Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

CBS poll: Paul Johnson among top 25 coaches, Kirby Smart only ... 54th


Offseason college football rankings are created primarily for our amusement and not to be confused with anything resembling, well, overly scientific. Along those lines, a ranking of Power 5 conference coaches is equally subjective and often just as silly because they can dramatically change from one year to the next, based on players (as a general rule, great coaches don't get stupid the next year).

With that, I present to you the CBS Sports' ranking of major college football coaches entering the 2017 season.

Georgia Tech fans: Enjoy.

Georgia fans: Cover your eyes.

Five CBS Sports.com writers voted in the poll. The top five choices were: Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Dabo Swinney, Jimbo Fisher, Jim Harbaugh. Some might find a way to debate a few of those, but there's certainly a strong argument for that order.

Now, here's where the fun starts.

• Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson is ranked 24th. The CBS commentary: "When you're running an option offense in a Power Five conference, there's going to be variance. We saw that with Georgia Tech's 3-9 record in 2015, but the Jackets bounced back to go 9-4 last season. Johnson's reputation in these rankings did as well."

• Georgia coach Kirby Smart did not make the top 25. Nor was he close. The Bulldogs' coach was slotted at No. 54 after going 8-5 in his first season, down four spots from where he had been ranked before the year. From the website: "Smart was ranked rather highly last year for someone who had never been a head coach before, but he had that Saban sheen. Seems some of it wore off over what was generally considered a disappointing 8-5 season in Athens."

Smart is listed in the rankings behind Vanderbilt coach Derrick Mason (53), Tennessee coach Butch Jones (52), Syracuse coach Dino Babers (51) and Boston College coach Steve Addazio (50). He's also way behind Will Muschamp (37). And Ed Orgeron (48).

He is ranked only 12th among SEC coaches, ahead of only Kentucky's Mike Stoops and Missouri's Barry Odom.

Talk about humbling.

I have no problem with Johnson's ranking. I've always believed he was an excellent coach. That will irritate Georgia fans who hate anything with the words "Georgia Tech" in it. It will be dismissed by those who simply don't like the option offense -- or Johnson's shoot-from-the-lip attitude. But given the resources available to him and Tech's academic restrictions in a vastly improved conference, Johnson has earned that top 25 spot.

As for Smart, his first season as a head coach exposed flaws. The team took a step back last year, even if ultimately, he's going to be judged on where he takes the program. Georgia has a chance to be pretty good this season -- not sure how many times I've typed those words before -- if the Bulldogs turn into the program Georgia envisioned when he was hired, everybody can point to the fact that Saban struggled out of the gate at Alabama.

But Smart has a long way to go to prove his worth.

Notable: Former Georgia coach Mark Richt, now in Miami, is ranked 15th, 39 spots higher than Smart.

Also notable: The ACC has six coaches listed in the top 25, the SEC four.

Here are the SEC coaches in the rankings.

  • 1-Nick Saban (Alabama)
  • 19-Gus Malzahn (Auburn)
  • 21-Dan Mullen (Mississippi State)
  • 23-Jim McElwain (Florida)
  • 27-Bret Bielema (Arkansas)
  • 33-Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss)
  • 37-Will Muschamp (South Carolina)
  • 40-Kevin Sumlin Texas A&M)
  • 48-Ed Orgeron (LSU)
  • 52-Butch Jones (Tennessee)
  • 53-Derek Mason (Vanderbilt)
  • 54-Kirby Smart (Georgia)
  • 56-Mark Stoops (Kentucky)
  • 62-Barry Odom (Missouri)

Here are the ACC coaches in the rankings:

  • 3-Dabo Swinney (Clemson)
  • 4-Jimbo Fisher (Florida State)
  • 13-Bobby Petrino (Louisville)
  • 15-Mark Richt (Miami)
  • 17-David Cutcliffe (Duke)
  • 24-Paul Johnson (Georgia Tech)
  • 26-Larry Fedora (North Carolina)
  • 32-Bronco Mendenhall (Virginia)
  • 34-Justin Fuente (Virginia Tech)
  • 43-Pat Narduzzi (Pittsburgh)
  • 46-Dave Clawson (Wake Forest)
  • 50-Steve Addazio (Boston College)
  • 51-Dino Babers (Syracuse)
  • 59-Dave Doeren (North Carolina State)

Feel free to debate.

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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.