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Published: June 1, 2015 at 11:58 a.m.
Updated: June 1, 2015 at 01:25 p.m.

15 for '15: College football's best head coaches

» Complete 15 for '15 series

CFB 24/7 continues its "15 for '15" series with a look at the men who are most responsible for wins and losses at college football programs.

15 Photos Total

  • <b>Career record: 17-20</b><br />How does a coach without a winning record earn a spot on this list? Well, Fuente has turned around one of the worst programs in the FBS, leading it to a 10-win season and top-25 ranking. Don't discount his role in TCU's success, too, as that program wasn't the same on offense after he left. 15

    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    15. Justin Fuente, Memphis

    Career record: 17-20
    How does a coach without a winning record earn a spot on this list? Well, Fuente has turned around one of the worst programs in the FBS, leading it to a 10-win season and top-25 ranking. Don't discount his role in TCU's success, too, as that program wasn't the same on offense after he left.

  • <b>Career record: 226-85-2</b><br />There are few things that can rival Spurrier's coaching acumen and, not surprisingly, his golf game is one thing that can rival it. Handicap aside, it's pretty impressive that the former Heisman Trophy winner is the all-time winningest coach at two different SEC schools, and he has consistently kept the Gamecocks in the SEC East title race. Few are as good at dialing up a big play just when it's needed, and the "Ol' Ball Coach" remains one of the funniest coaches in the game to boot. 14

    Rainier Ehrhardt/Associated Press

    14. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

    Career record: 226-85-2
    There are few things that can rival Spurrier's coaching acumen and, not surprisingly, his golf game is one thing that can rival it. Handicap aside, it's pretty impressive that the former Heisman Trophy winner is the all-time winningest coach at two different SEC schools, and he has consistently kept the Gamecocks in the SEC East title race. Few are as good at dialing up a big play just when it's needed, and the "Ol' Ball Coach" remains one of the funniest coaches in the game to boot.

  • <b>Career record: 146-98-2</b><br />It is becoming increasingly clear that RichRod's disastrous tenure at Michigan is an aberration to an otherwise sterling record, as he's turned West Virginia and Arizona into winners. He did a great job keeping the Wildcats afloat while overhauling the roster in his first two seasons with the program, and broke through last year with a division title in one of the toughest leagues around. With help from his staff, Rodriguez's talent for finding diamonds in the rough, like Scooby Wright III -- <a href="http://www.nfl.com/photoessays/0ap3000000493191/15-for-15-best-defensive-players-in-college-football" target="new">one of the top defensive players</a> in college football -- for example, is also impressive. Plus, few head coaches know how to deliver a one-liner like Rodriguez. 13

    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    13. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona

    Career record: 146-98-2
    It is becoming increasingly clear that RichRod's disastrous tenure at Michigan is an aberration to an otherwise sterling record, as he's turned West Virginia and Arizona into winners. He did a great job keeping the Wildcats afloat while overhauling the roster in his first two seasons with the program, and broke through last year with a division title in one of the toughest leagues around. With help from his staff, Rodriguez's talent for finding diamonds in the rough, like Scooby Wright III -- one of the top defensive players in college football -- for example, is also impressive. Plus, few head coaches know how to deliver a one-liner like Rodriguez.

  • <b>Career record: 29-10</b><br />Malzahn, one of the prime proponents of the hurry-up/no-huddle/spread offense, has risen quickly up the coaching ranks from high school to college, and for good reason. In addition to having Auburn in the mix for the SEC West, he's done a good job of adapting to his players and allowing them to thrive. Landing Will Muschamp as his defensive coordinator after last season was a shrewd move, too. 12

    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    12. Gus Malzahn, Auburn

    Career record: 29-10
    Malzahn, one of the prime proponents of the hurry-up/no-huddle/spread offense, has risen quickly up the coaching ranks from high school to college, and for good reason. In addition to having Auburn in the mix for the SEC West, he's done a good job of adapting to his players and allowing them to thrive. Landing Will Muschamp as his defensive coordinator after last season was a shrewd move, too.

  • <b>Career record: 186-103-3</b><br />Remember those that doubted if Missouri could complete in the SEC when it made the move from the Big 12? Yes, there were plenty of them out there. Pinkel has had the last laugh, though, after capturing consecutive SEC East titles. He looks to be in prime position to go for three straight in 2015. He's developed both offensive and defensive players into high NFL draft picks and has certainly left his mark on the program. 11

    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    11. Gary Pinkel, Missouri

    Career record: 186-103-3
    Remember those that doubted if Missouri could complete in the SEC when it made the move from the Big 12? Yes, there were plenty of them out there. Pinkel has had the last laugh, though, after capturing consecutive SEC East titles. He looks to be in prime position to go for three straight in 2015. He's developed both offensive and defensive players into high NFL draft picks and has certainly left his mark on the program.

  • <b>Career record: 187-94-1</b><br />Collecting nine seasons with double-digit wins, as Snyder has, is an impressive feat at any program, but it's doubly impressive at a place like Kansas State. Few can claim they have built a program from nothing into an annual league title contender, but the "Wizard of the Little Apple" certainly can. Not only has he developed a great football team on the field, but <a href="http://athlonsports.com/college-footballs-best-coaching-trees" target="new">his coaching tree</a> speaks to his impact at KSU and beyond. 10

    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    10. Bill Snyder, Kansas State

    Career record: 187-94-1
    Collecting nine seasons with double-digit wins, as Snyder has, is an impressive feat at any program, but it's doubly impressive at a place like Kansas State. Few can claim they have built a program from nothing into an annual league title contender, but the "Wizard of the Little Apple" certainly can. Not only has he developed a great football team on the field, but his coaching tree speaks to his impact at KSU and beyond.

  • <b>Career record: 42-12</b><br />Stanford might have taken a small step back in 2014, but make no mistake, the team's head coach is still one of the best around. He'll be just 43 years old when entering his fifth season as the head coach on "The Farm" and already sports two conference titles and a Rose Bowl win on his resume. Navigating Stanford's tough admissions policy is difficult in itself, but he's managed to turn that into a fantastic asset to lure quality football players and turn them into NFL prospects. 9

    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    9. David Shaw, Stanford

    Career record: 42-12
    Stanford might have taken a small step back in 2014, but make no mistake, the team's head coach is still one of the best around. He'll be just 43 years old when entering his fifth season as the head coach on "The Farm" and already sports two conference titles and a Rose Bowl win on his resume. Navigating Stanford's tough admissions policy is difficult in itself, but he's managed to turn that into a fantastic asset to lure quality football players and turn them into NFL prospects.

  • <b>Career record: 84-77</b><br />Cutcliffe might be the second-best coach on campus thanks to Mike Krzyzewski, but Cutcliffe ranks highly on this list for turning the Blue Devils' football program into an ACC title contender (yes, it's true, as hard as it is to believe). While program building has been his recent calling card, there's a reason why so many quarterbacks (such as the Manning brothers) continue to seek his advice, as he's one of the best around at coaching the game's most important position. One shouldn't discount the solid work he did at Ole Miss and as an assistant, either. 8

    Nick Lisi/Associated Press

    8. David Cutcliffe, Duke

    Career record: 84-77
    Cutcliffe might be the second-best coach on campus thanks to Mike Krzyzewski, but Cutcliffe ranks highly on this list for turning the Blue Devils' football program into an ACC title contender (yes, it's true, as hard as it is to believe). While program building has been his recent calling card, there's a reason why so many quarterbacks (such as the Manning brothers) continue to seek his advice, as he's one of the best around at coaching the game's most important position. One shouldn't discount the solid work he did at Ole Miss and as an assistant, either.

  • <b>Career record: 58-27</b><br />The intense head coach of the Wolverines might be the most interesting man in college football in 2015 as he returns to his alma matter. Harbaugh has been a noted builder of programs. He turned things around at San Diego and Stanford with an eye for talent and a quality blueprint. It will be interesting to see if he can do the same thing for Michigan after four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. 7

    Tony Ding/Associated Press

    7. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

    Career record: 58-27
    The intense head coach of the Wolverines might be the most interesting man in college football in 2015 as he returns to his alma matter. Harbaugh has been a noted builder of programs. He turned things around at San Diego and Stanford with an eye for talent and a quality blueprint. It will be interesting to see if he can do the same thing for Michigan after four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.

  • <b>Career record: 58-11</b><br />It's hard to believe that Florida State is the only head-coaching gig Fisher has ever held, as he's quickly returned the Seminoles to glory. Life after Jameis Winston will be interesting to navigate, but Fisher has proven he knows how to win games and there certainly will be plenty of talent on the roster given how well he's recruited and developed players. 6

    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    6. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

    Career record: 58-11
    It's hard to believe that Florida State is the only head-coaching gig Fisher has ever held, as he's quickly returned the Seminoles to glory. Life after Jameis Winston will be interesting to navigate, but Fisher has proven he knows how to win games and there certainly will be plenty of talent on the roster given how well he's recruited and developed players.

  • <b>Career record: 75-31</b><br />Michigan State had experienced some success prior to Dantonio taking over, but few could have imagined the run of sustained excellence he has brought to East Lansing since being hired. In addition to leading the Spartans to their first Rose Bowl win in more than 25 years, he's continued to churn out great players and produces one of the stingiest defenses in the country on an annual basis. Expect him to remain a thorn in the side of Urban Meyer and the rest of the Big Ten. 5

    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    5. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

    Career record: 75-31
    Michigan State had experienced some success prior to Dantonio taking over, but few could have imagined the run of sustained excellence he has brought to East Lansing since being hired. In addition to leading the Spartans to their first Rose Bowl win in more than 25 years, he's continued to churn out great players and produces one of the stingiest defenses in the country on an annual basis. Expect him to remain a thorn in the side of Urban Meyer and the rest of the Big Ten.

  • <b>Career record: 132-45</b><br />Patterson is a defensive wizard and has returned the Horned Frogs to college football's elite ranks after a breakout 2014 campaign that saw them come oh so close to the inaugural College Football Playoff. That he's found success as TCU head coach in three different conferences is impressive, and he deserves plenty of credit for leading the program to a Power Five league and helping upgrade facilities on campus. 4

    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    4. Gary Patterson, TCU

    Career record: 132-45
    Patterson is a defensive wizard and has returned the Horned Frogs to college football's elite ranks after a breakout 2014 campaign that saw them come oh so close to the inaugural College Football Playoff. That he's found success as TCU head coach in three different conferences is impressive, and he deserves plenty of credit for leading the program to a Power Five league and helping upgrade facilities on campus.

  • <b>Career record: 89-62</b><br />What Briles has accomplished in turning around two programs (Houston and Baylor) has not gone unnoticed and is even more incredible when you consider where each team was before he was hired. His high-flying offense produced a Heisman Trophy winner (Robert Griffin III), but capturing back-to-back Big 12 titles with the Bears earns him a spot high on this list. Briles finds a way to pick opponents apart. He has brought plenty of moxie and swagger to the Bears' program, too. 3

    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    3. Art Briles, Baylor

    Career record: 89-62
    What Briles has accomplished in turning around two programs (Houston and Baylor) has not gone unnoticed and is even more incredible when you consider where each team was before he was hired. His high-flying offense produced a Heisman Trophy winner (Robert Griffin III), but capturing back-to-back Big 12 titles with the Bears earns him a spot high on this list. Briles finds a way to pick opponents apart. He has brought plenty of moxie and swagger to the Bears' program, too.

  • <b>Career record: 177-59-1</b><br />Long the gold standard when it comes to winning, Saban is still one of the best there is in the college game and could be credited with raising the standards of other programs as they look to compete with the Crimson Tide. He has turned Tuscaloosa into an NFL factory and, judging by the incoming talent, will continue to field a top-tier team for years to come. In today's offensive era, the defensive-minded coach has his work cut out for him, but seems more than capable of continuing to compete for championships. 2

    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    2. Nick Saban, Alabama

    Career record: 177-59-1
    Long the gold standard when it comes to winning, Saban is still one of the best there is in the college game and could be credited with raising the standards of other programs as they look to compete with the Crimson Tide. He has turned Tuscaloosa into an NFL factory and, judging by the incoming talent, will continue to field a top-tier team for years to come. In today's offensive era, the defensive-minded coach has his work cut out for him, but seems more than capable of continuing to compete for championships.

  • <b>Career record: 142-26</b><br />There's a new king of the mountain. After guiding Ohio State to a national title (his third as a head coach), it was an easy choice to move Meyer past his rival in Saban. Meyer did a masterful job dealing with two quarterback injuries last season, and surely has some sort of plan for the Buckeyes' QB triumvirate this year. He's still undefeated in the Big Ten regular season, and is an impressive 9-2 in bowl games. 1

    Sharon Ellman/Associated Press

    1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State

    Career record: 142-26
    There's a new king of the mountain. After guiding Ohio State to a national title (his third as a head coach), it was an easy choice to move Meyer past his rival in Saban. Meyer did a masterful job dealing with two quarterback injuries last season, and surely has some sort of plan for the Buckeyes' QB triumvirate this year. He's still undefeated in the Big Ten regular season, and is an impressive 9-2 in bowl games.

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