While college football has become more national and realignment has shaken up the landscape, nothing will ever eliminate the angry, regionalized, conference-vs.-conference arguments that often dominate the sport.
The past decade has seen the SEC reign supreme more often than not, but three of the past four national titles have been won by the ACC and Big Ten, which have at least come close to evening the playing field thanks to some inspired coaching hires. So which conference has the best current roster of coaches? Coaching is cyclical, and this list could look a lot different in a year or two, but let's rank all 10 FBS leagues based on which rosters of coaches are best right now, taking into account talent at the top and overall depth. Also check out our guides to which coaches are under the most pressure and which ones are on the rise.
National champions: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State (1); Dabo Swinney, Clemson (1)
Decade-plus tenures: David Cutcliffe, Duke (10th year); Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech (10th); Dabo Swinney, Clemson (10th)
First-year coaches: None
After Les Miles' ouster from LSU and Clemson's win over Alabama, the ACC is the only conference that has two national championship coaches, Fisher and Swinney. While several key quarterbacks must be replaced this year, life is good in the conference, and not just because it has two recent champions and the Heisman winner in the Atlantic Division. The league has made a series of smart coaching hires in recent years, improving the quality of the conference as a whole with established, experienced head coaches, even if there's still an imbalance toward the top of the Atlantic.
Virginia Tech hit a home run with Justin Fuente, Mark Richt has Miami on the right track, North Carolina's Larry Fedora produced the school's first top-25 season since 1997, Dino Babers could reinvigorate Syracuse, Virginia made a surprise move in landing Bronco Mendenhall and Pitt's coaching uncertainty seems to have settled down with Pat Narduzzi. Plus, Cutcliffe and Johnson have had some big years at their schools, and Bobby Petrino's coaching ability is obvious, even if there were personal questions about Louisville bringing him back. N.C. State's Dave Doeren and Boston College's Steve Addazio are on the hot seat, but overall this is a quality group that's been much improved in recent years, especially as Swinney has emerged as a coaching star who has reinvented Clemson as a powerhouse. Twelve of the 14 coaches -- everyone but Addazio and Narduzzi -- have had at least one 10-win season as an FBS head coach, so the ACC checks a lot of boxes in terms of coaching talent at the top, depth and experience.
2. Big Ten
National champions: Urban Meyer, Ohio State (3)
Decade-plus tenures: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa (19th year); Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern (12th); Mark Dantonio, Michigan State (11th)
First-year coaches: Tom Allen, Indiana; Jeff Brohm, Purdue; P.J. Fleck, Minnesota
It was still only six years ago that Michigan-Ohio State featured Brady Hoke vs. Luke Fickell, in his interim season. While the bottom of the league still has problems and the West Division could really use a return to glory from Nebraska, there's no doubt that the Big Ten has bounced back from the nadir it hit around the beginning of this decade. Meyer and Jim Harbaugh are now battling in a reinvigorated Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, even if Harbaugh is still searching for his first win in the series and his first division title. After two years of struggles, James Franklin turned Penn State around in Year 3, and that's after he won at Vanderbilt like nobody has won at Vandy. And while Michigan State is coming off a horrific year, Mark Dantonio is still responsible for a golden age of Spartans football that featured three straight AP top six finishes from 2013-15.
Early returns from D.J. Durkin at Maryland have also been positive, giving the East Division in particular a ton of coaching talent. The West has solid coaches who have tasted varying levels of success -- Paul Chryst, Mike Riley, Ferentz, Fitzgerald, Lovie Smith -- and a pair of intriguing rising stars in Brohm and Fleck. The Big Ten therefore has one of the greatest coaches of all time in Meyer, a re-energized Michigan under Harbaugh, a group of proven coaches and solid depth, including some exciting new hires. This is the best the Big Ten has looked in more than a decade.
National champions: Nick Saban, Alabama (5)
Decade-plus tenures: Nick Saban, Alabama (11th year)
First-year coaches: Ed Orgeron, LSU (first full year)
Maybe Saban alone should push the SEC to the top of this list. After all, he's arguably the greatest coach ever, with five national titles to his credit. (Only four other active college head coaches even have one championship.) But whereas the SEC's coaching lineup looked spectacular only a few years ago, the combination of Saban's dominance, the inconsistency of everyone else and the addition of some unproven hires has cast this coaching roster in a different light.
Previously seen as rising stars, coaches like Gus Malzahn, Kevin Sumlin and Butch Jones are now met with skepticism as they try to shake off hot-seat talk, which basically everybody but Saban has had to do. Hugh Freeze had two of Ole Miss' best seasons in the past few decades, but now his program is embroiled in an NCAA scandal. Jim McElwain is 2-for-2 winning the SEC East at Florida, but he's yet to fix the Gators' offensive woes. Kirby Smart had a forgettable Year 1 at Georgia, his only year as a head coach. Will Muschamp and Ed Orgeron may be evolving as coaches, but they've already been fired by other SEC schools before. Bret Bielema's results at Arkansas aren't in the same stratosphere as what he achieved at Wisconsin. It's possible that Dan Mullen is the second-best coach in the league, but he's stuck with a lower ceiling at Mississippi State with two top-25 teams in eight years. There is plenty of coaching talent in the conferences, but it appears to be a coaching roster in transition, and Saban keeps making everyone else look worse.
4. Big 12
National champions: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma (1)
Decade-plus tenures: Bill Snyder, Kansas State (26th year); Bob Stoops, Oklahoma (19th), Gary Patterson, TCU (17th); Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State (13th);
First-year coaches: Tom Herman, Texas; Matt Rhule, Baylor
Counting Bill Snyder's two separate stints as coach at Kansas State, four of the Big 12's 10 coaches have been at their schools at least 10 years. Meanwhile, league power Texas has its third coach in five seasons now that Herman has replaced Charlie Strong, after the long-term stability of the Mack Brown era. The arrival of Herman has the potential to be a significant boost, and Baylor couldn't have done better than landing Matt Rhule, who had unprecedented success at Temple. Signs are positive for Matt Campbell at Iowa State, too. That makes this a respectable group, when added to the success of Stoops, Gundy and Patterson, plus the fact that Snyder is still effective at age 77.
Dana Holgorsen's 10-win season at West Virginia last year took him off the hot seat, meaning the only coach under significant pressure at the moment is Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury. Kansas' David Beaty remains a relative unknown. There appears to be improvement in the conference, although no head coach has played for a national title since Stoops in 2008, let alone won one since Stoops way back in 2000.
National champions: None
Decade-plus tenures: Kyle Whittingham, Utah (13th year)
First-year coaches: Willie Taggart, Oregon; Justin Wilcox, California
Like the SEC, the Pac-12 has undergone a narrative shift among coaches in recent years. Sonny Dykes is gone from Cal, Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich are gone from Oregon and Arizona's Rich Rodriguez, Arizona State's Todd Graham and UCLA's Jim Mora are all under fire. The obvious star in the league is Washington's Chris Petersen, who did unbelievable things at Boise State and has now taken the Huskies from prolonged mediocrity to the top of the conference and to the playoff. David Shaw is widely respected at Stanford, Mike Leach is doing Mike Leach things at Washington State, Mike MacIntyre just turned Colorado around and Taggart could prove to be a good fit for Oregon. Throw in the consistent success of Whittingham at Utah, and there is coaching talent here. The conference's most high-profile gig, USC, continues to have some mystery around it, but Clay Helton did a phenomenal job once October began in his first full season.
However, the Pac-12 is the only Power Five league that does not have a national title-winning coach. In fact, none of the 12 have been a head coach in a national title game, now that Helfrich is out. Petersen is arguably one of the five best coaches in the country, but with a handful of coaches losing their jobs or now being on the hot seat, depth isn't what it once was.
6. The American
National champions: None
Decade-plus tenures: Ken Niumatalolo, Navy (10th year)
First-year coaches: Major Applewhite, Houston; Geoff Collins, Temple; Luke Fickell, Cincinnati; Charlie Strong, South Florida
Current coaches at Texas, Oregon and Baylor all coached in the American last year, so the conference has certainly taken a hit. After all, Niumatalolo is the only coach who's been at his school longer than two seasons. The AAC has become the prime target of Power Five programs for rising star coaches, thus thinning the roster of proven talent. Niumatalolo is a phenomenal coach, however, and new standouts will emerge, beginning with Memphis' Mike Norvell, UCF's Scott Frost, SMU's Chad Morris and Tulsa's Philip Montgomery. While he failed at Texas, Strong was a great get for USF. Also keep an eye on Tulane's Willie Fritz, who built an explosive ground attack at Georgia Southern.
7. Mountain West
National champions: None
Decade-plus tenures: Troy Calhoun, Air Force (11th year)
First-year coaches: Brent Brennan, San Jose State; Jay Norvell, Nevada; Jeff Tedford, Fresno State
Hawaii, San Jose State, Nevada and Fresno State have all made switches in the past two years, giving the West Division a totally different look beyond San Diego State's Rocky Long. (UNLV's Tony Sanchez was coaching high school football three years ago.) Tedford, of course, is a familiar face thanks to his time at Cal. The Mountain Division features an intriguing collection of coaches. Calhoun is underappreciated nationally. Boise State's Bryan Harsin and Colorado State's Mike Bobo could be destined for bigger things. Wyoming's Craig Bohl won FCS national titles at North Dakota State. New Mexico's Bob Davie has done a terrific job in his return to coaching. And Utah State's Matt Wells was beginning to become a hot name before a downturn.
8. Conference USA
National champions: None
Decade-plus tenures: Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee (12th year); David Bailiff, Rice (11th)
First-year coaches: Butch Davis, Florida International; Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic; Mike Sanford, Western Kentucky
Conference USA actually had a national championship head coach in UTSA's Larry Coker, but he's gone. It does have a national championship former offensive coordinator in Kiffin, whose arrival with Davis at FIU adds a ton of intrigue to the East Division of this conference, which has lost a lot of luster through realignment. Conference USA has four coaches (Stockstill, Bailiff, Davis and Marshall's Doc Holliday) who are 59 or older, and it also has two coaches under 40 in Sanford and North Texas' Seth Littrell. It's an interesting group, which also includes Skip Holtz doing a terrific job at Louisiana Tech and Bobby Wilder successfully guiding Old Dominion to the FBS. Sanford, Littrell and UTSA's Frank Wilson (and, of course, Kiffin) should all be watched for bigger things.
9. Sun Belt
National champions: None
Decade-plus tenures: None
First-year coaches: Shawn Elliott, Georgia State
The Sun Belt has perhaps the most interesting story among FBS coaches in Joe Moglia, the 68-year-old former CEO of TD Ameritrade who has guided Coastal Carolina to the FBS after four straight FCS playoff appearances. There are otherwise no widely known stars, but Appalachian State (Scott Satterfield), Troy (Neal Brown), Arkansas State (Blake Anderson) and South Alabama (Joey Jones) in particular have coaches on the rise, and UL Lafayette's Mark Hudspeth had four straight 9-4 seasons before a pair of losing records the past two seasons.
National champions: None
Decade-plus tenures: Frank Solich, Ohio (13th year)
First-year coaches: Tim Lester, Western Michigan
Solich and Akron's Terry Bowden are known names because of their previous power conference jobs, but otherwise this has become a rather anonymous group, especially with coaches like P.J. Fleck, Dino Babers and Matt Campbell moving on in the past two years. Look out for Campbell's replacement, Jason Candle, at Toledo, and former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin could start turning heads at Miami (Ohio) after the Red Hawks went from an 0-6 start last year to 6-6 and bowl game. Six-time Division III national champion Lance Leipold is just 7-17 thus far at Buffalo, and after losing Jerry Kill and Dave Doeren to bigger jobs, Northern Illinois has been trending downward under Rod Carey.