It was almost a foregone conclusion that Nick Saban and Urban Meyer would rank 1-2 when CBSSports.com ranked the 65 coaches from the Power 5 teams, It shouldn’t be a surprise that Dabo Swinney and Jimbo Fisher are the next two but beyond those four, the rankings might surprise you.
1. Nick Saban, Alabama
2. Urban Meyer, Ohio State
3. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
4. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
5. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
6. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
7. Chris Peterson, Washington
8. David Shaw, Stanford
9. Bill Snyder, Kansas State
10. Gary Patterson, TCU
11. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
12. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
13. Bobby Petrino, Louisville
14. Kyle Whittingham, Utah
15. Mark Richt, Miami
16. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
17. David Cutcliffe, Duke
18. James Franklin, Penn State
19. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
20. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
21. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
22. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
23. JIM MCELWAIN, FLORIDA
24. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
25. Mike Leach, Washington State
Opinion: Considering Saban, Meyer, Swinney and Fisher are responsible for the last four national championships who’s going to argue with this ranking? Saban and Fisher will square off in the opening game of the season and the Clemson-FSU matchup on November 11 will have the feeling of a play-in game since one of the two will probably be eliminated from contention for the College Football Playoff.
It could be argued that Jim Harbaugh’s ranking is higher than he deserves considering he’s never won a conference championship at either Stanford or Michigan. I’d have Bob Stoops and Chris Peterson ranked higher than Harbaugh.
Considering what he’s done at K-State, Bill Snyder deserves a top ten ranking. I would have Mike Gundy and James Franklin in the top ten, too. I keep thinking Mike Gundy is going to leave Okie State for a school somewhere on planet earth where he will really win big. It’s amazing how many games he wins coaching in Stillwater. I’ve been to Stillwater. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. It makes Starkville seem like a resort. As for Franklin, he went to three bowl games in three years at Vandy and nobody does that. He won 11 games last year at Penn State and has the Nittany Lions poised to be a perennial top ten program.
David Shaw, Gary Patterson and Mark Dantonio are very good coaches who belong in the top 15 somewhere.
I think Bobby Petrino will win a national championship some year in spite of himself. I think Mark Richt is the perfect fit at Miami. If he can corral the South Florida talent, The U will be back in a big way and Richt will be in everybody’s top ten coaches list.
I’m not nearly as enamored with Pat Fitzgerald as some people nor am I convinced Kirk Ferentz belongs among the top 25 coaches. He’s a good coach but top 25 seems a stretch to me. I could say top 25 might be a stretch for Gus Malzahn but if he wins 10 or so games this year then he belongs at least top 20.
On my underrated list are David Cutcliffe, Kyle Whittingham, Dan Mullen and Florida’s Jim McElwain. Cutcliffe went to four straight bowl games at Duke, which won all of 10 games in the seven years prior to his arrival in Durham. Whittingham keeps defying low expectations at Utah. Mullen has gone to seven straight bowl games at Mississippi State. Nobody does that. McElwain has won the last two SEC East titles without a decent quarterback.
Mike Leach probably wins as much as anyone can at Washington State, which is far, far, far from anything and has facilities that make Vandy’s look like those at Alabama. Paul Johnson is a good coach. Top 25? That’s a matter of perspective. I doubt he will ever challenge for a national title but he’ll have reasonably good teams.
Here is where CBSSports.com rates the 14 SEC coaches among the top 65:
1. Nick Saban, Alabama
19. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
21. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
23. Jim McElwain, Florida
27. Bret Bielema, Arkansas
33. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
37. Will Muschamp, South Carolina
40. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
48. Ed Orgeron, LSU
52. Butch Jones, Tennessee
53. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
54. Kirby Smart, Georgia
56. Mark Stoops, Kentucky
62. Barry Odom, Missouri
Opinion: I think Malzahn is still living on his reputation from that first season when he was a few seconds away from a national championship against FSU. What Mullen does with his budget and the fact MSU is in Starkville is amazing. McElwain’s stock will rise if the Gators win the SEC East a third straight year.
It’s rather interesting that McElwain and Will Muschamp are the two most highly rated coaches in the SEC East. There is no question in my mind both of them are vastly superior coaches to Butch Jones, Kirby Smart, Mark Stoops, Derek Mason and Barry Odom.
Coach O is in the most interesting position. If he finds a quarterback, LSU will be a contender for the SEC West. If he doesn’t find a QB, he’ll get a pass since he inherited Danny Etling. But, if the Tigers contend, he could be in prime position for a long, successful run in Baton Rouge. Only Nick Saban is capable of outrecruiting him.
Bret Bielema, Kevin Sumlin and Butch Jones are sitting firmly very hot seats. It’s eight wins for Bielema and 10 for Sumlin or else they might be looking for gainful employment in December. Jones could get by with fewer than 10 wins if he can win the SEC East, but if Atlanta isn’t on the Vols December agenda, he’s probably job seeking in Conference USA.
Stoops and Mason took their teams to bowl games last year. People will expect them to do the same this year.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED POST-SPRING PRACTICE TOP 25
2. Florida State
3. Southern Cal
4. Ohio State
5. Penn State
9. Oklahoma State
17. West Virginia
19. Kansas State
21. South Florida
22. Washington State
Opinion: It’s really hard to disagree with Alabama or Florida State as the #1 team and with all the players they have coming back, Ohio State definitely should be in everybody’s top four teams prior to the 2017 season. Southern Cal is in the SI top five because of quarterback Sam Darnold.
Auburn at #10 is all based on the high expectations for quarterback Jarrett Stidham. LSU could finish in the top five if offensive coordinator Matt Canada can exorcise the demons from QB Danny Etling. The Tigers have that much talent.
Michigan lost 17 starters. Putting the Wolverines at #12 seems a tad high but that’s because everybody on the planet is so enamored with Jim Harbaugh.
You have to wonder what the fine folks at SI are smoking to put Georgia at #16 and Tennessee at #18. Of course, these same people (and a whole bunch of others) had Georgia and Tennessee contending for championships last year and we see where that got them.
Kansas State and Washington State are going to be better than where they are ranked. So will Miami if Mark Richt can find a quarterback.
Florida is probably ranked too low but Jim McElwain will use the #24 ranking as motivation when the Gators face Tennessee and LSU in Gainesville and Georgia in Jacksonville.
UF WOMEN’S GOLF TIES FOR NCAA COLUMBUS REGIONAL TITLE
Kelly Grassell nailed a par putt on the 18th hole Wednesday to clinch a tie for the NCAA Columbus Regional title for the Florida Gators and earn a share of the individual title. Florida shot an 8-over 296 in the final round while South Carolina shot an even par 288 to tie for the title.
Grassell shot even par 216 for the three-day tournament to earn a share of the individual championship. Marta Perez tied for 11th at 223, while Maria Torres tied for 26th at 227, Taylor Tomlinson tied for 30th at 228 and Karolina Vickova tied for 37th at 230.
GATORS WILL FACE OLE MISS IN SEC SOFTBALL TOURNAMENT
Florida’s #1-ranked Gators (50-5) will open play in the SEC Softball Tournament today(2:30 p.m.) in Knoxville against Ole Miss (37-18), a 2-1 winner over Mississippi State in the first round on Wednesday. The Gators enter the tournament with the top ERA (0.75) and fielding percentage (.986) in the nation. The Gators have pitched 34 shutouts this season and they’ve only committed 19 errors in 55 games.
Kelly Barnhill (22-1, nation-leading 0.33 ERA) is one of ten finalists for the 2017 USA Softball Collegiate Athlete of the Year, which will be announced on May 30 prior to the start of the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
SEC BASKETBALL NEWS
Justin Minaya (6-6, 195, Old Tappan, NJ) has signed a basketball letter of intent with South Carolina. Minaya, who averaged 19.5 points, 11.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game, opted to sign in 2017 rather than go to prep school powerhouse Brewster Academy and sign his college LOI for 2018.
Tennessee guard Shembari Phillips, who averaged 6.2 points and 3.1 rebounds per game last season, will be transferring out.
Alabama guard Brandon Austin, who played in seven games and only 44 minutes total last season, is transferring to Samford.
Former Missouri guard K.J. Walton is transferring to Ball State.
Longtime Ole Miss assistant Bill Armstrong, who arrived at the school with Andy Kennedy in 2006, has taken a job on Will Wade’s staff at LSU. Armstrong’s departure might have something to do with Ole Miss AD electing to not extend Kennedy’s contract.
Yanni Wetzell (6-10, 240), who averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game at Division II University of St. Mary’s (San Antonio, TX), is transferring to Vanderbilt. Wetzell is a highly skilled big from New Zealand who will sit 2017-18 and have two years or eligibility remaining.
Here is something to chew on. Before Nick Saban was hired at Alabama in 2007, Rich Rodriguez had one foot in the door in Tuscaloosa before he elected to stay put at West Virginia. When RichRod backed out of what was thought to be a done deal, Alabama’s next choice was said to be Jim Grobe, then coaching at Wake Forest. Imagine how different the SEC might be if either RichRod or Grobe had landed the Alabama job.
Coach O told Dan LeBatard of ESPN Radio that he consumes “8-to-10” Monster Energy drinks each day. That rivals West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who said he drinks “in the neighborhood of 1,000” Red Bulls during football season.
LaDarrius Jackson, the USF defensive end who caused such a stir when he was in the courtroom of Hillsborough County judge Margaret Taylor a week ago, has been arrested again. He was in Judge Taylor’s courtroom to answer charges of sexual battery and false imprisonment. The latest arrest? For sexual battery and false imprisonment. USF announced Wednesday that Jackson has been booted off the team.
Adidas is selling its golf equipment line for $425 million to KPS Capital Partners. KPS takes over TaylorMade, Adams and Ashworth. TaylorMade has endorsement deals with Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy among others.
Have you caught a glimpse of New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge? He just turned 25 years old and (as of Wednesday night) is hitting .317 with 13 homers and 28 RBI. He’s 6-7 and 282 pounds and scary strong. In a lot of ways he reminds me of Frank Howard, an imposing 6-7, 255-pounder who hit 382 homers in his Major League career and led the AL in home runs twice.
Jim Kiick, who had a big part in the Miami Dolphins’ undefeated season in 1973, has been living in an assisted care facility since 2016 with demential and early onset Alzheimer’s. He’s got a claim in against the NFL in the concussion protocol.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
How would you rank the seven coaches from the SEC East? How would you rate the seven in the SEC West?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I found this very cool concert from 2015 featuring the Tedeschi Trucks Band and some of the alumni of the Mad Dogs and Englishmen Tour such as Rita Coolidge and the late, great Leon Russell. This was an extraordinary concert that I think you will enjoy.