In case you missed it, CBS Sports released its annual rankings of Power Five college football coaches this week. The rankings, released in two parts (part 1 & part 2), include all 64 head coaches in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten Conference (B1G), Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference, and Southeastern Conference (SEC). Brian Kelly of Notre Dame is also included in the rankings for a grand total of 65 coaches.
Needless to say, after compiling a 4-8 record in 2016, UCLA's Jim Mora didn't rate very highly among the five voters (Dennis Dodd, Ben Kercheval, Chip Patterson, Barton Simmons, and Tom Fornelli). Mora is 49th in the 2017 rankings, which puts him 11th out of the 12 head coaches in the Pac-12. Only California's Justin Wilcox (#64) is rated lower than Mora.
If you're inclined to dismiss Mora's unfavorable ranking as a reflection of "east coast bias," the fact that the voters rate him as the second-worst coach in the Pac-12 can't be dismissed on the same grounds. Of course there's a big component of "what have you done lately" reflected in the rankings, but that's to be expected when athletic directors tend to use the same rationale when making decisions about hiring and firing.
Ultimately, coaches are judged on results, so when a football program produces fewer wins from one season to the next over a three or four year span, the head coach will inevitably be held accountable by fans and boosters, and normally, the athletic director. However, as we learned last year, UCLA "not all about a coaching carousel," so Jim Mora may be given more time than the typical Power Five head coach to turn around the direction of the program.
In any case, the rankings and associated comments for each of the current Pac-12 coaches are interesting. Two Pac-12 coaches crack the top-10, though both are at the back end. (Note that the 2016 rankings are shown in parentheses.)
7. Chris Petersen (14): When Petersen left Boise State for Washington, I figured it would only be a matter of time before Washington had success. What I didn't figure was that Washington would be winning the Pac-12 and playing in the College Football Playoff by his third year. That says more about me than it does Petersen, though, because his history suggests we should have seen it coming.
8. David Shaw (9): I don't think Shaw gets enough credit for what he's done at Stanford. Jim Harbaugh laid the foundation for success in Palo Alto, but Shaw's built one hell of a house on top of it. He's won three Pac-12 titles and at least 10 games five times in his six seasons at Stanford. He's been so good that when his team goes 6-3 in Pac-12 play last season you start thinking there's something wrong.
Given that Pac-12 coaches comprise 18.5% of the total number of coaches ranked, the Pac-12 is slightly under-represented between 11-20 in the rankings; only Utah's Kyle Whittingham is slotted into that range:
14. Kyle Whittingham (23): It's hard not to be impressed by what Whittingham has accomplished at Utah. He won a bunch of games in the Mountain West, struggled after first joining the Pac-12, and is now winning a bunch of games again. And he's doing so at a school that isn't exactly located in the middle of a fertile recruiting ground.
Just four of the Pac-12's head coaches appear in CBS Sports' top-25, with WSU's Mike Leach grabbing the final spot:
25. Mike Leach (30): I'll admit I was a bit skeptical about Leach at Washington State after his first three seasons, but he's gone 17-9 the last two years, including a 13-5 record in conference.
Colorado's Mike MacIntyre and Oregon's Willie Taggart aren't far behind:
30. Mike MacIntyre (58): What happens when you follow a 10-27 start at Colorado with a 10-4 season that brings a moribund program back to life? Why, you climb an amazing 28 spots in the rankings! It'll be interesting to see how MacIntyre and the Buffs handle the encore, but we were all clearly impressed by last season's accomplishments.
31. Willie Taggart (NR): This is Taggart's first year at Oregon, but he has shown at both Western Kentucky and South Florida that he can build a program. The question now becomes how he handles a situation where the foundation is already pretty solid, but the competition is quite a bit stiffer.
Pac-12 coaches hold down half of the positions between 41 and 50, including two coaches--Rich Rodriguez and Jim Mora--who dropped a whopping 20 spots from 2016 to 2017:
41. Gary Andersen (52): After having success at Wisconsin, Andersen fell from No. 38 to No. 52 following his first year at Oregon State. Now, after doubling his win total at Oregon State in Year 2, and going from 0-9 to 3-6 in conference play, it appears our voters remembered this guy knows what he's doing.
42. Todd Graham (36): I honestly expected Graham's stock to take a bigger hit than this considering he's 11-14 the past two seasons with a 6-12 mark in Pac-12 play. Also, he ditched the Britney Spears headset during games, and he should be penalized for that.
44. Rich Rodriguez (24): RichRod was in our top 25 last season, and he drops all the way down to No. 44. It's a steep drop, but his Wildcats have taken a step back in each of the past two seasons, so it's certainly a justifiable one.
45. Clay Helton (51): I don't know if Helton is a great coach at this point. I don't think anybody does. What I do know is that he has a quarterback that could help make sure he continues to climb these rankings.
49. Jim Mora (29): The Bruins have gone from 10 wins in 2014 to eight in 2015 and only four last season under Mora. When that happens you fall 20 spots in these rankings.
Lastly, there's the disaster known as the California Golden Bears football program which managed to finish with a better conference and overall record than the Bruins last year:
Justin Wilcox (NR): Wilcox has plenty of experience as a defensive coordinator, but he has never been in charge. He's inheriting a team that hasn't played much defense at all lately.
As far as I can tell, CBS Sports has been compiling its ranking of Power Five college football coaches since 2015. It's worth reviewing the rankings and comments for Jim Mora during that time. In my opinion, the observation attached to his 2015 ranking is particularly noteworthy, especially since it reflects the viewpoint of Bruins Nation during the first years of Mora's tenure:
34. Jim Mora, UCLA: It's hard to argue with Mora's 29-11 start at UCLA ... but hasn't each season left you feeling like the Bruins could have done more?
In spite of the program's regression during the 2015 season, Mora's 2016 ranking was higher:
29. Jim Mora, UCLA (34): Mora is coming off his worst season at UCLA, yet climbs five spots in the rankings. Personally, I feel this is a bit too high for him, but most of my colleagues seem to hold him in higher esteem than I do right now.
Unfortunately, the disappointment of the 2015 season was nothing compared to what we all suffered through last year, and the trend looks pretty terrible.
Two years ago, Bruins' fans were wondering if Jim Mora's football program had plateaued. Now they're probably debating if Mora can return UCLA Football to the mediocrity of 2015.
As always, please share your views in the comments section.