Lincoln Riley brings much needed star power to the Pac-12 Conference.
Photo; USC Athletics
Article by WestCoastCFB
1. Lincoln Riley (USC)
USC made the best hire of the coaching cycle when they landed Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma. Riley is an offensive mastermind who reached the College Football Playoff 3 times and has finished in the AP Top-10 all 5 seasons as a head coach. The hire has already paid recruiting dividends as the Trojans are accumulating highly sought after Pac-12 transfers in an effort to bolster their roster while simultaneously weakening the competition. If USC lands Caleb Williams, the Trojans could instantly be the favorites to win the Pac-12 Title.
2. Kyle Whittingham (Utah)
Whittingham is a very well respected coach who has gotten Utah to the point of consistently winning 9-10 games per year. The Utes develop talent better than almost anyone in the country and should enter 2022 as the Pac-12 favorites after winning the conference title in 2021. Despite the consistency, Utah has finished ranked in the AP Poll just twice in the past five years and five times in the past thirteen. The next step for Whittingham is getting the Utes to a Top-10 level and that may come this Fall.
3. Chip Kelly (UCLA)
Kelly's tenure at UCLA has been disappointing in many ways but it seems as though the Bruins have finally turned the corner after an 8 win season in 2021. With Dorian Thompson-Robinson returning at QB, expect UCLA to contend for the Pac-12 South once again in 2022. We put Kelly third here due to what he accomplished during his time at Oregon but if he can't take the next step this coming season, his reputation could continue to fall.
4. David Shaw (Stanford)
David Shaw was once considered the best coach in the conference but that reputation took a hit the past few years and now Stanford is coming off an awful 3-9 season. Shaw needs to figure out the offense and a shift to a more modern scheme could be necessary. If the Cardinal struggle once again, Shaw could find himself on the hot seat entering 2023.
5. Herm Edwards (ASU)
Herm Edwards has done a nice job at ASU with two eight win seasons, but NCAA Infractions could become his downfall. It's still to be seen if he will survive this offseason as the investigation is ongoing. Right now, I'd bet on him being let go before the season but if he does return, he has some nice pieces to work with and has Jayden Daniels back at quarterback.
6. Kalen DeBoer (UW)
The Huskies hit a home run with the hire of DeBoer. This past season at Fresno State, DeBoer led the Bulldogs to a 9-3 record and a win over UCLA. His offenses are electric and some of the most fun to watch in college football. UW fans are in for a treat after hiring a man who has succeeded everywhere he has gone and now finally has the keys to a program that can attract top talent.
7. Jonathan Smith (OSU)
Many will likely feel that we have Smith too low and that may be true but the Pac-12 was so weak this past season that it is hard to judge just how good Oregon State was. Smith has done an excellent job of working the transfer portal during his time with the Beavers and his offensive schemes are highly respected. The only real negative of the Smith tenure is that the defensive side of the ball has been questionable. That poor performance over the years resulted in Smith firing Tim Tibesar and promoting Trent Bray to defensive coordinator. If OSU can make strides on that side of the ball, the Beavers could become consistent contenders in the North.
8. Dan Lanning (Oregon)
Dan Lanning ends up eighth here and that is simply due to the fact he has never been a head coach. His work at Georgia as defensive coordinator was amazing and the 35 year old comes to Oregon after winning a National Championship with the best defense in the country. If Lanning lives up to the hype, expect him to land 3rd on this list next year.
9. Justin Wilcox (Cal)
Wilcox is one of the hardest coaches to judge in the country. Cal is competitive in nearly every game but continue to lose by small margins. Over the past two seasons, the Golden Bears are 6-10 and the offense continues to sputter. We know Wilcox can coach the defense but similar to other Pac-12 coaches, he can't figure out the other side of the ball.
10. Jake Dickert (WSU)
Dickert went 3-3 in his inaugural season after taking over for the fired Nick Rolovich. His 40-13 victory over the Huskies in Seattle should endear him to fans and buy him plenty of time on the Palouse. Dickert is a defensive mastermind and seems to have a plan on offense where he hired former Texas Tech offensive coordinator, Eric Morris, who coached Patrick Mahomes in College. Things are looking bright in Pullman for 2022 with star QB Cameron Ward announcing his transfer to the Cougs after throwing for 47 touchdowns in 2021 at Incarnate Word.
11. Jedd Fisch (Arizona)
Fisch hasn't delivered on the field but his off-field work has been nothing short of a miracle. The Wildcats are bringing in nine four stars in 2022 and also landed one of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12 when Jayden de Laura announced his commitment to Arizona. With de Laura leading the offense, U of A has the potential to reach a bowl this season and that would catapult Fisch up this list heading into 2023.
12. Karl Dorrell (Colorado)
The Dorrell Era got off to a hot start with a 4-2 record in 2020 but the wheels quickly came off. The offense was inept this past season and the team has now dealt with a rash of transfers. Notable names who have left include Dimitri Stanley, Christian Gonzalez, Brenden Rice, Mekhi Blackmon and Jarek Broussard. The Buffs look like a potential one to two win team and it's hard to imagine Dorrell returning in 2023.