NCAA PAC 12 Conference

Pac-12 Conference coach rankings


ByMatt Howe May 25, 8:52 AM

In the Power Five conferences, there are 64 head football coaches. Leading up to the 2020 NCAA football season, CBS Sports college football writers put together their annual Power Five conference college football coaching rankings, from No. 1 all the way through No. 64. 

Regarding the criteria used to rank the coaches, there is none specifically. This is a highly subjective exercise based on what each voter believes makes a great coach — winning record, recruiting chops, up-and-coming talent — leading to a wide range of results on some.

This piece will take a look at the Pac-12 Conference coaching rankings, starting at No. 1 and ending at No. 12. The overall ranking of each coach with regards to the entire Power Five can be found in parenthesis next to the coach’s name. 

Out of the 12 coaches in the Pac-12, none crack the top ten. Three coaches make the top-25, and eight of the 12 are inside the top 50 out of 64. 

1. Kyle Whittingham, Utah (11)

(Photo: Jeffrey Swinger, USA TODAY Sports)

Whittingham co-coached his first-ever game college football game back in the 2004 season with Urban Meyer where the Utes beat Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl. Starting in 2005, Whittingham took over as head coach and has been there ever since. In 16 years with the program, Utah is 131-64 (.672 winning percentage) and 11-3 in bowl games under Whittingham. Last year, Utah reached as high as No. 5 in the AP Poll before losing in the Pac-12 Championship to Oregon and then losing to Texas in the Alamo bowl. “There’s no doubt that the way the season ended left a sour taste in the mouths of Utah players and fans,” Fornelli wrote. “It also led to a lot of people who seemed too eager to say, “I told you so,” about the Utes. But don’t you think we should stop and think about how Kyle Whittingham had Utah on the brink of a playoff berth last season? He has helped navigate the program from the Mountain West to Pac-12, and he’s been at the helm of the best program in the Pac-12 South for the last six years. The same Pac-12 South that is home to USC. Since 2014, Utah has won 55 games to USC’s 51. That’s not the way this is supposed to work! Whittingham is one of the most underappreciated coaches in the country, but he isn’t with this panel.” 2019 rank: 18 (+7)

2. David Shaw, Stanford (19)

(Photo: Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports)

After taking over Stanford in 2011, Shaw had led Stanford to an impressive 86-34 record (.717 winning percentage) with a 5-3 record in bowl games. In fact, last season was Shaw’s first losing season (Stanford finished 4-8), and first time missing a bowl game as a coach at Standford in nine seasons. “This is not the trajectory you hope to see,” Fornelli wrote. “Shaw had been a mainstay of our top 10 the last few years, but after dropping two spots to No. 9 last year, he didn’t only fall out of the top 10 entirely but dropped 10 whole spots. From 2011-16, Shaw’s Stanford teams went 64-17, winning three Pac-12 titles. In the three seasons since, they’ve gone 22-17, bottoming out at 4-8 last year. After winning at least 10 games in five of six seasons, the Cardinal have gone three straight without doing it once. Skepticism about whether Shaw can get Stanford back to that level is evident in our rankings.” 2019 rank: 9 (-10)

3. Mario Cristobal, Oregon (24)

(Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports)

In just his second season as the head coach of Oregon, Cristobal and the Ducks finished 12-2, won a Pac-12 Championship and capped off the season with a 28-27 win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. “Nobody should be surprised to see Cristobal rise into the top 25 after winning a Pac-12 title in his second season with the Ducks,” Fornelli wrote. “He’s helped restore the program to a Pac-12 power, and he’s done so by recruiting at a level seldom seen in the conference outside of USC. Of course, we might learn a lot more about Cristobal in 2020 since he has to replace nearly his entire offensive line and a four-year starter at quarterback, who happened to be a first-round draft pick. Another conference title could have him approaching top-10 status next year.” 2019 rank: 41 (+17)

4. Herm Edwards, Arizona State (30)

(Photo: Dwayne Ong SunDevilSource, 247Sports)

After two seasons at ASU, Edwards owns a 15-11 record and is 1-1 in bowl games and saw improvement in his team from 2018 to 2019. Last year, the Sun Devils were 8-5 and ranked as high as No. 17 at one point. Edwards won his first bowl game by beating Florida State 20-14 in the Sun Bowl. “I had Herm at No. 41 on my ballot, but he climbs 24 spots from No. 54 to No. 30,” Fornelli wrote. “No coach outside the top 25 saw a bigger rise. I’m lower on him than the consensus because I think some people might be ranking Edwards based on their expectations for him when he was hired. He’s undoubtedly exceeded mine so far, but he’s still only 15-11 through two seasons, so I think having him at No. 30 is a little too high. That said, if the Sun Devils win the Pac-12 South like some believe they’re capable of doing, he’ll be flying up my board.” 2019 rank: 54 (+24)

5. Justin Wilcox, Cal (33)

In three seasons at Cal, Wilcox is 20-18 and 1-1 in bowl games but has seen improvement in each of his first three seasons. Last season, Cal finished 8-5 and was ranked as high as No. 15 overall in the AP Poll. Wilcox also won his first bowl game as a head coach, beating Illinois 35-20 in the Redbox Bowl. “If you’d have told me two years ago that Wilcox would be ranked ahead of Frost, I would have made a sarcastic comment while retweeting your stupidity,” Fornelli wrote. “Two years ago, he was No. 53. Now, after an 8-5 season and a second consecutive bowl appearance, he climbs 17 spots to No. 33.” 2019 rank: 50 (+17)

6. Chip Kelly, UCLA (36)

(Photo: Steve Cheng, Bruin Report Online, 247Sports)

In two seasons at UCLA, Kelly is 7-17 with zero bowl game appearances. A far cry from his dominance at Oregon, going 53-24 in six seasons with a BCS Championship appearance. “No coach fell further in the rankings this year than Kelly,” Fornelli wrote. “He was No. 14 last season! At the time, his 3-9 season at UCLA was seen as a necessity as he took over the program and attempted to mold it in his image. Well, the patience wore out after watching the Bruins go 4-8 last year. I think there’s still enough residual love with Kelly that one good season will rehab his image quickly, but this isn’t a great sign.” 2019 rank: 14 (-22)

7. Clay Helton, USC (41)

(Photo: Shotgun Spratling | USCfootball.com, 247Sports)

Helton has been the USC coach over the past six seasons, dating back to 2013. During that span, Helton’s Trojans are 40-22 and 2-3 in bowl games. “This is a strange one,” Fornelli wrote. “A lot of USC fans wanted Helton fired after last season. The team was only 8-5 overall, but it did go 7-2 in the Pac-12 and was in the South Division race. Still, he’s viewed as being on a hot seat, yet that doesn’t stop him from climbing 10 spots in the rankings. My theory is that it’s based more on other coaches falling than Helton’s climbing. He is at USC, however, and when you have that kind of roster, you’re only a season away from being a top 25 coach.” 2019 rank: 51 (+10)

8. Nick Rolovich, Washington State (50)

(Photo: Cougfan.com/Rod Commons)

Over the last four seasons, Rolovich coached at Hawaii, going 28-27 and 2-1 in bowl games. “He has never been a head coach at the Power Five level, but apparently our voters liked what they saw when they stayed up until 2 a.m. ET to watch all those Hawaii games,” Fornelli wrote. “The Rainbow Warriors during Rolovich’s four seasons as coach averaged 63.7 points per game. There weren’t many 6-3 affairs.”  2019 rank: N/A

9. Jonathan Smith, Oregon State (52)

Jonathan Smith(Photo: © Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports, Getty)

Oregon State hasn’t had a winning season since 2013. Smith is entering his third year with the Beavers and was 2-10 in his first season and 5-7 last year. “Listen, if you nearly get Oregon State to a bowl game, people will take notic,” Fornelli wrote. “If the Beavers get to a bowl game this year, he might find himself flirting with the top 35 next season … possibly wearing a different polo shirt.” 2019 rank: 63 (+11)

10. Kevin Sumlin, Arizona (53)

(Photo: USA TODAY Sports)

Sumlin is entering his 13th season as an NCAA head coach. He spent his first four seasons at Houston (35-17) before spending the next six at Texas A&M (51-26). In 2018, Sumlin took over at Arizona, where he is 9-15 with zero bowl appearances in two seasons. “His stock continues to take a hit,” Fornelli wrote. “Last year saw him drop from No. 36 to No. 40. This year, he plummets another 13 spots down to No. 53. It’s not without reason. After going 46-19 in his first five seasons as a head coach (four seasons in Houston, one at Texas A&M), Sumlin’s teams have gone 49-39 since.”  2019 rank: 40 (-13)

11. Jimmy Lake, Washington (56)

(Photo: K.Grinolds/Dawgman.com)

“He starts quite high in relation to other first-year coaches without head coaching experience, and a little birdie tells me that Barton Simmons has a lot to do with it,” Fornelli wrote. “Can Lake experience the kind of immediate success in-house successors like Lincoln Riley and Ryan Day recently did? Barton clearly thinks so!” 2019 rank: N/A

12. Karl Dorrell, Colorado (64)

(Photo: CUBuffs.com, USA TODAY Sports)

Dorrell was last a head coach at UCLA from 2003 until 2007, going 1-3 in bowl games over that span. Since his head coaching stint at UCLA, Dorrell was the Miami Dolphins wide receivers coach from 2008-2011, Houston Texans quarterbacks coach from 2012-2013, Vanderbilt offensive coordinator in 2014, and New York Jets receivers coach from 2015-2018. “His five seasons at UCLA weren’t bad, but they weren’t exceptional, either (35-27),” Fornelli wrote. “So when you mix that with the fact he hasn’t been a head coach at any level since the 2007 season at UCLA, it’s no surprise he starts near the bottom.” 2019 rank: N/A

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