It shouldn’t be a surprise that Texas’ coach is the most-difficult one to rank in our 2021 Big 12 coach rankings.
Steve Sarkisian returns to the head coaching ranks, and he has prior coaching experience at Washington and USC. He won the Broyles Award as Alabama’s offensive coordinator in 2020, but we’re going to make him earn it.
Former Texas coach Tom Herman was ranked in our top 25 every year from 2015-20, and that included his final season at Houston. We’ll start Sarkisian out at No. 40 in our 1-130 rankings and No. 5 in our Big 12 rankings.
What does the rest of the conference look like? Four coaches made our Top 25 list, and that included a newcomer in the top 10. The list still starts with Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, and that is the coach Sarkisian needs to worry about catching up to the most.
Here’s a deeper look at our Big 12 coach rankings (overall FBS record in parentheses):
2021 Big 12 coach rankings
|2||Matt Campbell||Iowa State||71||43||.623||9|
|3||Mike Gundy||Oklahoma State||137||67||.672||18|
|6||Neal Brown||West Virginia||46||27||.630||41|
|8||Chris Klieman||Kansas State||12||11||.522||48|
|9||Matt Wells||Texas Tech||52||48||.520||67|
— Riley maintained his spot at No. 3 on our 1-130 rankings, and he’s joined in the top 10 by Iowa State’s Matt Campbell. Other Big 12 coaches that have been in our top 10 since 2015 include Herman, Gary Patterson, Mike Gundy, Art Briles and Bill Snyder. Patterson and Gundy are the only ones still at their respective schools. Campbell will have to deliver on high expectations in Ames in 2021.
— Speaking of Gundy and Patterson, they maintained their spots in the Top 25. Both face varying levels of pressure heading into this season. Gundy actually has a better record than Campbell the past three seasons, but a six-game losing streak in Bedlam hangs over the Cowboys. Patterson is just 18-19 the last three seasons with the Horned Frogs. The longevity of both coaches is impressive, but there are some solid coaches in the middle of the conference.
— Will West Virginia break through with Neal Brown this season? The Mountaineers are 7-10 in Big 12 play the last two seasons, and that includes a 2-7 record against Top 25 teams. Brown’s work at Troy still resonates, but he is a coach to keep a close watch on.
— Our panel liked new Kansas coach Lance Leipold a lot. He won six Division III national championships and led Buffalo to a pair of bowl wins the last two seasons. Here is the bad news. Kansas is 21-108 since 2010. Leipold faces his biggest challenge yet with the Jayhawks.