Thanks to USC being really bad at football and having to fire head coach Lane Kiffin in September, the inevitable yearly coaching rumors have started swirling earlier than usual. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Texas A&M's own Kevin Damn Sumlin has seen his name thrown into the mix as a possible Kiffin replacement in sunny Southern Cal. Good Bull Hunting contributor stringsays put together an excellent piece on why he does not believe that Coach YESSIR would leave A&M for USC.
With that in mind, some things I've seen on Twitter sparked an interesting question, and it's one that gets brought up fairly often. What are the Top Jobs in college football for a head coach? Obviously there are a number of factors that play into a question like this: facilities, funding, alumni support, conference affiliation, recruiting base, and location. If you consider all of those factors in combination (in other words, don't drop Ohio State a notch just because the Big 10 hasn't been on par with the SEC or Pac-12 as of late), what are the best jobs in the country right now?
My Top 5
In no particular order, here are my top five programs for a head coach in college football:
Alabama — The Crimson Tide have won 3 of the last 4 National Championships, facilities are excellent, money is flowing, and they are a recruiting machine. This one seems obvious, and no, Nick Saban isn't leaving to take any other job. Ever.
Ohio State — Now that the Buckeyes have gotten past their NCAA sanctions, Urban Meyer seems likely to take Ohio State back to a perennial Top 10 team; Ohio State won 10 or more games in 8 of the 11 years that Jim Tressel spent in Columbus, they have a massive stadium and strong alumni support, and they continue to recruit well despite NCAA sanctions. They also get to play a mostly unimpressive Big 10 schedule, for better or worse.
Oregon — Hello, Nike money. The Ducks don't seem to have missed a beat despite Chip Kelly bolting for the "greener pastures" (how's that 1-3 record?) of the NFL, with Stanford appearing to be the only real roadblock between Oregon and an undefeated 2013 season. Oregon has won 10 or more games each of the last 5 seasons, they have incredible facilities, wear slick uniforms, and recruit extremely well.
LSU — The Tigers have the distinct advantage of being in a talent-rich state and not having any other major college football program compete for in-state recruits. Being able to recruit nearby in Texas is an added bonus, although the emergence of Texas A&M in the SEC will make things more interesting. LSU has won at least 9 games in 9 of the last 10 seasons, and they too have a massive amount of fan, alumni, and booster support. Les Miles may be crazy, but the guy just continues to win games for LSU.
USC — This is the spot that I really struggled with, because I could have easily gone with any of the teams I'll mention below. At the end of the day, I'm still not 100% sold that USC is a Top 5 job right now, but they should be. They certainly have the money, a fertile recruiting territory, historical success ("prestige" I suppose), and a beautiful, sunny southern California locale. The Trojans won at least 9 games in 8 of Pete Carroll's 9 seasons at USC, and all but his first (6 wins) and last (9 wins) seasons brought 11 wins or more. Obviously the Lane Kiffin experiment did not pan out, but USC should, on its face, be a Top 5 job.
The Others - Just Behind
As I said, a number of these programs could certainly be considered a Top 5 job in college football, especially given the state of USC right now. Again, in no particular order even though A&M is listed first...
Texas A&M — The SEC move plus a fairly incredible first season with Johnny Football plus Kevin Sumlin all means the "sleeping giant" that was Aggie Football has finally awoken.
Texas — There is no denying that the Longhorns have been tops in the state of Texas for a number of years now, but the emergence of A&M in the SEC has made for a rather interesting dynamic between the Aggies and Longhorns. Mack Brown is surely finished after this season; the Longhorns have to try to recapture the momentum.
Florida — The Gators, too, benefit from being in another talent-rich recruiting state. They won 9 or more games in 5 of Urban Meyer's 6 seasons in The Swamp, and Will Muschamp appears to have gotten off to a nice start thus far.
Georgia — The calls for Mark Richt to be fired after the down years of 2009 and 2010 appear to have been a bit premature, as the Bulldogs won the SEC East last season and have positioned themselves to repeat that feat again this year.
Michigan — The Wolverines have only won more than 8 games once in the last 5 seasons, although they certainly have plenty of history on their side. They play in the largest stadium in college football and have a large, passionate alumni base that certainly contributes plenty of funds to the football program.
Florida State — Although the later years of the Bobby Bowden era were not quite as successful, the Seminoles still won at least 10 games in every season from 1987 to 2000. Jimbo Fisher has won 10, 9, and 12 games, respectively, in each of his first 3 seasons in Tallahassee.
Stanford — Jim Harbaugh is most certainly responsible for turning Stanford into a team that competes to win Pac 12 championships every year. Harbaugh inherited a Stanford team that went 1-11 the year prior to his arrival, but the Cardinal went 12-1 in Harbaugh's final season and David Shaw has led the team to 11 and 12 wins in each of his first 2 seasons.
Notre Dame — The Fighting Irish are included here mostly from a historical standpoint, as they have won 10 or more games just 4 times in the last 20 years. Notre Dame also generally pulls in at least a Top 20 recruiting class and gets plenty of alumni support and TV coverage.
So, let's hear it. What do you think? What teams did I include that don't deserve to be there? What teams did I leave off? Shame me! Hit the comments and the poll below to let your voice be heard!