace, it wouldn't be shocking to see Cristobal really assert himself as the top coach on the West Coast.

3. Herm Edwards, Arizona State
Record at Arizona State: 15-11
Record Overall: 15-11
Notable Accomplishments: Four NFL Playoff Appearances, 2 Straight Bowl Appearances

Herm Edwards deserves a lot of credit for the work he has done in two years, and I think Year 3 could be really special. Edwards was certainly an out-of-the-box hire at ASU, a coach who had been in the NFL most of his career. In fact, Edwards arrived at Arizona State not having coached in a collegiate game since the late 1980's when he was a defensive backs coach at San Jose State. But, Herm really seems to have embraced building a college football program, and the Sun Devils have been in the mix for the Pac-12 South Title both years. They enter 2020 as possibly the division's favorite, and there is a confidence that Edwards and this team have exuded over the last couple years. He also continues to have momentum on the recruiting trail, which speaks to Herm's charisma and passion for the position. With all this momentum in his favor right now, Edwards rises to the upper echelon of the league.

4. David Shaw, Stanford
Record at Stanford: 86-34
Record Overall: 86-34
Notable Accomplishments: 3 Conference Titles, Four-Time Pac-12 Coach of the Year (2011, 2012, 2015, 2017)

A few years ago, David Shaw might be a lock for the top spot on this list, but his stock has fallen a little bit in recent times. The Cardinal are fresh off a frustrating 4-8 2019, a season in which they looked flat on both sides of the ball. Too be fair, Stanford did suffer an injury bug this past fall, but it still left a dark feeling in Palo Alto at this point in Shaw's tenure. Perhaps the 47-year-old can institute a quick turnaround, which isn't completely impossible with how wild the Pac-12 can get. And, perhaps recency bias is playing into this ranking a little too much, as Shaw is as accomplished as any coach in the conference. He's won three conference titles with the Cardinal, and five Pac-12 North Division Titles. Shaw had big shoes to fill when Jim Harbaugh left, but he has done a fine job keeping this program going. If the Cardinal are able to respond with a resurgent 2020, he'll definitely be far too low.

5. Justin Wilcox, California
Record at California: 20-18
Record Overall: 20-18
Notable Accomplishments: 2 Bowl Appearances

Even coaching at a massive institution like Cal-Berkeley, Justin Wilcox doesn't get much attention for the work he has done with the Golden Bears. Under his leadership, the program has improved their win total in each of the past three seasons, and even their 8-5 record in 2019 was a little bit deceiving. Cal was undefeated before an injury to starting QB Chase Garbers that cost him nearly the season's entire second half, causing them to slip in the Pac-12 pecking order. If Garbers was healthy all year long, I don't think it's crazy to consider Cal winning ten games this past season. Whether Wilcox will be able to keep the steady improvement going remains to be seen, but he continues to prove his worth as a developmental football coach. He's quickly changed the Cal identity from an air raid, spread it out scheme under Sonny Dykes into a defensive-minded, tough football team. That's an incredibly quick change of identity and culture under his guidance.

6. Clay Helton, USC
Record at USC: 40-22
Record Overall: 40-22
Notable Accomplishments: One Conference Title, 2 Pac-12 South Division Titles

Clay Helton has taken a lot of heat over the last two years, but such is the reality of being the head coach of USC. With that being said, Helton's resume with the Trojans is actually pretty respectable, even if he hasn't won quite as much as some had hoped. In his first two full seasons with the Trojans, Helton went 21-6, 15-3 in the conference, and won a Pac-12 Title and Rose Bowl. Of course, that has led way into two consecutive disappointing campaigns, along with frustrations on the recruiting trail. The good news for Helton is that the program's trajectory actually appears to be shifting up when you look ahead to 2020. Helton has identified a star QB to run the show in Kedon Slovis, and he was one of the game's bright young stars on his coaching staff in Graham Harrell. If 'SC doesn't win a division title in a wide open Pac-12 South this fall, that's likely it for Helton in Southern Cal.

7. Jonathan Smith, Oregon State
Record at Oregon State: 7-17
Record Overall: 7-17
Notable Accomplishments: None

Oregon State is one of the tougher jobs in the Pac-12, and the Power Five in general. It's a school without a significant football history, and one working against the Nike money that flows through the state at the University of Oregon. But, Jonathan Smith has done an admirable job in Corvallis since taking over at his alma mater. The former star quarterback took the jump after a successful run as Washington's offensive coordinator and after a poor debut campaign, the Beavers came incredibly close to a bowl berth in Year Two. Oregon State also finished up tied for second in the Pac-12 North, quite a showing for a team that has not played in the postseason since 2013. Under Smith, Oregon State has featured a fun, explosive offense, but the young head coach must prove he can develop the defensive side of the ball. Year 3 is always huge for any head coach, but Smith's strong showing in the first two years should have Beavs fans feeling good about the future of the program.

8. Chip Kelly, UCLA
Record at UCLA: 7-17
Record Overall: 53-24
Notable Accomplishments: 3 Conference Titles, One National Championship Game Appearance, 2-Time Pac-10 Coach of the Year (2009, 2010)

Chip Kelly's impact on the collegiate game can't be understated, as his up-tempo, no-huddle offense at Oregon revolutionized modern college football. Not only were Kelly's offenses fun to watch, they were highly effective, as Oregon turned into a true National Title contender year-in, year-out. After a brief stint in the NFL, Chip's return to the college game hasn't been quite so fun. His two seasons at UCLA, the Bruins have gone 3-9 and then 4-8, and Kelly has shockingly been unable to win a single non-conference game during that span. You'd expect that to change in 2020, but nothing else about the program inspires much confidence. The offense has offered little to no excitement under Kelly, and the program's recruiting and energy seems down. Perhaps it will take Chip just a little bit longer to build up the Bruins than the Ducks, but the pressure is on for the 56-year-old head coach. If UCLA again misses the postseason in '20, Chip may be looking for his fourth coaching job since 2013.

9. Jimmy Lake, Washington
Record at Washington: 0-0
Record Overall: 0-0
Notable Accomplishments: None

The way I've been operating with first-year head coaches in these rankings, they're usually near the bottom of their respective conferences, and there's just not enough of a resume to warrant a higher ranking. That remains true of Jimmy Lake as he takes over for Chris Petersen in Seattle, even though Lake has earned a lot of respect over the years for the work he has done as Washington co-DC. Lake is known for his work with defensive backs, and he's sent a bunch to the NFL over the past few years, a pretty remarkable streak for a school that didn't used to produce much professional talent. The jump to head coach won't be an easy one, particularly for a Huskies team breaking in a new quarterback. Lake does have the advantage of continuity on his side, as he is very comfortable with this program and well-liked by players, staying in Seattle since 2014. The question for Lake is about keeping the Huskies in the national conversation, which becomes more difficult with a rising Oregon in the division.

10. Nick Rolovich, Washington State
Record at Washington State: 0-0
Record Overall: 28-27
Notable Accomplishments: Mountain West West Division Title, MW Coach of the Year (2019)

With Mike Leach taking the head coach job at Mississippi State, Washington State opted to replace him with a very similar coach in the form of Nick Rolovich. Much like Leach, Rolovich loves to play an aggressive, air raid scheme that worked wonders this past season while at Hawaii. Leach will still be a difficult coach to replace, as he has proven he can win at some of the sport's most unique outposts. However, Rolovich offers plenty of relief a less controversial figure who continues to rise up the coaching ladder. Despite being an alum at Hawaii, Rolovich felt that Wazzu was the right fit, and the personnel there should ensure a pretty smooth transition. It might be difficult to keep the Cougars in the mix for division titles, but he should have success.

11. Kevin Sumlin, Arizona
Record at Arizona: 9-15
Record Overall: 95-58
Notable Accomplishments: SEC Coach of the Year (2012), C-USA Coach of the Year (2009, 2011)

Back in 2012, Kevin Sumlin was one of the hottest names in the coaching profession. In his first season with Texas A&M, Sumlin had led the Aggies to a thrilling 11-2 season that was capped off with a Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma, and punctuated by the Johnny Manziel Heisman win. Nearly a decade later, Sumlin is fighting to stay on at Arizona, a program that has seriously trailed off over the last few years. When he was brought on, Sumlin's offense seemed like an ideal fit with Arizona's Khalil Tate, but the two never meshed and a 5-7 debut campaign was incredibly underwhelming. Things didn't get any better in Year Two for Sumlin, as the Wildcats started off 4-1 before dropping their final seven games and rounding out the cellar in the South Division. While he was brought back for a third year, Sumlin is truly on his last legs in Tucson. If this team doesn't show some signs of life, it's hard to envision him lasting until 2021. Perhaps Sumlin is much like Chip Kelly at UCLA, simply needing some time to get comfortable in a new gig but in modern college football, you simply don't get that much chances before you're gone.

12. Karl Dorrell, Colorado
Record at Colorado: 0-0
Record Overall: 35-27
Notable Accomplishments: Pac-10 Coach of the Year (2005)

Perhaps the most surprising hire of the 2020 coaching carousel came at Colorado, where the Buffaloes decided to replace Mel Tucker with former UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell. It was fascinating for a few reasons; for one, Dorrell's UCLA tenure wasn't exactly super successful, with just one Top 25 finish. Secondly, Dorrell has zero ties to the school, or the state of Colorado for that matter. Lastly, the 57-year-old has been out of the college game for a long time, coaching almost exclusively in the NFL with the exception of a stint in 2014 as Vanderbilt's OC/QB coach. That isn't to say I think that this hire is an absolute disaster, but it doesn't exactly capture the attention for a program that has regularly been at the bottom of the Pac-12 since their move here. In Year One, Dorrell will have to find a new quarterback and new top target after Laviska Shenault moved on, a tall task for a first-year on the job.

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