Ranking the MW coaches 2012

Mountain West coach rankings: Boise State's Chris Petersen reigns supreme

PUBLISHED 5 hours and 30 minutes ago

LAST UPDATED 1 hour and 27 minutes ago

Steve GreenbergSporting News Text sizeAAA Chris Petersen's sterling record at Boise State makes him the cream of the crop among Mountain West coaches. In our ongoing series, we rank the MWC coaches 1-10.
  • Overview

    Sporting News is in the process of unveiling its rankings of all 124 FBS head coaches. The rankings are being rolled out by conference; on the last day, we’ll present our overall 1-124 list.

    On Day 3 of this series, we bow down at the Chris Petersen altar, which is to say it’s time to sort through the program heads above the Mountain West. And what a barely recognizable conference it is, and will continue to be: Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada are in; and San Diego State and, yes, Petersen’s Boise State have one more season before they’re out.

    But football is football, and coaches are coaches, so away we go with the MWC:

  • Chris PetersenChris Petersen (AP Photo)

    1. Chris Petersen, Boise State

    Age: 47
    2011 record: 12-1, 6-1 MWC
    At Boise State (6 years): 73-6
    FBS career: Same

    Take a moment to drink in the numbers above, will you? No, really. Do it.

    Done? OK. We don’t need to tell you why Petersen reigns supreme, but our many conversations with coaches and other experts were nonetheless insightful.

    “Petersen’s practices are well-organized,” said ESPN analyst Rod Gilmore, who has seen the Broncos up close more than most, “and he finds a role for almost every player in his game plans, which is unusual. I really admire that and his loyalty to the place that made him a head coach.”

    A fellow FBS coach got right to it: “He just keeps winning no matter what.”

    We’ll see what Petersen can do without Kellen Moore in 2012. Our guess: fall short of 12 wins for only the second time. Because 11 wins is just plain terrible.

    Trending: Up? It’s hard to see how this man’s reputation could get any better, but anything other than “up” offends the senses.

  • Chris AultChris Ault (AP Photo)

    2. Chris Ault, Nevada

    Age: 65
    2011 record: 7-6, 5-2 WAC
    At Nevada (27 years): 226-103-1
    FBS career (8 years): 63-40

    Petersen is a carpet-bagger compared with Ault, who expertly piloted the Nevada program through multiple rises in altitude. The record since the Wolf Pack went FBS is sterling. Ault’s team won 13 games in 2010—that’s not easy.

    Trending: Flat, we suppose. Anyone who has paid attention already knows how worthy Ault is of our utmost respect.

  • Troy CalhounTroy Calhoun (AP Photo)

    3. Troy Calhoun, Air Force

    Age: 45
    2011 record: 7-6, 3-4 MWC
    At Air Force (5 years): 41-24
    FBS career: Same

    Buckle your seat belts, because this is going to be big news: Air Force likes to run the ball. But is averaging over 300 yards on the ground ever easy? Even last season when the Falcons weren’t so hot, they finished third nationally in rushing at 314.8. That takes incredible discipline. Calhoun’s consistency in Colorado Springs is duly noted here.

    “Air Force does more with less,” a fellow FBS coach said.

    As a general rule with Calhoun, that’s true. It’s a real compliment.

    Trending: Flat. The Falcons dropped from nine wins in 2010 to seven in 2011, but we’re not noting that as meaningful.

  • Dave ChristensenDave Christensen (AP Photo)

    4. Dave Christensen, Wyoming

    Age: 51
    2011 record: 8-5, 5-2 MWC
    At Wyoming (3 years): 18-20
    FBS career: Same

    He’s a bit below .500 overall in Laramie, but two of his three seasons have been big successes. Gary Pinkel’s longtime wingman knows offense far better than most. The 2011 Cowboys offense—though no one mistook it for one of the ever-productive Missouri units Christensen coordinated—improved by more than 100 yards per game over 2010.

    Trending: Up. This guy’s got the goods.

  • Jim McElwainJim McElwain (AP Photo)

    5. Jim McElwain, Colorado State

    Age: 50
    2011: Alabama offensive coordinator
    At Wyoming: First year
    FBS career: Same

    If McElwain could sneak Trent Richardson, Julio Jones and AJ McCarron into Rams uniforms, he surely would. But now is his chance to show he doesn’t need five-star recruits—or Nick Saban—to succeed. CSU hasn’t won a game since last September. This is a big rebuilding job, no doubt, but McElwain has the tools to get it done.

    Trending: Up. We walked off the field with him after the BCS title game in New Orleans. He was as happy about the next phase of his life as he was about the phase that had just ended.

  • Rocky LongRocky Long (AP Photo)

    6. Rocky Long, San Diego State

    Age: 62
    2011 record: 8-5, 4-3 MWC
    At San Diego State: (1 year): 8-5
    FBS career (12 years): 73-74

    The high point of Long’s career came from 2002-04, when his New Mexico teams finished in second place at 5-2 in the MWC three consecutive seasons. That was back when Urban Meyer and Utah ruled the roost, so second place was really good. But Long has yet to have a true breakthrough season in his career; he has reached nine wins only once. Will he be the right coach to lead the Aztecs into the Big East in 2013?

    Trending: Flat. Long is a solid, if not especially dynamic, coach.

  • Norm ChowNorm Chow (AP Photo)

    7. Norm Chow, Hawaii

    Age: 65
    2011: Utah offensive coordinator
    At Hawaii: First year
    FBS career: Same

    Chow, who turns 66 on Saturday, has had a fascinating career—the long run at BYU, the sustained excellence at USC, the toe-dip into the NFL pool, the bad run at UCLA, and last season’s return to Utah, his alma mater. All of this coming as an assistant coach. Is Chow head coaching material? You never know for sure until a guy gets that chance.

    Trending: Down. Not a lot of glory for Chow since he left Troy following quarterback Matt Leinart’s Heisman Trophy season of 2004. Perhaps he has lost his touch. It would be nice to see him prove otherwise.

  • Bob DavieBob Davie (AP Photo)

    8. Bob Davie, New Mexico

    Age: 57
    2011: ESPN analyst
    At New Mexico: First year
    FBS career (5 years): 35-25

    Are we just flat-out wrong to rank Davie—who hasn’t coached since 2001—ahead of anyone on this list? He was neither good enough nor truly terrible at Notre Dame, though he probably came closer to the latter description. But age and perspective, as well as the nearly nonstop exposure to other coaching staffs that came with his TV job, may have made him quite a bit better.

    Trending: Up. Hey, he’s on the coaching map again.

  • Tim DeRuyterTim DeRuyter (AP Photo)

    9. Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State

    Age: 49
    2011 record: Texas A&M defensive coordinator and interim coach
    At Fresno State: First year
    FBS career: 1-0

    His defenses at Texas A&M were strong against the run, but they had a way of not coming through in the clutch—that concerns us. DeRuyter should be very comfortable in this neck of the woods, though; he played at Fresno State and coached there as well as at Nevada.

    Trending: Up. No one will ever be able to take that Meineke Car Care Bowl win over Northwestern away from him.

  • Bobby HauckBobby Hauck (AP Photo)

    10. Bobby Hauck, UNLV

    Age: 47
    2011 record: 2-10, 1-6 MWC
    At UNLV (2 years): 4-21
    FBS career: Same

    Such great success Hauck had at Montana, where his teams were 80-17 and reached the FCS title game in 2008 and ’09. So what has gone wrong in Vegas? Everything. Each of the past two seasons, the Rebels ranked in the 100s nationally in both offense and defense. We get the idea that Hauck is trying to tear everything down in order to build it back up a certain way, but that doesn’t excuse you for being utterly inept at football in the meantime.

    Down. If only there were a No. 11 in this league.

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