These coaches have displayed great character and provided leadership for groups of young men hoping to reach perfection. A couple of them have emerged out of nowhere and blindside the College Football world with their success. Each coach has led their respective programs to unimaginable seasons and potentially the best is yet to come.
Ryan Day, Ohio State: Everyone knew Ohio State was going to be elite this season, but it’s safe to say the team has exceeded expectations. Day has the team playing at a level that wasn’t there last year with Urban Meyer. The Justin Fields transfer worked out nicely and he’s the best quarterback in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes are averaging an eye-popping 51 points per game, which is No. 1 in the FBS. Ohio State leads the league in rushing, scoring and total offense. However, the Buckeyes have made their biggest improvement on defense. The unit allowed 26.5 points per game last season, to just 8.6 through nine games, which is also No. 1 in the FBS. The Buckeyes are on a 15-game win streak, the longest in the program since 2015 and are primed for another undefeated regular season. In hindsight Ohio State seems to have the complete team in the nation and will get to prove that with Penn State and Michigan looming. Still, it has been an outstanding coaching job by Day even if he inherited a team full of talent.
Ed Orgeron, LSU: Talk about a coach who has paid his dues. Orgeron was apart of those National Championship USC teams under Pete Carroll. Ironically the Trojans wound up hiring Clay Helton over Orgeron so he went back to his roots in Louisiana. Some questioned Orgeron after he abruptly replaced Les Miles, but since then he has solidified that he was the perfect hire. Orgeron has increased the Bayou Bengals win total every year since leading the program and potentially on his way to an undefeated regular season. LSU has been living in Alabama’s shadows since the 2011 National Championship Game. However, after snapping an eight-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide the sky is the limit for the Bayou Bengals. LSU’s resume is legit enough for the Playoff Committee to put them No. 1 in the rankings. Not to mention senior quarterback Joe Burrow is the Heisman front-runner. The Bayou Bengals lead the SEC in total offense and are No. 4 nationally. LSU still has a lot of football left to play, but remaining opponents Ole Miss, Arkansas and Texas A&M have a combined 12-17 record this season. Regardless of the matter it has been a special year for Orgeron and the program thus far.
P.J. Fleck, Minnesota: In only his third season on the job Fleck has done wonders for the program. The Golden Gophers have improved every year under Fleck and are a jaw-dropping 9-0 for the first time since 1904. Minnesota’s current No. 7 ranking in the AP Poll is its’ highest since 1956. Talk about rowing the boat, Fleck’s team is riding an 11-game win streak, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished at Minnesota since 1941. Now everyone’s jumping on Fleck’s boat, waiting to see the next destination. Remember the Golden Gophers were one of the youngest teams in the FBS last season, but look at what his players have blossomed into. Not to mention Fleck had to replace his starting quarterback Zack Annexstad with Tanner Morgan early in the season. The rest is history and Morgan been showing he’s All-Big Ten caliber. Fleck led Western Michigan to an undefeated regular season in 2016 and he has an opportunity to do it at Minnesota with its’ favorable remaining schedule. No one thought Fleck would have the program in this position at this point in the season. His personality may rub some people the wrong way, but you can’t deny he’s a players’ coach and successful.
Matt Rhule, Baylor: Another coach in his third year on the job that’s having a lot of success. Rhule has the Bears 9-0 for the first time since 2013 and they are the last undefeated team in the Big 12. The Bears have been getting it done with solid quarterback play from junior Charlie Brewer and great defense. Every year on the job Rhule has increased Baylor’s win total and the program is having its’ biggest season in recent memory. The Bears are the lowest-ranked undefeated Power Five team, but has two big games coming up against ranked opponents. Rhule will be judged on how Baylor plays against Oklahoma and Texas, especially since both teams are currently ranked. The Playoff Committee frowns upon the Bears’ soft non-conference schedule, but they can’t ignore that Rhule’s team continues to win. No one thought Baylor would be in this position at this point in the season. That alone speaks volumes of the coaching job Rhule has done with the program. You better believe he’s going to be a candidate for several Power Five jobs that’ll be vacant at the end of the regular season.
Dabo Swinney, Clemson: It might be somewhat of a stretch to put Swinney on this list, considering he has all the talent in the world, but all he continues to do is win. The reigning National Champs are still undefeated and are riding high on the nation’s longest winning streak at 25 games. Everyone wants to criticize Clemson’s schedule, how watered-down the ACC is this season and how the program wouldn’t have that same success in the SEC or Big Ten. Still, you have to admire the job Swinney has done keeping his team hungry even after winning it all. It’s harder to maintain success than it is to gain it. The key for Swinney is having assistant Brent Venebles by his side. Venebles is the reason the Tigers’ defense hasn’t missed a beat, even after losing all those players to the NFL. After sitting out of the top-four of the initial Playoff rankings, Clemson will for sure be in after the rankings get released Tuesday night. For now Swinney sits atop the throne of College Football until someone snatches the red carpet from under him.