Nick Saban or Kirby Smart?
Who you taking?
One is considered the greatest college football coach of all time. The other enters the upcoming season in search of his third straight College Football Playoff national championship.
The Sporting News’ Bill Bender tackled the question this week when it released its ranking of 133 college coaches for the 2023 season.
He admits it is the first time in years there has been a “legitimate debate” on the top spot.
First, here are criteria used for the list:
Some coaches in the SEC dropped from last year, including Missouri’s Eli Drinkwitz and Florida’s Billy Napier. Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin, Mark Stoops of Kentucky and Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher also slid.
On the other hand, Auburn’s Hugh Freeze and Tennessee’s Josh Heupel are moving up.
Now, here are some notables on the list with current rankings and last year’s ranking in parenthesis:
130. Trent Dilfer, UAB, (NR)
85. Kane Wommack, South Alabama (110)
73. Jon Sumrall, Troy (112)
71. Zach Arnett, Mississippi State (NR)
64. Clark Lea, Vanderbilt (76)
59. Deion Sanders, Colorado (59)
47. Eli Drinkwitz, Missouri (36)
45. Billy Napier, Florida (32)
42. Brent Venables, Oklahoma (49)
41. Steve Sarkisian, Texas (41)
38. Hugh Freeze, Auburn (50)
32. Shane Beamer, South Carolina (33)
29. Gus Malzahn, UCF (45)
28. Sam Pittman, Arkansas (28)
20. Lane Kiffin (16)
16. Mark Stoops (14)
14. Jimbo Fisher (8)
10. Josh Heupel (27)
6. Brian Kelly (6)
As far as the top spots?
There is really no reason given as to why Smart remains No. 2. In fact, the report cites Georgia with a better winning percentage over the past three years.
However, The Sporting News writes, “Alabama has gone two seasons without a national championship, and any perceived panic speaks to the ultimate standard Saban has set in Tuscaloosa.” It also states Alabama is the only school with a winning percentage above .900 in the CFP era.
Read The Sporting News for the full list here.
Mark Heim is a reporter for The Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Mark_Heim. He can be heard on “The Opening Kickoff” on WNSP-FM 105.5 FM in Mobile or on the free Sound of Music App from 6 to 9 a.m. daily.
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