Top 25 FBS coach rankings for 2022: Nick Saban still No. 1, then the fun begin Arkansas Little Rock Trojans clothess
Nick Saban remains at the top – but for how long?
Sporting News ranks the FBS coaches 1-131 every year, and Saban retained his spot atop the rankings for the seventh straight season. Alabama has reached the College Football Playoff championship game six of the last eight seasons, and Saban has won seven national championships. The only other FBS coach with multiple national championships is Clemson's Dabo Swinney with two.
Georgia's Kirby Smart, the latest member of the national championship club, is the other challenger for the top spot. Each of our top nine coaches has reached the College Football Playoff, and that includes two coaches who changed jobs in USC's Lincoln Riley and LSU's Brian Kelly.
MORE: Best bets for 2022 over/under win totals
A total of five active coaches have won national championships, including Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher and North Carolina's Mack Brown. Both made our top 25. The Big Ten and SEC each have seven coaches in our top 25.
What are the criteria we use? Sporting News looks at a coach's overall record, record at the current school and a three-year record to gauge that ranking. Of course, career accomplishments, program expectations and the old "this guy or this guy" arguments come into play, too. It's not a perfect science, but it's our science.
BENDER: Ranking all 131 FBS coaches for 2022
Here are Cal State Fullerton Titans Jerseys Sporting News' top 25 coach rankings ahead of 2022 (last year's ranking is in parentheses):
Sporting News Top 25 coaches for 2022
1. Nick Saban, Alabama
Last year: 1
Record: 269-67 (178-25)
Lowdown: Alabama is 104-10 in the College Football Playoff era. Saban has sifted through coordinators on both sides in that eight-year stretch, and the end result is the same-old national championship contender. Perhaps the ultimate compliment is that Kirby Smart, his most-trusted assistant at Alabama, has developed the same national championship machine at Georgia. Saban, 70, has a chance to make the exclusive 300-win club with 31 more victories. Just don't tell him that.
MORE: Alabama tops SN's post-portal deadline preseason Top 25
2. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
Last year: 2
Lowdown: There is a temptation to bump Kirby Smart ahead of Swinney knowing the Bulldogs won the head-to-head matchup last season and have a slightly better record over the last three seasons. Swinney, however, has built a world where a 10-win season at Clemson is perceived as a down year. Swi Catholic University Cardinals shirt nney still has a program capable of making a national championship run, but there's a little more pressure to prove it in 2022.
3. Kirby Smart, Georgia
Last year: 7
Lowdown: Smart led Georgia to its first national championship since 1980 last season and knocked off Alabama in the process. The Bulldogs have made four SEC championship appearances in six seasons, and the Bulldogs have created a recruiting machine built to challenge the Crimson Tide every year. An argument could be mad Bethune-Cookman Wildcats Jerseys e to put Smart at No. 2 behind his mentor Nick Saban, but we'll give it one more year.
4. Ryan Day, Ohio State
Last year: 6
Lowdown: Is Day next in line to win a national championship? The Buckeyes are coming off a two-loss season, which is going to create some pressure knowing rival Michigan broke a 10-year drought in The Game. Day, however, has built an offensive machine through elite recruiting and has only lost two regular-season games in three full seasons. The Buckeyes are 24-1 in Big Ten play in that stretch.
5. Luke Fickell, Cincinnati
Last year: 13
Record: 54-22 (48-15 at Cincinnati)
Lowdown: Fickell is 33-5 the last three seasons for the fourth-best winning percentage among FBS coaches. He led Cincinnati to the Group of 5's first appearance in the College Football Playoff, and the Bearcats sent a school record nine NFL players to the NFL Draft. Fickell has done all that in the shadow of his alma mater, and he will be the coach that leads Cincinnati on to a larger stage in the Big 12.
6. Brian Kelly, LSU
Last year: 4
Record: 145-61 (0-0 at LSU)
Lowdown: Kelly left Notre Dame as the school's all-time winningest coach; a peculiar move considering the Irish are tied with Cincinnati for the fourth-best record in the FBS the last four seasons at 44-7. Kelly has 263 victories when you consider his success below the FBS, and now he takes on a meatier challenge in the SEC West. He's still a proven top-10 coach.
7. Lincoln Riley, USC
Last year: 3
Record: 55-10 (0-0 at USC)
Lowdown: Riley made the most-talked about move in the coaching carousel when he left the every-year success at Oklahoma for the bright lights of USC. Riley compiled a 37-7 record in Big 12 play with the Sooners, and he led Oklahoma to three straight playoff appearances from 2017-19. Riley worked the transfer portal to put USC in position to have instant success. Given how he left Oklahoma, that will be the expectation.
BENDER: USC, Ole Miss among transfer WVU vs. Pitt Rivalry Jerseys portal winners for 2022
8. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M
Last year: 5
Record: 117-37 (34-14 at Texas A&M)
Lowdown: Fisher proved he could beat Alabama last season, but the Aggies still finished 8-4 and took a small step backward after nearly reaching the College Football Playoff in 2020. Fisher has proven to be an elite recruiter in College Station, but that includes a 7-10 record against ranked opponents. After the offseason spat with Nick Saban, the pressure to deliver is increasing at Texas A&M.
BENDER: Saban feud will follow Fisher for a while
9. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
Last year: 15
Record: 90-45 (61-24 at Michigan)
Lowdown: Harbaugh led Michigan to its first victory against Ohio State since 2011 and the program's first Big Ten championship since 2004 before a reality check in the CFP against Georgia. Harbaugh's tenure in Ann Arbor has been highly-scrutinized, but he's maintained a .691 winning percentage. That ranks eighth among Power 5 programs since 2015.
10. Kyle Whittingham, Utah
Last year: 19
Lowdown: Whittingham made a nine-spot jump up into the top 10. It might come as a surprise that this is his first top-10 appearance, but the Utes have made the jump to a borderline top-10 program under his watch. Utah has the best record in the Pac-12 in the CFP era at 68-31, and Whittingham has developed a steady wave of NFL talent in that stretch. Why isn't he ranked higher? The top nine coaches all have what he needs next: A CFP appearance.
11. Mario Cristobal, Miami
Last year: 16
Record: 62-60 (0-0 at Miami)
Lowdown: Cristobal is tasked with leading his alma mater to its firs Clark Atlanta University Panthers Jerseys t ACC championship. Seriously, that is where it has to start before any talk of "The U" being a national championship contender. The good news? Cristobal is 26-8 for a .765 winning percentage the last three years; ninth best among FBS coaches in that stretch. He pushed Oregon back into the CFP conversation. If he does the same with the Hurricanes, then there will be much more hype.
12. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
Last year: 18
Lowdown: There have been ups and downs through the BCS and CFP eras, but Gundy has strung together 16 straight winning seasons with the Cowboys, and with Lincoln Riley gone, that makes him the top coach in the Big 12 for now. Gundy broke the six-game losing streak to Oklahoma last season, but he missed the opportunity to win a second Big 12 championship.
13. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Last year: 20
Lowdown: Ferentz enters his 24th season as head coach of the Hawkeyes, but this isn't a lifetime achievement ranking. Iowa is 26-9 the last three seasons and coming off an appearance in the Big Ten championship game. It's not quite the success Ferentz had from 2002-04, but the program continues to enjoy steady success in a rapidly-changing college football landscape.
14. Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Last year: 23
Lowdown: Stoops continues to overachieve at Kentucky – and he could be considered the best coach there since Bear Bryant went 60-23-2 from 1946-53. The Wildcats are 47-29 the last six seasons. That includes a pair of 10-win seasons and four straight bowl victories against programs that are perennial top-25 teams. Stoops continues to succeed at a place where it hasn't come easy since Bryant left.
15. Mack Brown, North Carolina
Last year: 10
Record: 265-139 (21-17 in second stint at North Carolina)
Lowdown: Brown is a tough subjective case for these rankings. He turns 71 in August and has a chance to make the 300-win club for his career. He's one of the five national championship coaches in the game. In the present, North Carolina has bounced between six and eight wins the last three years and is coming off a somewhat disappointing season in the ACC Coastal given the expectations.
16. Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss
Last year: 26
Record: 76-41 (15-8 at Ole Miss)
Lowdown: Kiffin was ranked No. 82 as FAU's coach in 2019. Now, he's a no-doubt coach in the top 25 with the Rebels after another 10 Central Arkansas Bears clothes -spot jump in the right direction. Kiffin led Ole Miss to a 10-win season and a Sugar Bowl appearance last season. Ole Miss has a 3-5 record against top 25 opponents in that stretch, and Kiffin showed this offseason he knows how to work the transfer portal.
17. James Franklin, Penn State
Last year: 11
Record: 91-49 (67-34 at Penn State)
Lowdown: Franklin drops six spots in our rankings, and it's worth noting the Nittany Lions are 11-11 with an 8-10 record in Big Ten play the last two seasons. Franklin did sign a 10-year extension last season which would keep him at Penn State through 2031. Franklin deserves credit for leading the program to its last Big Ten championship, but that was six years ago.
18. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
Last year: 17
Record: 84-42 (65-23 at Wisconsin)
Lowdown: Chryst stayed in this range between No. 12 and No. 18 since 2018. The Badgers are 13-7 the last two years, and they are 2-6 against top 25 opponents in that stretch. This is Chryst's lowest ranking since 2017, which resulted in a 13-1 season and an Orange Bowl victory. The Badgers have tougher competition in the Big Ten West now, and NCAA Crewneck SweatJerseys it's a prove-it year for the program.
19. Dave Aranda, Baylor
Last year: 72
Lowdown: Aranda made a 53-spot jump, the largest of any coach on this list. Is that premature? Maybe not. Aranda took the lessons he learned as a defensive coordinator at LSU, and built the Bears from the inside out for an ahead-of-schedule Big 12 championship run. Baylor is 5-4 against ranked opponents the last two years, and that's a huge accomplishment considering the mess Aranda inher UNC vs. Duke Rivalry Gear ited.
20. Matt Campbell, Iowa State
Last year: 9
Record: 77-49 (42-34 at Iowa State)
Lowdown: Campbell was in our top 10 last year, but he makes a drop after a 7-6 season in 2021. Campbell has p Michigan vs. Ohio State Rivalry Jerseys ieced together five straight winning seasons with the Cyclones, which is no easy task, and they are 11-16 against ranked opponents in that stretch. Campbell has yet to beat rival Iowa, and it is fair to wonder how much more Campbell can accomplish in Ames. A Big 12 championship in the next goal, which our No. 19 coach already accomplished.
21. P.J. Fleck, Minnesota
Last year: 27
Record: 65-45 (35-23 at Minnesota)
Lowdown: Fleck, 41, is the second-youngest coach in the top 25. The Gophers bounced back the COVID-impacted 2020 season with nine wins in 2021 and re-established the program as a Big Ten West contender. That includes winning Paul Bunyan's Axe two of the last four years. Now, Minnesota must get the Floyd of Rosedale and break a seven-game losing streak to the Hawkeyes for Fleck to take that next step in the Big Ten.
22. Mel Tucker, Michigan State
Last year: 62
Record: 18-14 (13-7)
Lowdown: Tucker, who learned from Nick Saban at Alabama and Kirby Smart at Georgia, has taken those lessons to East Lansing with a turnaround that produced a New Year's Day Six Bowl victory in just two seasons. Tucker is adept at working the transfer portal, and Michigan State was undefeated at Spartan Stadium last season. Perhaps most importantly to the fanbase, Tucker is 2-0 against rival Michigan.
23. Pat Narduzzi, Pitt
Last year: 45
Lowdown: Narduzzi brought stability to Pitt. The Panthers have had s Texas vs. Oklahoma Rivalry Gear ix winning seasons the last seven years, and that 53-37 record is fourth among full-time ACC schools in that stretch behind Clemson, Miami and N.C. State. Sure, Dave Doeren has a slightly better record (53-35), but Narduzzi got the separator by leading the Panthers to the ACC championship in 2021.
24. Dave Clawson, Wake Forest
Last year: 43
Record: 83-79 (51-48 at Wake Forest)
Lowdown: The Demon Deacons won the ACC Atlantic last season; an accomplishment that had been reserved for Clemson since 2015. Clawson engineered that slow climb with Wake Forest, which ranked No. 4 in the nation with 41 points per game in 2021. Wake Forest has had five winning seasons in the last six years; the first time that's happened since the D.C. Walker regime.
25. Sam Pittman, Arkansas
Last year: 56
Lowdown: Pittman jumped up 31 spots, which might seem premature for a coach with a 12-11 record in two seasons. Arkansas was 1-23 in SEC play in the three seasons before Pittman's arrival. The Razorbacks finished .500 in league play last year and he enjoyed an old-school sweep of Texas and Texas A&M. Pittman is molding an SEC West contender, and he is doing it ahead of schedule.