Ranking coaches is difficult in football. It's even more difficult at the college level, with additional variables to consider beyond wins and losses. But whichever order one prefers the Pac-12s top coaches to be ranked, there's little arguing the two at the top.
It's at No. 3 or 4 when the debate truly begins. Here's one interpretation of the conference's top 5 coaches as we prepare for fall camp to open in a few weeks.
5. Mike MacIntyre — Colorado
The Buffs finished 10-4 in 2016 and won the Pac-12 South. landing McIntyre in the top 5. It's just one season or the former San Jose State fixer (from 16-21 to 10 wins) may ran in the Top 3.
McIntyre's abilities to keep his program at or near the top in the conference will be tested in 2017 and 2018, since it appears USC is back and UCLA should have it's quarterback, Josh Rosen, healthy for the start of this season. Colorado lost loads of talent to the NFL Draft, too, and starting QB Sefo Liufau graduated.[divider]
Leach is far and away the most entertaining press conference interview in the conference, and maybe the country, but turns out the guy can coach, too. After a few pass-dominant seasons with absolutely zero running game and porous defenses, Leach has led the Cougars to back-to-back strong seasons with a more complete team, including No. 6 and 7 ranks in total defense and large step in the right direction in terms of running the football efficiently last season.[divider]
3. Kyle Whittingham — Utah
Whittingham is 104-50 at Utah and is 9-1 in bowl games during that span, missing out just twice. The Utes are 28-11 the past three seasons and have finished in the Top 25 all three seasons.
He gets his starting QB Troy Williams back for 2017 and despite some losses to the NFL and graduation, Utah looks primed for another strong season under Whittingham, who is looking for his fifth season of 10 wins or more that includes 13-0 Sugar Bowl season in 2008 (prior to joining the Pac-12).[divider]
2. David Shaw — Stanford
One can make a very good argument Shaw should be No. 1 here. Shaw has won 10 games or more in all but one of his seven seasons at Stanford, including last season when it appeared it might be a down year for the program. Shaw is 2-1 in Rose Bowls and 4-2 overall in bowl games, and brings in one of the country's top 15 recruiting classes in 2017 — a consistent staple in Shaw's tenure, despite the academic challenges Stanford poses.
If the QB position is figured out early in '17, 10 wins or more — again — is a reasonable expectation.[divider]
1. Chris Petersen — Washington
Petersen went 15-12 his first two seasons at Washington, then the program exploded in 2016, winning the Pac-12 title and representing the conference in the College Football Playoff. While Alabama proved to be too much for the Huskies, Petersen continues to build on the tradition of the program and the last two recruiting classes suggest there's zero reason to believe the trend will not continue.
The Dawgs lost key defenders Budda Baker, Kenny King and Sidney Jones to the NFL, but DL Vita Vea, LBs Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria and DBs Taylor Rapp and JoJo McIntosh are back, as are offensive keys Jake Browning at QB, WR Dante Pettis and four of the five starting offensive linemen.[divider]
Knocking on the Door of the Top 5: Gary Anderson — Oregon State; Clay Helton — USC.
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