USC's emergence under Carroll shows how much of a difference a coach can make. USC went 7-5 in Carroll's debut season in 2001, but the Trojans have finished among the top four teams in the season-ending Associated Press poll each of the past six seasons.
The Trojans have won at least a share of two national championships and six consecutive Pac-10 titles under Carroll. No wonder Carroll is the No. 1 coach in the Rivals.com Power Rankings, which measure the nation's top players and coaches at each position.
Carroll's two national titles carried plenty of weight in our decision. The top five coaches in our rankings have national titles on their résumés. Six of the top seven led their teams to BCS games last season.
We're introducing our preseason power rankings on a position-by-position basis. We'll continue Saturday with the introduction of our offensive coordinator rankings.
The rating of a player and coach can fluctuate each week during the season depending on how they fared the previous week, but the power rankings measure overall career performances as well as their most recent results.
THE COACH RANKINGS
1. Pete Carroll, USC The buzz: Carroll has made USC arguably the premier program in the nation. Carroll's 76-14 record in eight seasons gives him the best winning percentage of any Division I coach with at least five years' experience. He has won 74 of his past 83 games along with a share of two national titles and a record six consecutive Pac-10 championships.
2. Jim Tressel, Ohio State The buzz: Ohio State's failures in the past two BCS Championship Games shouldn't overshadow that the Buckeyes made it to the big game in the first place. Two years ago, Ohio State had to rebuild its entire defense. The Buckeyes still went 11-0 to play for the national title. Last year, the Buckeyes had an offense teeming with first-year starters. Once again, Ohio State made it to the championship game.
3. Urban Meyer, Florida The buzz: Florida is coming off a relatively disappointing season, which explains why Tressel ranks ahead of Meyer despite the Gators' one-sided victory over Ohio State in the national title game two years ago. Tim Tebow's Heisman-winning season solidified Meyer's reputation as perhaps the game's foremost offensive guru. If he can shore up his defense, Meyer might just win his second national title in three seasons.
4. Les Miles, LSU The buzz: Miles probably could filter himself better when he's speaking to the media or booster groups, but that would take away from the personality that helped make him a championship coach. LSU wouldn't have won the national title without all those fourth-down gambles last season. And the Tigers wouldn't have played for the title if Miles had allowed his players to get down on themselves after that stunning loss to Arkansas in the regular-season finale.
5. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma The buzz: Oklahoma has won at least 11 games in seven of its past eight seasons, thanks in large part to Stoops. Last season, the Sooners became the first team to win back-to-back Big 12 championships. Stoops has received criticism recently for the Sooners' bowl losses, but it's tough to argue with his regular-season results. Oklahoma has reached the BCS Championship Game three times in the past eight seasons.
6. Mark Richt, Georgia The buzz: The highest-ranking person who hasn't competed in a national title game during his head-coaching career, Richt just might get his shot at a championship this season. Richt handed over the playcalling responsibilities, got a bit more emotional on the sidelines and watched the strategy pay off last year as Georgia ended the season as the nation's hottest team. Richt's .789 winning percentage ranks fourth among active coaches.
7. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech The buzz: Penn State's Joe Paterno and Florida State's Bobby Bowden are the only Division I-A coaches with more career wins than Beamer, who owns a 209-108-4 mark in 27 years. While retirement rumors swirl about Paterno and Bowden, Beamer is going as strong as ever at 61. Virginia Tech has won at least 10 games four consecutive seasons and has won two of the past four ACC titles.
8. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest The buzz: Grobe seemingly did the impossible two years ago by leading Wake Forest to its first ACC title since 1970. He proved it wasn't a fluke last season when the Demon Deacons went 9-4 and won the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Never before had Wake Forest reached a bowl in back-to-back seasons. Wake fans should be counting their blessings that Grobe chose to stay in Winston-Salem after receiving overtures from Arkansas.
9. Tommy Tuberville, Auburn The buzz: Don't blame Tuberville that Auburn hasn't played for a national title in his tenure. Auburn didn't get a shot at the title game in 2004 despite posting a perfect record. Gripe all you want that Auburn hasn't won the SEC West often enough during the Tuberville era, but it's hard to argue with those six consecutive wins over Alabama.
10. Nick Saban, Alabama The buzz: That season-ending slide last season may have removed some of the aura surrounding Saban, but he responded to that slump by landing the nation's best recruiting class. Saban's outstanding recruiting at LSU helped the Tigers win a BCS national title in 2003. Don't be surprised if Saban's new recruits have Alabama competing for SEC championships in the next few seasons.
11. Mack Brown, Texas The buzz: Brown has a national title to his credit and has made Texas the only team in the nation to win at least nine games each of the past 10 seasons. Brown's 103-25 record at Texas gives him the best winning percentage (.805) of any coach in the Longhorns' storied history. Here's another sign of Brown's value: Brown was 54-18 in his last six years at North Carolina before coming to Texas. The Tar Heels are 47-71 in the 10 years since his departure.
12. Dennis Erickson, Arizona State The buzz: Erickson has bounced around more than just about anyone on this list, but he has won wherever he has been in the college ranks. He led Miami to two national titles, helped build Oregon State into a winner and now is well on his way to making Arizona State a national contender. The Sun Devils had some of the worst pass protection in the nation last season, yet Erickson somehow led them to a 10-3 record.
13. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina The buzz: Spurrier hasn't rebuilt South Carolina quite as quickly as he made Florida an SEC power, but that says more about the current strength of the SEC than it does about Spurrier's coaching prowess. Who knows if Florida would have established itself as one of the nation's premier programs if Spurrier hadn't been there in the 1990s. And Duke hasn't exactly set the world on fire since Spurrier left there after winning a share of an ACC title.
14. Mark Mangino, Kansas The buzz: Can anyone explain why Mangino wasn't mentioned as the first choice of any school that had a coaching vacancy this offseason? Mangino won numerous coach of the year awards last season for leading Kansas to a 12-1 record and an Orange Bowl title. The Jayhawks hadn't posted a winning record in the six years before his arrival in 2002. He already is the only coach to lead Kansas to three bowls.
15. Rich Rodriguez, Michigan The buzz: Rodriguez could have orchestrated a smoother departure from West Virginia, but it's hard to argue with anything else he accomplished at Morgantown. Rodriguez led the Mountaineers to a 32-4 record in his final three seasons. All the while, his spread offense built on speed made West Virginia arguably the nation's most fun team to watch. Michigan may have some growing pains this fall while adjusting to its new offense, but the Wolverines should create plenty of excitement in 2009 and 2010.
16. Gary Pinkel, Missouri The buzz: Pinkel has received his share of criticism during his Missouri tenure, but he has given the program a level of success it hasn't enjoyed since the 1960s. Missouri set school records for wins (12), points per game (39.9) and total offense (6,684 yards) last season while topping The Associated Press poll for the first time since 1960.
17. Brian Kelly, Cincinnati The buzz: Kelly has coached 17 seasons at three places (Grand Valley State, Central Michigan and Cincinnati). His teams have won at least eight games in 12 of those seasons, including a 10-3 mark last year in his debut year with the Bearcats. That marked Cincinnati's first 10-win season since 1951. If the Bearcats win eight or nine games again this year, look for Kelly to become one of the nation's hottest coaching prospects.
18. Jeff Tedford, California The buzz: While it's easy to criticize California for not quite catching up with USC after threatening the Trojans for Pac-10 supremacy, anyone who falls into that trap forgets where the Bears stood before Tedford's arrival. California went 18-49 without a single winning record in the six years before Tedford came to Berkeley. The Bears have gone 50-28 in six years under Tedford. Cal won nine Pac-10 games in the six years before Tedford. Cal has 30 Pac-10 wins under Tedford. Those numbers are too overwhelming to ignore.
19. Mike Riley, Oregon State The buzz: Few teams in the country have improved as much over the course of a season as Oregon State has the past two years. The Beavers went 9-4 last season after losing three of their first five games. Two years ago, Oregon State also got off to a 2-3 start before finishing 10-4. California, Oregon and Arizona State garner more attention, but Oregon State has posted the best record over the past two records (19-8) of any Pac-10 team other than USC.
20. Mike Bellotti, Oregon The buzz: Bellotti is 106-52 at Oregon and has one losing record in 10 seasons. Bellotti's record includes a 65-41 mark in Pac-10 competition. Bellotti's teams have won at least 10 games three of their past eight seasons. His .671 winning percentage with the Ducks ranks second in school history to Hugo Bezdek, who coached from 1913-17, among anyone who remained at Oregon for at least three seasons.
21. Bronco Mendenhall, BYU The buzz: Mendenhall hasn't needed much time to restore BYU's program to the status it enjoyed in the glory years of the LaVell Edwards era. After going 6-6 in Mendenhall's first season, BYU has gone 11-2 in each of the past two seasons. BYU has ended those seasons on 10-game winning streaks and hasn't lost a Mountain West game since 2005.
22. Jim Leavitt, USF The buzz: Leavitt built the USF program from scratch and now has the Bulls challenging – and perhaps passing – Florida State and Miami as the Sunshine State's second-best program behind Florida. USF was ranked as high as second in the nation last year and earned its third consecutive bowl bid.
23. Mike Leach, Texas Tech The buzz: He earns more attention for his wry sense of humor and his high-powered offense than his record, but Leach has built Texas Tech into a consistent winner. Leach's five bowl wins in eight years at Texas Tech match the Red Raiders' bowl win total in the first 75 years of the program. Texas Tech has a veteran lineup and a favorable schedule this year, so perhaps Leach can help Texas Tech make the giant leap that Missouri and Kansas took last season.
24. Pat Hill, Fresno State The buzz: Hill has helped Fresno State make a name for itself by agreeing to play anyone just about anyplace. His fearless approach hasn't stopped the Bulldogs from winning at least nine games five of the past seven years. If Fresno State can get past an early season gantlet that includes Rutgers, Wisconsin and UCLA, perhaps Fresno State can join Boise State and Hawaii as Western Athletic Conference programs to earn BCS bids.
25. Bobby Petrino, Arkansas The buzz: It's easy to rip Petrino for leaving the NFL's Atlanta Falcons with three games left in the season, but it's hard to criticize anything he has accomplished as a college coach. Petrino went 32-5 and won an Orange Bowl title his last three years at Louisville. Petrino could struggle in his first season in Arkansas, but he could have the Razorbacks challenging for SEC Western Division supremacy by 2010.