Photo by Trevor Groves

Ranking Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney Among the Elite in College Football

Dabo Swinney is 2-0 versus Urban Meyer and 1-1 versus Nick Saban.

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As recently as days before the National Championship Game, the common narrative in the media was that the "Big Three" in college football were Nick Saban, Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh. It took one game to rewrite that narrative, and now many are throwing Dabo Swinney's name into that conversation. Dabo took Clemson to back-to-back National Championship Games and won his first National Title by beating Urban Meyer 31-0 (Dabo's second bowl win over Meyer and Meyer's first shutout in his 194-game career) and Nick Saban 35-31. Dabo is the first coach in history to beat Urban Meyer and Nick Saban in consecutive weeks. Where does that put Dabo among the best active coaches in college football? Campus Insiders recently ranked Dabo #3 behind Saban and Meyer (see video above), and it's hard to argue with that. You could even make the argument that Dabo is ahead of Meyer, given that Dabo is 2-0 against him head-to-head in bowl games. In fact, Meyer has only lost 3 bowl games in his career, and 2 of those losses came at the hands of Dabo Swinney in the 2014 Orange Bowl (the year before Meyer won the National Title) and, most recently, the 31-0 blowout in the 2016 CFP Fiesta Bowl Semifinal. Since 2011, Dabo's win percentage is second only to Nick Saban's, and they are the only two coaches to post double-digit wins every year since.

Dabo is also 2-0 against Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops, 1-0 against Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly and 1-0 against (no longer active) Les Miles. At the age of 47, Dabo has already beaten 7 coaches who have won national titles--some of them multiple times--and 2 more coaches who have played in National Championship Games. They include the likes of Hall of Fame coaches Bobby Bowden and Steve Spurrier. Dabo is 3-0 against future Hall of Famer Frank Beamer. He has a remarkable 11-5 record against top-10 teams. In the 120-year history of Clemson Football, the program has won double-digit games 12 times, and 6 of them came under Dabo. Even more incredible is the way Dabo's teams have "overachieved" in the eyes of the national media. Amazingly, Clemson has ranked higher in the final AP Poll than it was ranked in the preseason poll every year under Swinney. That includes 2016, when the Tigers were ranked #2 in the preseason poll and finished #1!

In addition to success on the field, Dabo has achieved unparalleled success with his players off the field and in the classroom. During his tenure, Clemson has had a top-10 APR every year and ranked ahead of schools like Stanford and Duke and he has graduated a mind-boggling 144 out of 150 players!

Here is where we rank the top 10 active college football coaches:

1. Nick Saban

2. Urban Meyer

3. Dabo Swinney

4. Jimbo Fisher

5. Jim Harbaugh

6. Bob Stoops

7. Chris Petersen

8. Mark Dantonio

9. Brian Kelly

10. Bill Snyder

There are some up-and-coming coaches like Tom Herman and Justin Fuente who could move up this list quickly, but they haven't proven sustained success as head coaches just yet. Despite the 2-0 record versus Urban Meyer in big bowl games, we rank Meyer #2 because of his 3 national titles at 2 different schools. That cannot be overlooked. However, Dabo has youth on his side, and at the rate he is winning at Clemson, he could very well surpass Meyer and find himself in the discussion as one of the greatest coaches of all time. 


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