Which college football head coaches are best & worst vs. Top 25 teams?

By Amy Daughters -

Out of the 46 head coaches of Power teams that have completed at least five seasons at the helm (in the FBS), how many do you think have a career winning record vs. Top 25 opponents?

Half? A third?

How about 24 percent?

That’s right – just 11 of the current experienced Power head coaches are over .500 all-time vs. ranked opponents.

Here’s the exclusive honor roll.

11. BRIAN KELLY – NOTRE DAME – 19-18 (51.35%)

13 seasons as an FBS head coach (Central Michigan 2004-06, Cincinnati 2007-09 and Notre Dame 2010-present). 11-14 vs. Top 25 at Notre Dame.

10. DABO SWINNEY – CLEMSON – 18-17 (51.43%)

9 seasons as an FBS head coach (Clemson 2008-present).

9. KEVIN SUMLIN – TEXAS A&M – 15-14 (51.72%)

9 seasons as an FBS head coach (Houston 2008-11 and Texas A&M 2012-present). 12-13 vs. Top 25 at Texas A&M.

8. CHRIS PETERSEN – WASHINGTON – 14-13 (51.85%)

11 seasons as an FBS head coach (Boise State 2006-13 and Washington 2014-present). 6-9 vs. Top 25 at Washington.

7. MARK RICHT – MIAMI FLA. – 39-36 (52%)

16 seasons as an FBS head coach (Georgia 2001-15 and Miami Fla. 2016-present). 1-1 vs. Top 25 at Miami Fla.

6. GARY PATTERSON – TCU – 22-19 (53.7%)

16 seasons as an FBS head coach (TCU 2000-present).

5. JIM MORA – UCLA – 13-11 (54.2%)

5 seasons as an FBS head coach (UCLA 2012-present).

4. JIMBO FISHER – FLORIDA STATE – 17-10 (62.9%)

7 seasons as an FBS head coach (Florida State 2010-present).

3. NICK SABAN – ALABAMA – 73-40 (64.6%)

21 seasons as an FBS head coach (Toledo 1990, Michigan State 1995-99, LSU 2000-04 and Alabama 2007-present). 50-16 vs. Top 25 at Alabama.

2. DAVID SHAW – STANFORD – 20-10 (66.7%)

6 seasons as an FBS head coach (Stanford 2011 – present).

1. URBAN MEYER – OHIO STATE – 35-14 (71.4%)

15 seasons as an FBS head coach (Bowling Green 2001-02, Utah 2003-04, Florida 2005-10 and Ohio State 2012-present). 15-4 vs. Top 25 at Ohio State.

Honorable mention goes to Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, who is 10-10, or spot on the .500 mark, vs. ranked opponents during his six years as an FBS head man (Stanford 2007-10 and Michigan 2015-present). He’s 4-4 vs. the Top 25 since he took over in Ann Arbor.

Also of note is Texas’ new head coach Tom Herman. With only two years of FBS head coaching experience, he didn’t make the list – but that doesn’t mean that his 6-0 mark vs. ranked opponents during his two seasons at Houston isn’t jaw dropping. It’s especially true given that he wasn’t coaching at a Power program.

Alabama’s Nick Saban wins the award for coaching the most seasons and maintaining the best record vs. the Top 25. His 21 years as an FBS head coach has afforded him the opportunity to lead his teams against a ranked foe a whopping 113 times.

The only active guys who come close in number of games are Miami (Fla.)’s Mark Richt who owns a 52% mark in 75 games vs. the Top 25 (all but two were while he was at Georgia) and Kansas State’s Bill Snyder who is 21-51-1 (30.4%) in 74 games.

It also means that the three active coaches, other than Saban, with a record above the 60% mark have lots of catching up to do. Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher has 86 games vs. the Top 25 to go to catch Saban and Stanford’s David Shaw has 83. Even Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, the top dog, is 64 games behind Saban. Not only do they each have lots of action ahead of them, they must keep winning at a high level to establish career numbers that even come close.

It puts into perspective the achievements of Bob Stoops who recently resigned at Oklahoma. He went 60-30 (66.7%) in 90 games vs. the Top 25 – if he had stayed around for the 2017 season it would have put him tied him for No. 2 on our list and only 23 games short of Saban.

What about the Bottom 10?

10. BUTCH JONES – TENNESSEE – 6-20 (23.1%)

10 seasons as an FBS head coach (Central Michigan 2007-09, Cincinnati 2010-12 and Tennessee 2013-present). 6-15 vs. Top 25 at Tennessee.

T9. MATT CAMPBELL – IOWA STATE – 2-8 (20%)

5 seasons as an FBS head coach (Toledo 2012-15 and Iowa State 2016-present). 0-4 vs. Top 25 at Iowa State.

T9. GARY ANDERSEN – OREGON STATE – 4-16 (20%)

8 seasons as an FBS head coach (Utah State 2009-12, Wisconsin 2013-14 and Oregon State 2015-present). 0-6 vs. Top 25 at Oregon State.

T7. JAMES FRANKLIN –  PENN STATE – 3-15 (16.7%)

6 seasons as an FBS head coach (Vanderbilt 2011-13 and Penn State 2014-present). 2-7 vs. Top 25 at Penn State.

T7. DAN MULLEN – MISSISSIPPI STATE – 6-30 (16.7%)

8 seasons as an FBS head coach (Mississippi State 2009-present).

5. WILIE TAGGART – OREGON – 2-11 (15.4%)

7 seasons as an FBS head coach (Western Kentucky 2010-12, USF 2013-16 and Oregon – first season).

4. DAVE CLAWSON – WAKE FOREST – 2-15 (11.8%)

8 seasons as an FBS head coach (Bowling Green 2009-13 and Wake Forest 2014-present). 1-8 vs. Top 25 at Wake Forest.

3. DAVE DOEREN – NC STATE – 1-10 (9.1%)

6 seasons as an FBS head coach (Northern Illinois 2011-12 and NC State 2013-present). 0-9 vs. Top 25 at NC State.

2. MIKE MacINTYRE – COLORADO – 2-21 (8.7%)

7 seasons as an FBS head coach (San Jose State 2010-12 and Colorado 2013-present). 2-14 vs. Top 25 at Colorado.

1. STEVE ADDAZIO – BOSTON COLLEGE – 1-12 (7.7%)

6 seasons as an FBS head coach (Temple 2011-12 and Boston College 2013-present). 1-10 vs. Top 25 at Boston College.

It’s no surprise that the bulk of the bottom coaches lead/have led programs that don’t have a long history of championships. It makes you wonder – does the coach make the program or does the program make the coach?

Historical data courtesy of Sports Reference-College Football.

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Comments (4)

Does “Ranked Opponent” mean at the time they played (overrated) or at the end of the season when it reflects how good of a team they were that year?