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Preview 2019: Pac-12 preseason head coach rankings

College Football News logo College Football News 7/7/2019 Pete Fiutak

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Going into the 2019 season, how do the Pac-12 coaches stack up? Here's the preseason ranking of all the head men.

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- CFN Preview 2019: All 130 Team Previews

Who do you want as your head coach for right now, and how good are the all the current Pac-12 coaches?

Record and resumés aren't necessarily everything, but of course they matter. Where are each of the teams going, which guys have the buzz, and which ones need to prove themselves a bit more?

These aren't Hot Seat Rankings - those are coming later. These are the rankings based loosely on what the head coaches have done, and mostly about what they're about to do.

Think of it this way. If you were to hold a head coaching draft …

12. Jonathan Smith, Oregon State

To be totally fair, this is an almost impossible list for a head coach in his second season as a head man after going 2-10 in his first run. Of course there's a whole lot of promise and potential for the 40-year-old, and of course he inherited a bit of a mess, but he's got the offensive mind to carve out an interesting niche.

Last Season Preseason Ranking: 12

- 2019 Oregon State Preview

11. Mel Tucker, Colorado

The only reasons he's this low is because 1) the league is loaded with relatively new coaches with a world of upside, and 2) it's his first year as a head coach.

He was overdue for a gig like this, and now he brings his defensive mindset and experience to a program that might not be all that far from becoming a factor again. It was a fantastic hire - this could really, really work.

Last Season Preseason Ranking: Not Ranked

- 2019 Colorado Preview

10. Clay Helton, USC

He's extremely likable and a good guy. How do you know this? He's still the USC head football coach after a 5-7 season.

Call this a Stock Up/Stock Down type of ranking, considering there might not be a bigger "What have you done for me lately?" gig in college football.

After going 21-6 in two full seasons with a Rose Bowl win and a Pac-12 title, okay, he was allowed a slip in a year when he went really, really young at the skill spots. However, it's USC - 8-4 isn't necessarily going to cut it, especially if that guy over at UCLA starts to kick it all in ahead of schedule.

Last Season Preseason Ranking: 4

- 2019 USC Preview

9. Kevin Sumlin, Arizona

One caveat here - he might just have a sneaky-good team in place to rocket up this list in a massive way next year. Here's the problem, though - since his big 12-1 2011 season at Houston, he went 20-6 in two years with Johnny Manziel, and 36-32 in the five years after him, including a losing first season at Arizona.

He couldn't get Texas A&M out of a not-that-bad 8-5 rut, and going 5-7 with a loss to Arizona State to kick off his run with the Wildcats wasn't what the base was hoping for. Again, though, expect things to pick up in a big hurry.

Last Season Preseason Ranking: 7

- 2019 Arizona Preview

8. Herm Edwards, Arizona State

Go ahead and admit it - you thought he was going to fall flat on his face after being away from the game for a decade and with no college head coaching experience. Okay, maybe that's a bit much, but find anyone who thought he'd come up with a solid first run. 7-6 isn't anything to do cartwheels over, but despite the time away, the man showed he can certainly still coach. Who wouldn't want to play for him?

Last Season Preseason Ranking: 11

- 2019 Arizona State Preview

7. Justin Wilcox, Cal

The defensive whiz and former coordinator at Tennessee, Washington, USC and Wisconsin is only 42, and he's about to be on the short list for really, really big gigs if he can just find any semblance of an offense in Year Three. It took just a year to get Cal bowling again as he looks like that Next Big Thing guy.

Last Season Preseason Ranking: 9

- 2019 Cal Preview

6. Chip Kelly, UCLA

Is he just too 2011? Considering he went 46-7 with three Pac-12 titles and a trip to the national championship in his four years at Oregon, let's just give him the benefit of a few doubts over the next few seasons. Going 3-9 wasn't what the Bruin faithful had in mind right out of the gate, but to be totally fair, no one could've fixed those lines in one season. However, there had better be a proof-of-concept step forward this year.

Last Season Preseason Ranking: 3

- 2019 UCLA Preview

5. Mike Leach, Washington State

He might not have anything big to show for it other than a piece of a division title, but his Cougar program has gotten a whole lot better. The defense has been far stronger over the last few seasons, the system continues to rock and roll despite the lack of all-star talents, and with 37 wins in the last four seasons, he continues to do a phenomenal job. All that's missing is a championship of some sort.

Last Season Preseason Ranking: 6

- 2019 Washington State Preview

4. Mario Cristobal, Oregon

The former Miami Hurricane is proving to be a special recruiter with the upside and talent to take Oregon back to the elite level it enjoyed under Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich. Former coaches put the pieces in place, but he took the recruiting game up a few notches, and now he has the team to be a real, live threat to do some damage in the College Football Playoff chase. If this isn't the Pac-12's IT program of the moment, it appears to be on its way.

Last Season Preseason Ranking: 8

- 2019 Oregon Preview

3. Kyle Whittingham, Utah

Finally able to break through in the Pac-12 with a South title and an appearance in the conference championship game, don't expect anything to slow down any time soon - this year's team should be even stronger. With great line play, an aggressive defense, and a tough guy team in a - let's go ahead and say it - finesse conference, he has found his niche. However, he's been able to tweak the offense just enough to take things to the next level.

Last Season Preseason Ranking: 5

- 2019 Utah Preview

2. David Shaw, Stanford

Talk about consistency, Shaw has been able to win at Stanford with a brute force running game, great defenses, a high-powered passing attack, and just about everything in between. He's been able to adapt and adjust on the fly, and he's been able to put up eight straight winning seasons with five campaigns with ten or more victories and two nine-win runs. You're doing something right when going 8-5 is a clunker.

Three Pac-12 championships, two other division titles, two Rose Bowl wins, five top 12 finishes … how is he not an NFL head coach already?

Last Season Preseason Ranking: 2

- 2019 Stanford Preview

1. Chris Petersen, Washington

Take everything UCF is currently doing and make it happen over seven years. That's what Petersen did at Boise State. So what could the guy do when given a shot at a big-name Power Five program? In two seasons of rebuilding, how about a 32-9 record, two Pac-12 championships, a College Football Playoff appearance, and a trip to the Rose Bowl?

To sound absolutely ridiculous considering what he's been able to do over the last three seasons, he's still missing the really big win over one of the big boys - it's been fun, but the program wasn't able to get over the hump in the CFP semifinal, the Fiesta Bowl, and the Rose Bowl. For now, Dawg fans aren't going to complain.

Last Season Preseason Ranking: 1

- 2019 Washington Preview

- CFN Preview 2019: All 130 Team Previews


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