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The Top 10 Coaches in College Football

USC's Carroll Tops the List, But Florida's Meyer Isn't Far Behind

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Florida's Urban Meyer was recently awarded with a six-year contract extension that will pay him about $4 million a year. That makes Meyer among the highest paid coaches in the country.

But is he the best coach in the country? Better than Bob Stoops? Better than Mack Brown? Better than Pete Carroll?

Well, find out here, as we run down our list of the top 10 college football coaches in the country.

1. Pete Carroll, USC

Pete Carroll
USC has the best football program in the country. No other school is close. And Carroll is the man who built this powerhouse. In eight years in Los Angeles, Carroll has compiled an incredible 88-15 record and won two national titles. He is 27-0 in November—yes, you read that right; the man has never lost a game in the month of November—and has led the Trojans to seven straight Pac-10 championships. He’s won at least 11 games in each of the past seven seasons—that’s a college football record—and at one point led this team to 34 straight conference wins. He’s also coached three Heisman winners.

2. Urban Meyer, Florida

Urban Meyer
(Marc Serota/Getty Images)
This is all you need to know about Urban Meyer: He’s won two of the last three national championships. Given the juggernaut that Florida has become under Meyer’s leadership, it’s easy to forget that, upon his arrival, the Gators were scuffling. Ron Zook couldn’t keep up the momentum built by Steve Spurrier and, at least for a couple years there, the Gators weren’t a player on the national scene. Meyer turned things around quickly. He’s 44-9 during his time in Gainesville and has two SEC championships on top of those two national titles. Oh, and lest we forget, before coming to Florida, he was 22-2—including a Fiesta Bowl win—during his time at Utah.

3. Jim Tressel, Ohio State

Jim Tressel
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Tressel’s reputation has taken a hit in recent years, as his Buckeyes have struggled—some would say they’ve failed miserably—against elite opponents. But let’s not overlook the fact that, since his arrival in Columbus in 2001, Tressel has dominated the Big Ten like no coach in decades. He’s 83-18 at Ohio State and has won five Big Ten championships. He’s appeared in three BCS National Championship games and won one of them, guiding the Buckeyes to a 14-0 season back in 2002. Maybe most importantly to Buckeye fans, Tressel has owned “That School Up North;” his teams are 7-1 against the hated Michigan Wolverines.

4. Brian Kelly, Cincinnati

Brian Kelly
(Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Surprised? Don’t be. College football insiders have known for years just how good a coach Kelly is. Now everyone else is finding that out, too. In just two full seasons at Cincinnati, Kelly has gone 21-6 and last year led the Bearcats to the Big East championship and the school’s first-ever BCS bowl appearance. I mean, the guy took Cincinnati to the Orange Bowl. Kelly is no fluke, though. Before arriving in Cincinnati, he enjoyed successful stints at Central Michigan (he took his team from 4-7 in his first year to 9-4 in his last, including a MAC championship) and Division II’s Grand Valley State, where he went 118-35-2 and won two national titles. His 2001 team averaged 58.4 points per game.

5. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

Bob Stoops
(Getty Images)
Like Ohio State’s Tressel, Stoops has taken criticism for his team’s big-stage failures. But also like Tressel, such criticism misses the point: Stoops is the best Oklahoma coach since Bud Wilkinson. And that’s saying something. Stoops is 109-23 in his ten years at Norman. He’s won six Big 12 championships and one national championship. In total, his teams have spent 140 weeks in the national rankings, played in seven BCS bowl games and four national title games. Oklahoma has set or tied 180 different school records under Stoops' watch and, at one point, reeled of 20 straight wins between 2000 and 2001.

6. Nick Saban, Alabama

Nick Saban
(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Saban hasn’t enjoyed the success that Carroll has at USC, or Meyer has at Florida. Interestingly, though, Saban gets a lot more attention. Not that the guy doesn’t deserve it. He took over a struggling Alabama program in 2007 and, in his just his second year in Tuscaloosa, led the Tide to a 12-2 record that included an undefeated regular season. He's recruiting like crazy and SEC titles are surely soon to come. Of course, this isn’t Saban’s first stop in the SEC West. Between 2000 and 2004, he led LSU to a 48-16 record, including two SEC championships and one national title. He’s also coached at Michigan State (where he went 34-24-1) and Toledo, and suffered through a brief, horrific stint with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.

7. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

Pat Fitzgerald
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Fitzgerald took over at his alma mater in the most trying of circumstances: He was called in to replace the successful Randy Walker, who died suddenly in 2006. Nobody gave Fitzgerald much of a chance; besides, he was the youngest and maybe the most inexperienced head coach in the country. But if anyone “gets” Northwestern, it’s Fitzgerald, a two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year who led the Wildcats to the 1996 Rose Bowl. He’s embraced the challenge of winning in Evanston as coach, too, improving his team’s record in each of his first three years. After going 4-8 in 2006, the ‘Cats went 6-6 in 2007 and 9-4 in 2008. He could have the Wildcats in a New Year's Day bowl game—or even back in Pasadena—within the next two years.

8. Mack Brown, Texas

Mack Brown
(Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Brown has been one of college football’s most consistent winners over the past two decades. First at North Carolina and then Texas, he has proven himself to be one of the greatest recruiters in the country—and he’s not bad on gameday, either. Since taking over at Texas in 1998, Brown has compiled at record of 115-26, including a 72-16 mark in the Big 12. He’s never won less than nine games in a season. His 2005 team, led by the spectacular Vince Young, went 13-0 en route to Brown’s first national championship. At North Carolina, Brown went 69–46 between 1988 and 1997, delivering one of the greatest stretches of success in Tar Heel history.

9. Joe Paterno, Penn State

(Getty Images)
Five years ago, Paterno wouldn’t have been on this list. But there’s no denying the turnaround that Paterno has engineered at Penn State. After enduring four losing seasons in five years between 2000 and 2004, Paterno has gone 40-10 from 2005-2009. The Nittany Lions have won two Big Ten championships during that span and appeared in two BCS bowl games. Of course, these past four years are just a snapshot of the success Paterno has enjoyed in Happy Valley. Since taking over in 1966, he’s compiled a 383–127–3 record, including two national championships and five undefeated, untied seasons—more than any coach in college football history. He is 23-11-1 in bowl games and is the only coach to win the Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar bowls.

10. Mark Richt, Georgia

Mark Richt
(Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Richt has overseen a renaissance in Athens. Since taking over at Georgia in 2001, Richt has led the Bulldogs to an 82-22 record, including a 46-18 mark in the SEC. He’s won two SEC championships and two Sugar Bowls, and has twice been name SEC coach of the year. His road record is a remarkable 30-4, including a 10-2 mark against ranked teams. In short, Richt’s greatest achievement at Georgia has been re-establishing Georgia as a national power: In six the past seven years, his Dawgs have won at least 10 gamed and finished among the top 10 in the final polls.
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