Despite a playoff demolition, Notre Dame's Brian Kelly was named AP National Coach of the Year last season, the second time he's won the award in the last seven years and also the second time an Independent coach has won in 21 years of the award. Ten weeks into the 2019 college football, it's a safe bet that Kelly won't win his third award, nor will any other Independent coach earn it.
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Here are the top 10 candidates:
Honorable Mention (in no particular order): Sonny Dykes, Luke Fickell, Mike Norvell, Chris Klieman, Tom Allen, Jim McElwain, Mario Cristobal, Kyle Whittingham, Eliah Drinkwitz, Billy Napier, Shawn Elliott, and Les Miles.
10. James Franklin
Penn State was supposed to be a year away. Next year was supposed to be the Nittany Lions' best shot at their second Big Ten East title in the last four seasons and first-ever playoff bid. James Franklin and a revamped two-deep had different ideas.
9. Ryan Day
Ryan Day doesn't have Nick Saban's résumé but is in a similar Coach of the Year position. There's a strong argument for Day, who led a remarkably smooth transition from Urban Meyer, to be atop this list or not included at all. He's guiding one of the best teams in Ohio State history.
8. Brent Brennan
Brent Brennan might've been on the hot seat entering this season. Instead, San Jose State has already topped their combined win total from the last two seasons and is fielding a competitive team for the first time in years. In one of the nation's toughest jobs, the San Jose native has done brilliant work with a slow rebuild.
7. Jonathan Smith
Just two years removed from the Gary Andersen debacle, Oregon State is in Pac-12 North contention for the first time in nearly a decade. Jonathan Smith led the Beavers to wins over UCLA and Cal in the same season for the first time in more than 60 years and nearly beat Stanford for the first time in 10 years.
6. Nick Saban
I don't know.
Seriously, where do you put the greatest coach of all time? He could be No. 1 because he's the best ever or outside the top 10 because he wins with the most talent and unlimited resources.
5. P.J. Fleck
Three years after inheriting an underachieving program reeling from Jerry Kill's sudden departure and a sexual assault scandal, P.J. Fleck has the Gophers 8-0 for the first time since 'Nam and chasing their first-ever division title thanks to the biggest talent infusion in program history.
4. Dave Clawson
The most unappreciated and overlooked coach in college football, Dave Clawson is leading the most stable period in Wake Forest football history. With a Week 10 blowout of NC State, Demon Deacons secured a fourth straight seven-win season for the first time ever and are within one game of Clemson in the ACC Atlantic.
3. Scott Satterfield
"The worst of it might not even be done yet," an anonymous ACC coach told Athlon Sports during the offseason. "Bobby Petrino leaving a program hits you in waves; first they quit on him, then you have to run off a bunch of them. They'll probably have guys leave over the course of the summer and fall."
Scott Satterfield had other plans. One year after a disastrous season ended with nine straight losses, Satterfield has Louisville in position for a return to eight (or nine) wins.
2. Matt Rhule
It started badly for Matt Rhule.
Baylor lost to Liberty and UTSA in Rhule's first two games as head coach on their way to a one-win season. Two years later, the Bears are 8-0 and in control of the Big 12. He's also been praised for his off-the-field work in healing a broken program reeling from the sexual assault scandal.
1. Ed Orgeron
Widely regarded as an easy, settling-for-less hire, Ed Oregon has proven to be one of the best hires in LSU history and has the Tigers in position for their first-ever playoff bid. He put the pieces in place for an offensive renaissance that has the Tigers putting up unprecedented numbers.