Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold is quick to credit his coaching staff and the players for the Bulls' fast start, but the former Division-III coach deserves a mountain of credit for rebuilding the Bulls into one of the best Group of Five programs in the country.
Leipold won six national championships at Wisconsin-Whitewater before making the headline-grabbing D-III-to-FBS leap in late 2013. And after three up-and-down seasons in his first FBS job since 2003, Leipold has the program 6-1 for the first time since 1959 and contending for their second-ever conference title.
Entering Week 8, Leipold is one of several FBS coaches that could win National Coach of the Year. Here are the others:
Ed Orgeron – LSU
Find the person who claims they knew LSU would be 6-1 with wins over Miami (FL), Auburn and Georgia entering Week 8. Stare him or her in the face and call them a liar.
Ed Orgeron has done a remarkable job in Baton Rouge this year.
Brian Kelly – Notre Dame
After the four-win 2016 season, Brian Kelly flipped over his coaching staff and changed a lot of his program's inner workings. Those changes spurred last year's 10-win season and have the Irish in prime position for their first-ever playoff spot.
Matt Wells – Utah State
Matt Wells replaced Gary Andersen in 2013 and won 19 games in his first two seasons. The roster turned over, and 15 wins — and several one-score losses — from 2015-17 might've had Wells on the hot seat entering this year.
Instead, the 45-year-old former Utah State quarterback has retooled the system and has the Aggies aiming for their first-ever Mountain West title.
Mark Stoops – Kentucky
Mark Stoops' impressive recruiting is finally paying off.
Kentucky started 5-0 for the first time since 2007 and 3-0 in the SEC for the first time since 1977. And despite a loss to Texas A&M, they're still in position to challenge Georgia and Florida for the East title.
Chad Lunsford – Georgia Southern
Georgia Southern imploded after the departure of Wille Fritz following the 2015 season. Chad Lunsford replaced fired head coach Tyson Summers last October and, after going 2-4 to finish last year (they started 0-6), the former Fritz assistant is 5-1 in 2018.
Tom Herman – Texas
It's been a wild 20 games, but Tom Herman finally has Texas back in Big 12 contention.
The Longhorns season-opening loss to Maryland is still head-scratching and it could haunt their playoff hopes, but Herman has done a brilliant job with a talented roster that's been waiting several years to explode.
Luke Fickell – Cincinnati
Cincinnati hasn't played anyone yet, but at least the Bearcats aren't losing to bad teams anymore (Tommy Tuberville lost to UConn in 2016). Luke Fickell has led the program's first 6-0 start since 2009, is recruiting like a champion and breathed life into a program that lost its identity under Tuberville.
Matt Rhule – Baylor
One year removed from a one-win season and five conference losses by at least 10 points, Baylor is in bowl contention, nearly beat Texas on the road and has improved on both sides of the ball. A .500 season won't earn Coach of the Year buzz, but Matt Rhule's work in Waco deserves a ton of credit.
Bill Clark – UAB
With all due respect to 2017 AP National Coach of the Year Scott Frost, Bill Clark got hosed. Not only was UAB competitive after a two-year hiatus, the Blazers had their first-ever eight-win season, reached their second-ever bowl game and nearly won the Conference USA West. This year, they're 5-1 overall and chasing that West title with a 3-0 conference mark.
Jeff Tedford – Fresno State
Jeff Tedford and Bill Clark are in the same boat. If Tedford didn't win Coach of the Year last year, he won't this year, though he should be in contention. A year after tying the biggest one-year win improvement in FBS history, Fresno State is 5-1 and has given up six total points in two conference wins.
Rocky Long – San Diego State
San Diego State largely fell off the national radar — if they were even on it — with a Week 1 loss to Stanford, but the Aztecs are 5-1 and have wins over Arizona State and Boise State. Rocky Long is chasing his fourth straight season with at least 10 wins.
Dan Mullen – Florida
It took Dan Mullen five games to equal Florida's win total from last year (four). He has wins over Mississippi State and LSU and has the Gators playing competent, inspired football as they battle Georgia and Kentucky for the SEC East title.
Scott Satterfield – App State
Scott Satterfield is a victim of his own success. He led App State to a 29-9 mark the last three years and has the Mountaineers 4-1 this season and in position for a third straight conference title. Satterfield has lost five conference games since 2014 and is one of the best coaches in the country.