July 20, 2024

Ranking the Big 12’s best coaches of 2024

Big 12's best coaches of 2024

Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy walks along the sideline during a timeout in the fourth quarter against Kansas Saturday October 14, 2023 at Boone Pickens Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

Despite the departure of Oklahoma and Texas, the Big 12 still has a nice collection of elite coaches.

The expanded 16-team league will be as competitive as ever, with some old and new faces patrolling the sidelines. Most of the coaches in the conference are veterans, who know what it takes to be successful in today’s game.

That means fan anticipation will be through the roof for this upcoming season, as we approach uncharted territory in College football.

16. Kenny Dillingham, Arizona State: The 34-year old is the youngest coach in the Big 12, who’s approaching his second season with the Sun Devils. Dillingham was an Offensive Coordinator in the AAC, ACC, and Pac-12 before he landed back at his alma mater. However, his first season in Tempe was disastrous. He got off to a rough start, and lost six of the first seven games. Arizona State did beat Washington State and UCLA by double-digits. Once the smoke cleared, the Sun Devils tied for second to last in the final Pac-12 standings. So having a fresh start in a new conference could be good for Dillingham, considering expectations aren’t high, and the team can finally establish an identity.

15. Scott Satterfield, Cincinnati: The North Carolina native led Appalachian State to 47 wins in five seasons, including three bowl victories. Satterfield also won three Sun Belt Championships with the Mountaineers. He finished 25-24 in four seasons at Louisville, and made three bowl appearances. However, it was tough sledding for Satterfield and the Bearcats in the Big 12 last year. Although the team got off to a 2-0 start, they lost nine of their final 10 games. Satterfield’s 3-9 campaign was the Bearcats’ first losing season since 2017. On the bright side, four of Cincinnati’s losses were by single-digits. Satterfield’s defense must improve after finishing 93rd nationally in yards allowed per game.

14. Kalani Sitake, BYU: The 48-year old was a Defensive Coordinator at Utah, and Oregon State before he became the head coach of his alma mater. Sitake is 61-41 through eight seasons at BYU. He’s also 4-2 in bowl games. The Tonga native has put together two double-digit-win campaigns with the Cougars, including 11 victories in 2020. However, Sitake’s first season in the Big 12 was a rude awakening. BYU won four of its’ first seven contests, but ended the year on a five-game losing streak. It’s no mystery that he’s going to have to recruit better, and take advantage of the transfer portal, if the team wants to be successful in the expanded Big 12. As of now, there’s no buzz surrounding the program.

13. Brent Brennan, Arizona: The former UCLA wideout spent the past seven seasons at San Jose State, where he posted three winning campaigns. Brennan has won at least seven games in three of the past four years, despite being 0-3 in the postseason. He led the Spartans to a 7-1 campaign, and a top-25 finish in the final AP Poll in 2020. It was only the second time in school history that had happened. San Jose State started out 1-5 in 2023, but won six of its’ last seven games. The Spartans even ended the year on a six-game win streak. Jedd Fisch didn’t leave the cupboard bare for Brennan, considering the Wildcats return an elite quarterback, wideout and linebacker from last season’s 10-3 squad.

12. Dave Aranda, Baylor: The Californian was a Defensive Coordinator for Wisconsin, and LSU before he became a head coach. Aranda had early success with the Bears in his first two seasons, which included a 12-win campaign, and a Big 12 Championship. However, he has seven or more losses in three of the past four years. Aranda has lost six of his last seven games overall. Not to mention the Bears ended 2o23 on a five-game losing streak. Which is why many believe Aranda won the Big 12 Title with Matt Rhule’s players. Although he’s approaching his fifth season in Waco, the verdict is still out on Aranda. He’s well-known defensive guru, but Baylor finished 110th nationally in total defense last year.

11. Neal Brown, West Virginia: He won 35 games in four seasons at Troy. Brown posted three double-digit-win campaigns with the Trojans, and split the Sun Belt Title in 2017. The 44-year old is approaching his fifth season with the Mountaineers, and everything appears to be coming full circle. After all, Brown led West Virginia to nine wins last year, which was the most in the program since 2016. The Mountaineers got off to a hot start, and won four of their first five games. Neal finished strong down the stretch too, and was victorious in five of his last six contests. West Virginia scored 30 or more points in six Big 12 games. It helps that the Mountaineers return some studs at the skill positions.

10. Deion Sanders, Colorado: Coach Prime won 27 games in three seasons at Jackson State. He also captured two SWAC Titles, and was the league’s Coach of the Year twice during that span. Although his first season with the Buffaloes ended on a sour note, the Hall of Famer tripled their win total from the year prior under Karl Dorrell. Coach Prime got off to a hot start, and won four of his first six games. However, depth became an issue, and Colorado ended the year on a six-game losing streak. Regardless, he has one of the nation’s best quarterbacks in Shedeur Sanders, and keeping him upright with better blocking should result to more wins. At this point, Coach Prime still has a lot to prove.

9. Joey McGuire, Texas Tech: The 52-year old was a high school coach for over two decades before he landed a job as an assistant at Baylor. McGuire is approaching his third season with the Red Raiders, and everything appears to be trending up. After all, he’s coming off two-straight winning campaigns, which includes back-to-back bowl victories. The Red Raiders have also finished with a winning record in Big 12 play every year under his watch. Although McGuire started out 1-3 last season, he ended strong and won four of his final five games. The Texas native has one of the best running backs in the country in Tahj Brooks, and that alone should make the Red Raiders contenders for this fall.

8. Sonny Dykes, TCU: The Texas native is a veteran with a long resume. Dykes coached at Louisiana Tech, California and Southern Methodist before he arrived at TCU. He led the Bulldogs to 22 wins in three seasons, including a WAC Title in 2011. Although his tenure in Berkley was lackluster, Dykes later led the Mustangs to 30 wins in four seasons. In 2022 he posted a 13-2 campaign with the Horned Frogs, which included an appearance in the National Championship Game, and was named the Coach of the Year. However, he followed up that memorable season with a 5-7 campaign. TCU started out 17th in the AP Poll, but lost its’ opener and never resurfaced. Dykes also dropped six of his final eight games.

7. Matt Campbell, Iowa State: He led Toledo to four-straight winning campaigns. Campbell is approaching his ninth season with the Cyclones, and is 53-48 at the school. The 44-year old won nine games in 2020, including the Fiesta Bowl, which were the most in the program since 2000. Iowa State had a roller coaster season last year. The Cyclones lost three of their first five games. However, Campbell was victorious in four of his first five Big 12 tilts. The Ohio native knows what it takes to be successful in the league, which explains his longevity. The team should be explosive offensively with the return of quarterback Rocco Becht, two talented rushers and a couple of elite wideouts.

6. Willie Fritz, Houston: His coaching resume dates back to the 1980’s. Fritz has been a head coach at nearly every level of the Collegiate ranks over the past 30 years. He was at Georgia Southern for two seasons, and put together back-to-back nine-win campaigns. Fritz also won a Sun Belt Title in 2014 with the Eagles. The 64-year old spent the past eight seasons at Tulane, where he had a lot of success. After all, Fritz is coming off two-straight, double-digit-win campaigns. The Green Wave’s 12 victories in 2022 were the most in school history. Not to mention he won the AAC Title that year. Fritz was named the league’s Coach of the Year twice. Houston will be a fertile recruiting area for Fritz.

5. Lance Leipold, Kansas: He’s the reason why the Jayhawks are no longer just a basketball school. There’s no denying Leipold is building his own legacy at Kansas, and his coaching resume dates back nearly 40 years. The Wisconsin native coached at nearly every level of the Collegiate ranks before he arrived at Buffalo. Leipold won 37 games in six seasons with the Bulls, including two bowls. The 60-year old has improved the Jayhawks’ win total every year. Not to mention Kansas’ nine victories last season were the most in the program since 2007. The Jayhawks also finished No. 23 in the final AP Poll. Now he’ll be fielding his best team yet, and they should contend for a Big 12 Title.

4. Gus Malzahn, UCF: The 58-year old began his career in the high school ranks in Arkansas. Malzahn was Auburn’s Offensive Coordinator when it won a National Championship in 2010. He later led Arkansas State to a 10-3 campaign in 2012, which included a Sun Belt Title. Malzahn returned to the Tigers, and led them for eight seasons. Auburn was bowl eligible every year he was on the Plains. Malzahn also won an SEC Title with the Tigers in 2013, the same season they played for all of the marbles. The Texas native is 24-16 with the Knights, and they’ve been bowl eligible every year under his watch. Malzahn’s first season in the Big 12 was rough though, considering he started out 0-5 in league play.

3. Chris Klieman, Kansas State: His coaching resume is very impressive, considering he won four FCS National Championships at North Dakota State. Kansas State fans couldn’t have asked for a better successor to Hall of Famer Bill Snyder. After all, Klieman is 39-24 with the Wildcats through five seasons. He even led the team to a Big 12 Title in 2022. Kansas State’s 10 victories that year were the most in the program since 2012. The Wildcats have ended the past two seasons ranked in the top-20 of the final AP Poll. Klieman has a knack for molding underrated talent into All-big 12 performers. With an explosive quarterback, a 1,000-yard rusher and a physical defense, he’s fielding his best team yet.

2. Kyle Whittingham, Utah: The 64-year old has been patrolling the sidelines in Salt Lake City since 2005. Whittingham has done a marvelous job as Urban Meyer’s successor, with 162 victories under his belt with the Utes. He has a knack for locating and developing talent. Which is why Whittingham continues to put several of his players in the NFL. He’s arguably the best at doing more with less, and continues to evolve with the ever-changing sport. Whittingham led Utah to two Pac-12 Titles, and Rose Bowl appearances over the past three seasons. The Utes also won six of their first seven games last year. Now Whittingham is poised to make an instant impact on the Big 12 in year one.

1. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: He’s the longest-tenured coach in the Big 12, and continues to win at a high level. Gundy made his alma mater a force to be reckoned with in the conference, and he’s the program’s all-time winningest coach. The 56-year old has put together a jaw-dropping, 18-straight winning seasons, and is fresh off a double-digit-win campaign. Gundy also ended Bedlam on a high note, and led the Pokes to an appearance in the Big 12 Championship Game. Oklahoma State even finished No. 16 in the final AP Poll last season. Not to mention Gundy has won six of his past eight bowl games. His team is loaded on both sides of the ball, and will likely be the favorites to win the Big 12 this fall.