Posted: Wednesday June 28, 2006 3:26PM; Updated: Wednesday June 28, 2006 3:44PM
After leading USC to its second straight BCS title-game appearance, Pete Carroll holds down the top spot once again.
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A year ago this week, in an attempt to lull Mailbag readers out of their midsummer comas and submit some questions, I came up with a list of the 10 best and five worst coaches in the country. Suffice it to say, the rankings worked a whole lot of people into something of a frenzy. One Kentucky sports talk show even accused me of sabotaging the Wildcats' recruiting efforts by naming Rich Brooks one of the worst. (It must not have worked, seeing as Brooks reeled in a top 30 recruiting class in February.)
A year later, I'm not exactly lacking in e-mails like I was then (though most of them lately have been semi-creepy requests from single men to hook them up with Jen from Austin's e-mail address), but after last year's response, I'd be nuts not to do it again.
Now, you may be wondering, how much could the lists really have changed in the span of a year? The answer is, not that much at the top, but I found it much harder this year to zero in on Nos. 6-10. There were about 15 deserving candidates for those five spots. Meanwhile, the "five worst" underwent a drastic makeover. Also, the two most controversial selections last year were Mack Brown's inclusion on the best list and Joe Paterno's on the worst. Since that time, one justified his status in a big way and the other made me look like a complete idiot.
Finally, remember that this is a ranking of the best and worst coaches right now, not over their entire careers. Therefore, the emphasis is almost entirely on recent performance (the past three to five seasons). Also, guys who have been college head coaches for less than three seasons, like Charlie Weis and Bill Callahan, were not considered.
My top 10 coaches heading into the 2006 season
1. Pete Carroll, USC: I find it pretty amusing that some people have chosen to blame Carroll -- specifically his ill-fated fourth-and-two call -- for the Rose Bowl loss to Texas. The guy won 34 straight games, people. I don't think he suddenly forgot how to coach with two minutes left in the Rose Bowl.
2. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: Similarly, one disappointing 8-4 season in what we all knew going in was going to be a rebuilding situation does not override Stoops' 60-7 record and three national title appearances in the five years before that. If things don't get better this season, then maybe we'll talk.
3. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa: His teams continue to exhibit the hallmark of good coaching: They get better as the season goes on. With an entirely new D-line last year, the Hawkeyes gave up 314 rushing yards to Ohio State on Sept. 24. Seven weeks later they held Brian Calhoun and Wisconsin to 19.
4. Mack Brown, Texas: I'm sure there are still plenty of die-hard Mack haters out there who will contend he lucked out with Vince Young, but the guy's got to be doing something right: His 56-8 record is the best in the country over the past five years, and he hasn't won fewer than nine games in a season since 1995.
5. Jim Tressel, Ohio State: Over the past two years we've watched the traditionally conservative Tressel reinvent his offense around the playmaking abilities of electrifying QB Troy Smith while still maintaining his usual emphasis on defense and special teams.