The top 10 college football coach rankings heading into Week 7 welcome two new entrants and witness the precipitous rise of Kevin Sumlin.
Bon voyage for now, Butch Jones and Tom Herman. Welcome aboard, P.J. Fleck and Justin Fuente. Tennessee and Houston lost for the first time on Saturday, opening the door for new individuals to compete for the right to be named Coach of the Year when honors are doled out in December.
Through the first six weeks of the 2016 college football season, select head coaches are standing out among their peers in the profession. As such, they’ve built an early cushion in the race for Coach of the Year, a lucrative contract extension and even a high-profile promotion now that job openings are beginning to pop up.
Week 7 College Football Coach Rankings
10. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan (Last Week, NR)
The Broncos began playing football in 1906. They were ranked in the Top 25 for the very first time in 2016. That’s the power of Fleck in Kalamazoo over the past three-plus seasons. He’s a unique kinda cat, whose youthful energy, people skills and motivational techniques have helped transform Western Michigan into the MAC’s “it” program. The Broncos are 6-0, with wins over the Big Ten’s Northwestern and Illinois, all of which has made Fleck the most coveted young coach this side of Houston’s Tom Herman.
9. Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech (NR)
In less than half a season, Fuente is well on his way to sweeping away the malaise and mediocrity that had permeated throughout Frank Beamer’s final years in Blacksburg. Replacing a legend is tough, but Fuente is making it look sort of easy so far. Since fumbling away a shot to beat Tennessee in Week 2, the Hokies have strafed Boston College, East Carolina and North Carolina by a combined score of 137-20. JUCO transfer Jerod Evans is the coach’s newest success story at quarterback, as Tech begins making a case as the ACC Coastal frontrunner.
8. Nick Saban, Alabama (9)
Saban moves up a spot after his Tide crushed Arkansas, 49-30, in hostile territory. The offense racked up 517 balanced yards, while the defense shut down the Hog ground game, picked off three Austin Allen passes and sacked him six times. Alabama has now beaten a pair of ranked teams to remain No. 1 overall, with a gauntlet of Tennessee, Texas A&M and LSU up ahead in successive games. If this Tide team, which is using a true freshman quarterback, gets to Nov. 6 unscathed, how can Saban not be considered a top contender for 2016 Coach of the Year?
7. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado (8)
Yeah, even in losing MacIntyre slides up a peg, partially due to the departure of Houston’s Tom Herman from the rankings. The Buffs battled back at the Coliseum, but fell just short to USC, 21-17. Still, Colorado remains in the hunt for the Pac-12 South, a remarkable feat for a program that hasn’t authored a winning year since 2005 and was picked to finish last in the preseason. The Buffs are thriving behind Jim Leavitt’s defense and rookie quarterback Steven Montez, who didn’t get his chance until starter Sefo Liufau was injured on Sept. 17.
6. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan (7)
Harbaugh continues to push all of the right buttons in Ann Arbor, capped by Saturday’s 78-0 obliteration of Rutgers. The Wolverines’ 6-0 mark includes wins over then-unbeatens Wisconsin and Colorado, the latter of which looks better today than it did back on Sept. 17. Still, Michigan has yet to face a quality opponent on the road, so Harbaugh won’t have another shot at upward mobility until his team treks to East Lansing, Iowa City and Columbus over the course of a rugged second half of 2016.
5. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin (5)
Chryst holds steady as his Badgers, who host Ohio State on Saturday, took their lone bye week of 2016 last week. Even after falling to Michigan on Oct. 1, 14-7, Wisconsin still qualifies as one of the big surprises of the first half of the year. The team was outside the Top 25 in August, yet rose as high as No. 8 following upsets of LSU and Michigan State. And despite a lack of household names or national awards candidates, the Badgers are the Big Ten West favorite, with visions of appearing in a New Year’s Six bowl game.
4. Bobby Petrino, Louisville (3)
The Cardinals were off last weekend, giving them an extra week to stew over how close they were to beating Clemson in Death Valley in Week 5. By coaching up Lamar Jackson in his second year, Petrino is doing his part to turn Louisville into a player on the national stage. The Cards have already obliterated Florida State, 63-20, lead the nation in scoring at 58 points per game and are set to go on an extended run, beginning with this Friday’s visit from Duke.
3. Urban Meyer, Ohio State (2)
The Buckeyes have won each of their first five games by at least three touchdowns, though Indiana was feisty in Columbus this past weekend. Nearly half of Ohio State’s starting lineup is comprised of underclassmen, and only a few seniors have started games. Meyer and his staff have adapted on the fly to a new rotation of personnel, which was never more evident than in the 45-24 win over Oklahoma in Norman. Those young Buckeyes will be tested on the road the next two weeks, at Wisconsin and at Penn State.
2. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M (4)
The Aggies keep winning, and Sumlin continues climbing north. For a coach who began the year facing job security questions, Sumlin has navigated the situation remarkably well. His Aggies have now defeated four quality opponents, UCLA, Auburn, Arkansas and then-unbeaten Tennessee this past Saturday. And Sumlin has excelled as the CEO of Aggie Inc., delegating leadership roles at quarterback, Trevor Knight, offensive coordinator, Noel Mazzone, and second-year defensive coordinator, John Chavis. A&M gets an extra week to prepare for its seminal showdown with top-ranked Alabama on Oct. 22.
1. Chris Petersen, Washington (1)
On Saturday, Petersen did what his last two predecessors couldn’t—beat rival Oregon. And Petersen did it in historically lopsided fashion. That 70-21 manhandling leaves no doubts over the identity of this year’s Pac-12 kingpin. The Huskies have now rocked Stanford and the Ducks by a combined score of 114-27 in back-to-back weeks to thrust themselves into the upper echelon of the rankings. In a little over two years, Petersen has completely transformed the culture in Seattle, quashing suggestions that former Boise State head coaches can’t thrive in new gigs not involving an IFB and a microphone.