Lincoln Riley isn’t close to being the longest in his job of the Big 12 coaches, but the Oklahoma football coach is the best of the lot.
For the second straight year, the Sporting News, in its annual ranking of the top 130 college football head coaches, lists OU’s Riley among the top-five in all the land.
Nick Saban of Alabama and Dabo Swinney of Clemson top the list as they have the last several years. After LSU’s sensational national championship season a year ago, Ed Orgeron checks in at No. 3 in 2020, that’s up 13 spots from where he was ranked heading into the 2019 season.
Riley comes in at No. 4 this year, one spot higher than where he was in the 2019 Sporting News ranking.
In his three seasons as head coach of the Sooners, Riley has led OU to a 36-6 record, including three consecutive Big 12 championship and three straight College Football Playoff appearances. The Sooners also won Big 12 titles in both of the years he was offensive coordinator before being named head coach and made their first CFP appearance in 2015.
Oklahoma has finished second, first and third in the nation, respectively, in total offense in his three seasons as head coach, not to mention producing two Heisman Trophy winners and a Heisman runner-up. About the only thing he hasn’t accomplished is win a national championship, which each of the three coaches ahead of him in the 2020 Sporting News ranking have.
After his first season as head coach, Riley was ranked No. 15 by the Sporting News among his college football peers.
Gary Patterson (20 years), Mike Gundy (4) and Matt Campbell (4) all have more Big 12 seniority than Riley, but Riley’s accomplishments at OU in just three years on the job is head and shoulders above his Big 12 head-coaching colleagues.
As far as the rest of the Big 12 coaches, Texas’ Tom Herman is the next highest ranked by the Sporting News heading into the 2020 season, at No. 16, down seven spots from last year. TCU’s Gary Patterson is No. 17, and Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State is No. 20.
Chris Klieman of Kansas State is No. 33, Matt Campbell of Iowa State No. 34, Les Miles of Kansas No. 36, and Neal Brown of West Virginia No. 37. The Big 12 two new head coaches, Dave Aranda at Baylor and Matt Wells at Texas Tech are 60 and 63, respectively.