Ranking the ACC Football Coaches for 2015


As we like to do here at All Sports Discussion, it’s the off-season for football and basketball and we like to rank stuff – Players, coaches, and programs. It makes for great talking points until the season the starts. We want to get things going by ranking the football coaches. If your best days were 5 years ago… Good luck, it is 2015 and more recent results count more heavily.

1) Jimbo Fisher – Florida State 

Jimbo Fisher hasn’t lost an ACC game in over 2 years. Why wouldn’t he be number 1 on this list? You can say you should be able to win big at Florida State, but the Seminoles spent the better part of the 2000s as a middle of the pack ACC team until Fisher became head coach.

Florida State is a bonafide elite college football program now. He’s went a nation’s best 27-1 the last two years with a national title in 2013, and a college football playoff appearance last year. The only question is whether you can put Fisher in the class of a Nick Saban and Urban Meyer yet. He’s getting real close to being in that conversation.

2) David Cutcliffe – Duke

David Cutcliffe has won an astonishing 19 games the last 2 years at Duke. Frankly most people didn’t think that was possible in Durham. He went 9-4 last season following a 10 win season. There’s still not a wealth of talent at Duke, but check out what Cutlciffe is currently doing. At the moment Duke has a top 10 class going for 2015.

With facility improvements coming, a run of recent success, and a strong recruiting class there isn’t any reason why Duke can’t be a perennial top 25 fixture. I’m not going to name names, but several ACC programs should be embarrassed by how Duke has resurrected their football program, while others stay mired in mediocrity. If there’s a knock on Cutcliffe, he hasn’t yet beat a quality non conference opponent or won a bowl game yet.

3) Dabo Swinney – Clemson

Clemson’s recent results speak for themselves… In the last 4 years Clemson has won 42 games, and beat Florida State, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, and Oklahoma in the process. Dismiss Dabo Swinney if you wish, but he’s turned the Tigers into one of the nation’s top football programs.

Think about this for moment… Clemson hasn’t lost to a team that didn’t finish in the top 10 since 2011. Swinney has rebuilt the Clemson program, which wasn’t an easy thing to do after nearly 20 years of underachievement. He beat arch rival South Carolina last year to get that monkey of his back. Critics will question how Swinney will do with the loss of Chad Morris as OC. He’ll be fine. Swinney after 6 1/2 years as Clemson head coach knows what he’s doing.

4) Paul Johnson – Georgia Tech

This is what I said about Paul Johnson last year “Johnson has Georgia Tech right back where they were when he got there. A 7 win team that gets to bowl games, but loses to Georgia just about every year.” 11 wins later with a top 10 finish, and Johnson looked like a genius. Honestly over the last 2 months of the season there may not have been 5 teams playing better football in the country. Georgia Tech beat Clemson, Georgia, and Mississippi State last season. All finished in the top 15.

I’ve never questioned Johnson the play caller, but I did question the Johnson the recruiter. The Yellow Jackets will never recruit at an elite level, but get a few quality players in the right spots, and the triple option becomes a real monster to deal with. Johnson proved a lot of people wrong in 2014. If he can follow it up with another 9+ win season he’ll push for a spot in the top 3. He’s led Georgia Tech to 4 Coastal Division Titles in 7 years.

5) Bobby Petrino – Louisville

Bobby Petrino has always been one of the best offensive minds in college football. He’s won just about where ever he’s been, and in his first year at Louisville he won some more leading the Cardinals to a solid 9-4 top 25 season. Petrino is a heackuva head coach, but I can’t put him ahead of 3 guys who rebuilt programs, and 1 that is coming off a top 10 season.

The Cardinals were a welcome addition to the ACC, and the fact that Petrino is 5th on a list like this proves the improving depth of coaching in the ACC.

6) Frank Beamer – Virginia Tech

Frank Beamer spent a lot of years at the top of this list. Times have changed . The Hokies have slipped in recent years, but there’s still life in Blacksburg. Just ask Ohio State if Virginia Tech can still play at a high level. The problem is there has just been too much inconsistency in the Virginia Tech program, but it’s performances like the game at Columbus and the bowl win over Cincinnati that say Beamer still has something in the tank.

After three straight years averaging just over 7 wins a year, Beamer has to prove he can still get the Hokies to play consistently well over the course of a whole season.

7) Pat Narduzzi – Pittsburgh

I don’t think you necessarily have to coach a game to already get a feeling where a coach might be ranked. That is the case for Pat Narduzzi who I think is a big time hire for Pittsburgh. Pat Narduzzi was part of the coaching staff as DC that led to the resurgence of the Michigan State program. He won the 2013 Frank Broyles award, and has Northeastern roots which is a great for Pitt.

He has some talent at Pittsburgh to work with this, and can take a sharp turn up or down depending on how this season goes.

8) Steve Addiazo – Boston College

Boston College has again become a respectable football program again under Steve Addiazo. There’s a certain sense of toughness that didn’t exist for BC prior to Addiazo’s arrival. The Eagles at times have proven they can play at very high level, like when they beat USC last season.

If there is a slight concern for Addiazo, it is a question of how far can he take BC. There have been two straight 7-6 with 2 straight bowl losses. There is no certainly no cause for concern, but it would be good if BC can have an a 8+ win season somewhere in the next couple of years.

9) Dave Doeren – N.C. State

I think coaches 1-9 in the ACC are all pretty solid. After a 3-9 first year, he led to NC State to a solid 8-5 season in 2014. There was a bowl win as well. NC State accomplished this in a division with Louisville, FSU, and Clemson.

The Wolfpack got better as the season progressed winning 4 of their final 5 games. The optimism surrounding the Wolfpack program is as high as it has been in years. Doeren was a big winner at Northern Illinois as well.

10) Larry Fedora – North Carolina

The worst back to back performances of an ACC bowl team last year probably belonged to the North Carolina Tar Heels. A 35-7 home loss to NC State was followed up by 40-21 bowl defeat at the hands of Rutgers. Believe me that 19 point loss wasn’t nearly that close. Fedora’s teams have been marked wild inconsistency sometimes within a single game.

Last season was no different. Start the year 2-4, then win 4 of the next 5 (including wins over Duke and Georgia Tech), then lose the last two in embarrassing fashion. UNC’s has gotten worse each year under Fedora, 8-4, 7-6, then 6-7.

11) Al Golden – Miami

I’m off the Al Golden band wagon. I thought he deserved some patience because he had to deal with Miami’s NCAA issues, but it’s starting to become clear he likely can’t get Miami over the hump. He’s 8-11 in his last 19 Miami games, since a 7-0 start in 2013. Last year the Canes had NFL skill position all over their offense and couple of NFL caliber players on defense, but if I didn’t know better I’d say Golden lost his team at the end of the year.

There were double digit losses to Virginia and Pittsburgh to finish the regular season. A defeat to a mediocre South Carolina team in the Independence Bowl didn’t help matters. Golden had enough talent to win 8-10 games last season, but went a dismal 6-7. Time is running out for him.

12) Dave Clawson – Wake Forest

Dave Clawson has arguably the most difficult job in the ACC. He came to Wake Forest and inherited an inexperienced and undersized team that struggled all year. That said towards the end of the year, Wake Forest started showing some positive signs.

There a near win against Boston College, a good effort against Clemson, and a win against Virginia Tech. Jim Grobe proved you can have some success at Wake Forest so I’d look for Clawson to make at least some improvement from a 3-9 2014.

13) Scott Shafer – Syracuse

Following a decent 7-6 2013 season, Syracuse was just plain awful last season falling to 3-9. On offense the Cuse scored more than 20 points in just one of their last 10 games.

Shafer came in as a noted defensive mind, but the Orange weren’t that good on that side of the ball either.

14) Mike London – Virginia

Mike London recruits reasonably well, and at times last year Virginia looked decent on their way to a 4-2 start that included a win over Louisville and a good performance against UCLA. Then the Cavaliers won 1 more game the rest of the year.

Virginia hasn’t beat Virginia Tech since 2003, and London has been at the helm for 5 of those years. The 2014 5-7 season was his second best. That’s simply unacceptable. This program should be better.

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