Athlon ranks the Pac-12 coaches

Lists are fun. They move debate and give fans something to talk about in the offseason.

One annual list that always seems to spark some heated conversations is the Athlon Sports rankings of Pac-12 coaches.

Some very interesting moves compared to last year's list, which you can see here.

The Athlon folks rank them 1-12 using this criteria:

Many factors play into just how successful a coach is at any school. How well are the assistants paid? Are the facilities up to par with the rest of the conference? Can the coach recruit or is he more of an X's and O's manager? Are there off-the-field or age issues to take into consideration? Has a coach built a program or continued the success from a previous coach? How is the resume outside of their current position? These questions and more were posed to the editors at Athlon Sports, as they were asked to rank the coaches of each of the six BCS conferences. One thing to keep in mind - the record is not always indicative of where a coach should rank in a conference.

Here are their rankings:

  1. David Shaw, Stanford

  2. Mike Riley, Oregon State

  3. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona

  4. Todd Graham, Arizona State

  5. Mike Leach, Washington State

  6. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado

  7. Steve Sarkisian, Washington

  8. Jim Mora, UCLA

  9. Kyle Whittingham, Utah

  10. Sonny Dykes, California

  11. Lane Kiffin, USC

  12. Mark Helfrich, Oregon

Some thoughts:

  • Mora is way too low. We can only evaluate him on one season as a college coach, but Mora beat two of those South coaches ranked ahead of him and won the division in his first year. And given the way he's recruited so far, he doesn't seem to be a one-year anomaly. The Athlon folks take assistants into consideration -- and the UCLA coordinating duo of Noel Mazzone and Lou Spanos is one of the best in the league. Based on what we've seen so far, I'd probably have Mora at No. 3 with the Arizona coaches behind him. Though I'd swap Graham and RichRod based on what happened last season.

  • No problem with Shaw at No. 1. He's been a head coach for two seasons and won coach of the year both times. Can't argue with the results. Quite the jump as well from No. 9 last season. I remember thinking that was way too low last year.

  • I also have no issues with Riley at No. 2. That's well deserved and he has the credentials to support the ranking. If I were making a list, I'd probably have Shaw and Riley at 1-2, respectively, as well.

  • MacIntyre's ranking seems generous. No doubt, what he accomplished at San Jose State was nothing short of outstanding. But the WAC is not the Pac-12. We've seen how Utah has had issues since moving from the Mountain West -- one of the reasons Whittingham dropped from No. 4 last year to No. 9 this year. And 2013 won't really be a fair gauge given the tremendous rebuilding project MacIntyre has in front of him. Granted, Lane Kiffin and the Trojans had a horrible season last year. But at least he's won double-digit games in the Pac-12 in a season. So I wouldn't have MacIntyre above him -- or Mora for that matter. MacIntyre might end up being the best hire in the league -- but I need to see him win a few games and turn things around before ranking him ahead of established coaches who have already won in the league.

  • Speaking of Kiffin, he drops from No. 2 to No. 11. That seems a little too knee-jerk. Yes, his seat is hot. Yes, a lot of what went wrong in 2012 was his fault. But he's still 25-13 in a very tough conference. I'd rank him in the six to eight range.

  • Sarkisian and Leach are the two toughest to rank. Both have outstanding credentials as offensive-minded coaches, but the Huskies can't seem to break the seven-win barrier and the Cougars offense struggled in Year 1. Expecting better from both programs in 2013.

  • Dykes and Whittingham seem to be in the right spots.

  • Helfrich at No. 12 makes sense only because he is an unknown. With no previous head-coaching experience, we can only speculate as to what we're going to get. My guess is when they do this list again next year he'll be in the top five. Chip Kelly and the school obviously have tremendous faith in him -- and that endorsement should carry a lot of weight.