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1. GARY PATTERSON TCU
He's never won a national title, but no one has done more with less, which makes Patterson the best coach in the country today. A brilliant game manager and motivator who gets dealt the talent left over by his in-state rivals, Patterson has transformed a middling, non-BCS program into a power that is 36--3 since 2008 and has finished in the top seven three straight seasons.
He is also a master tactician who outwits opposing coaches with confounding defenses that have led the nation the past three seasons. (He's the rare head coach who calls his team's defensive plays.) TCU's win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl last January showed that the Frogs are more than cute overachievers. And with Patterson at the helm, TCU is here to stay.
2. NICK SABAN
The new Titan of Tuscaloosa already has two national championship rings (including one from LSU), as well as his own shiny statue outside Bryant-Denny Stadium. Some thought Alabama paid him too much to leave the Dolphins in 2007, but Saban, who is 38--11 with the Tide, is now justifying his salary (roughly $5.2 million a year).
3. CHRIS PETERSEN
The man who turned the Greatest Show on (Blue) Turf from a curiosity into a powerhouse spurned an overture from Stanford over the winter. Since Petersen took over the program in 2006, the Broncos are 61--5, and have finished in the top 10 three times.
4. BOB STOOPS