The Pac-12 features an abundance of elite coaches. Who takes the top spot?
Photo: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Article by WestCoastCFB
1. Kyle Whittingham (Utah)
Winning the conference in back to back seasons and defeating Lincoln Riley twice in one year puts you at the top spot. Whittingham has been a model of consistency with four Pac-12 Title appearances since 2018 and six seasons finishing ranked in the AP Poll since 2014. The Utes return Cam Rising at quarterback in 2023 and have a chance to become the first team in the Pac-12 era to win the conference three years in a row.
2. Lincoln Riley (USC)
Despite a disappointing finish to the year, Lincoln Riley did an amazing job turning around a 4-8 team and winning 11 games his first year. Riley is now 66-13 as a head coach and should have USC contending for the College Football Playoffs in 2023 with Heisman winner Caleb Williams, returning at quarterback.
3. Kalen DeBoer (Washington)
DeBoer might be the best coach in the conference if 2022 is any indication. The guy is simply a winner and is now 90-11 as a head coach. Washington projects as the best team in the conference for 2023 and if DeBoer does indeed win the conference he should take the top spot in these rankings next year. For now, we will put him at 3rd due to a relatively small sample size at the Power Five level.
4. Jonathan Smith (OSU)
Jonathan Smith has consistently improved Oregon State every year since he's been there and 2022 was his finest work yet while leading the Beavers to a 10 win season despite subpar play at the quarterback position. OSU now has landed former 5 star QB DJ Uiagalelei who was Clemson's starter the past three seasons. The talented California product tossed 22 touchdowns last Fall with just 7 interceptions and should make OSU a contender for the Pac-12 title and potentially even the Playoff.
5. Chip Kelly (UCLA)
Chip Kelly has done a respectable job with the Bruins over the past 2 years with a 17-8 record but Bruin fans have been left wanting more. The fans in Westwood are desperate for their first 10 win season since 2014 and if Kelly doesn't deliver in the next two years or so we could see fans clamoring for a coaching change.
6. Dan Lanning (Oregon)
A late season collapse with losses to Washington and Oregon State spoiled the Ducks College Football Playoff hopes but all things considered it was a very respectable debut for the first year head coach. Lanning has now gone to work on turning over the roster to get his guys in and the return of Bo Nix at quarterback means Oregon should once again be a force in the conference.
7. Deion Sanders (Colorado)
Last season, Lincoln Riley breathed new life into USC to resurrect the program. This year, Deion Sanders appears to be doing the same at Colorado. In just over a month, Sanders has brought in 9 4/5 star players. It may take some time for CU to have the depth need to win 8 or more games but don't be surprised if Colorado contends for a bowl in year one.
8. Kenny Dillingham (ASU)
Kenny Dillingham was a home run hire for the Sun Devils and should instantly bring electric offenses to the Desert. Expect the 32 year old Head Coach to rapidly climb this list in the coming years but for now we will start him at eight given the lack of head coaching experience.
9. Jake Dickert (WSU)
Jake Dickert hasn't been splashy but back to back 7-6 seasons are solid. It feels like there could be a slight regression on the Palouse in 2023 given some talent losses to the portal and graduation but the defense should continue to excel with Dickert at the helm.
10. Justin Wilcox (Cal)
Cal was once a program on the rise under Wilcox after an 8-5 season in 2019 but the Bears failed to capitalize on that early success. Over the past 3 years, Cal has gone 10-18 and Wilcox has struggled to figure out the offensive side of the ball. The hire of Jake Spavital at Offensive Coordinator feels promising but patience is wearing thin in Berkeley. A winning season in 2023 would quiet critics.
11. Jedd Fisch (Arizona)
Jedd Fisch has been stellar off the field as the Head Coach of the Wildcats while finding success in recruiting, the transfer portal and energizing the fanbase. 2023 will be key for his tenure in Tucson and a bowl appearance would do a lot to cement him as the long term answer to lead the Wildcats back to respectability.
12. Troy Taylor (Stanford)
Troy Taylor at twelve is a testament to the roster of coaches the Pac-12 has at the moment. The former record setting Cal quarterback found success at Sacramento State with a 12-1 season in 2022. We will find out soon if that success can translate at the Power Five level.