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August 30, 2011

Preseason top 20: Head coaches

We finished our player rankings with all the quarterbacks Monday, so naturally we've moved on to coaches.

Today, we rank the top 20 head coaches. Wednesday, we'll look at the top 20 defensive coordinators and top 20 offensive coordinators.

20. Randy Edsall, Maryland
THE BUZZ: Edsall, who turned 53 on Aug. 27, is heading into his first season with the Terps. His teams aren't flashy, but they generally win. He is coming off a run at Connecticut that included a BCS appearance.

19. Mark Richt, Georgia
THE BUZZ: Richt, 51, is the longest-tenured coach in the SEC. He sits on the hot seat after two seasons of falling short of expectations. But his body of work with the Bulldogs remains impressive.

18. Gary Pinkel, Missouri
THE BUZZ: Pinkel, 59, is heading into 11th season at Mizzou. A sign of how far the Tigers have come in his tenure: In the past, losing a starting quarterback meant starting over for the Tigers. Now it means reloading instead of rebuilding.

17. Mike Riley, Oregon State
THE BUZZ: Riley, 58, played cornerback for Bear Bryant at Alabama from 1971-74. He has enjoyed success in his two stops at Oregon State sandwiched around a stint as coach of the San Diego Chargers.

16. June Jones, SMU
THE BUZZ: Jones, 58, took Hawaii to a BCS game and has turned around SMU's football fortunes, as well. He remains a proponent of the run-and-shoot offense.

15. Gene Chizik, Auburn
THE BUZZ: Chizik, 49, guided the Tigers to the national title last season, his second at Auburn. He was a somewhat-controversial choice when he was hired at Auburn because of a 5-19 mark in two seasons at Iowa State, but that criticism has gone away.

14. Les Miles, LSU
THE BUZZ: Miles, 57, has been the butt of more than a few jokes, but he also has guided the Tigers to a national title and has had four 11-win seasons in his seven years at the school.

13. Kyle Whittingham, Utah
THE BUZZ: Whittingham, 51, took over as the Utes' coach when Urban Meyer left for Florida after the 2004 season. Whittingham has kept the Utes in the national spotlight and this season will oversee a new member of the Pac-12.

12. Bobby Petrino, Arkansas
THE BUZZ: Petrino, 50, enjoyed great success at Louisville before an ill-advised move to the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. His wins total at Arkansas has gone from five to eight to 10 last season, and the Hogs would've been a dark-horse title contender this season before losing star TB Knile Davis to a season-ending injury during fall camp.

11. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
THE BUZZ: Ferentz, 56, is a former NFL offensive line coach. Not surprisingly, he likes to win games with his rushing attack. Iowa also places a premium on solid defense.

10. Bret Bielema, Wisconsin
THE BUZZ: Bielema, 41, is the youngest coach on our list. He has kept Wisconsin at or near the top of the Big Ten after succeeding Barry Alvarez.

9. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
THE BUZZ: Kelly, 49, has been a winner everywhere he has been. He won two Division II national titles at Grand Valley State (Mich.). He won the MAC at Central Michigan. He took Cincinnati to the BCS. And going into his second season at Notre Dame, he has the Irish trending up.

8. Mack Brown, Texas
THE BUZZ: Brown, who turned 60 on Aug. 27, has enjoyed great success at Texas. But last season's disappointing 5-7 record led to a shakeup of his coaching staff. In 26 seasons as a FBS head coach, he has had 12 seasons with at least 10 victories and 16 with at least nine. Last season's was his first losing record since 1989, when he was at North Carolina.

7. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
THE BUZZ: Spurrier, 66, changed SEC offenses upon his arrival at Florida in 1990. Now, with top-level talent at South Carolina, he is making waves with the Gamecocks.

6. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
THE BUZZ: Beamer, 64, has become an institution in Blacksburg. The lack of a national title is the only thing missing from his resume.

5. Chip Kelly, Oregon
THE BUZZ: Kelly, 48, might be the best offensive mind in the nation. And just think: Five years ago, he was the offensive coordinator at New Hampshire.

4. Chris Petersen, Boise State
THE BUZZ: Petersen, 46, took over a solid program and has taken it to new heights. Boise State " which was a I-AA program until 1995 " in a BCS game? It has happened twice under Petersen.

3. Gary Patterson, TCU
THE BUZZ: Patterson, 51, has taken TCU to heights the school hadn't reached since the 1930s. He is one of the nation's brightest defensive minds. In 11 seasons at the school, he has won at least 11 games six times.

2. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
THE BUZZ: Stoops, who turns 51 on Sept. 9, has had eight top-10 finishes in his 12 seasons with the Sooners, including a national title in 2000.

1. Nick Saban, Alabama
THE BUZZ: Saban, who turns 60 on Halloween, has won national titles at LSU and Alabama, and he and Bear Bryant are the only two coaches to win SEC titles at two schools.

Rankings and player capsules compiled by Olin Buchanan, Tom Dienhart, David Fox, Mike Huguenin and Steve Megargee.

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