Cal’s 1-3 record last football season did nothing to dent the reputation of coach Justin Wilcox. At least not in the eyes of a six-voter panel that ranks all 130 FBS coaches for The Sporting News.
Wilcox, who was No. 48 on the list a year ago, crept up one spot to No. 47 in the rankings released Tuesday. Although Wilcox is just sixth among Pac-12 coaches on TSN’s list, it’s clear the voters took into account the bizarre circumstances of the 2020 season, which limited the Bears to four games and stripped them of key players on the offensive and defensive lines at times.
In the video above, Wilcox addresses his feelings about the value of preseason rankings. In a nutshell: He pays little attention to them. His comments do not specifically reflect his reaction to The Sporting News rankings, but to the genre as a whole.
CBS Sports published similar rankings last month, but limited its scope to the 65 coaches in charge of Power 5 programs. Wilcox was fifth among Pac-12 coaches on that list, No. 38 overall.
Alabama’s Nick Saban sits atop The Sporting News rankings for the sixth straight season, dating back to 2015 when Urban Meyer was No. 1 the year after guiding Ohio State to the national championship.
Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is No. 2, marking the fourth straight year that Saban and Swinney are 1-2.
Four Pac-12 coaches made the top-25, according to The Sporting News, but none were among the top-15. Here goes:
No. 16 Mario Cristobal, Oregon
Lowdown: Oregon is the two-time defending Pac-12 champions, though last year could be considered a disappointment given the Playoff expectations in Eugene. Cristobal has taken the lessons learned from Nick Saban in recruiting and applied that knowledge on the West Coast, and an early-season test against Ohio State will be a chance to prove the Ducks are playoff-ready again.
Here are the three remaining Pac-12 coaches included in the top-25:
No. 19 Kyle Whittingham, Utah
Lowdown: The Utes were 3-2 last season, which ended a run of back-to-back Pac-12 South championships. Whittingham still owns a 17-6 record in conference play the last three years, and the Utes have proven they can work into the Playoff conversation.
No. 24 David Shaw, Stanford
Lowdown: Shaw's reputation resonates, but the Cardinal are in a prove-it season after failing to finish better than third in the Pac-12 North each of the last three seasons. Shaw has led Stanford to three Pac-12 championships, but the last one was in 2015.
No. 25 Clay Helton, USC
Lowdown: Helton led the Trojans to a Pac-12 South championship in 2020, but he remains on a lukewarm seat given the expectations at USC. A top-10 recruiting class in 2021 calmed that front, and a CFP berth would keep Helton around long enough to see the 12-team Playoff.
Here’s the full list of where Pac-12 coaches land in TSN’s rankings:
16. Mario Cristobal, Oregon (15)
19. Kyle Whittingham, Utah (18)
24. David Shaw, Stanford (21)
25. Clay Helton, USC (26)
34. Herm Edwards, Arizona State (30)
47. Justin Wilcox, Cal (48)
50. Chip Kelly, UCLA (53)
59. Karl Dorrell, Colorado (96)
60. Jimmy Lake, Washington (64)
65. Nick Rolovich, Washington State (65)
78. Jonathan Smith, Oregon State (77)
79. Jedd Fisch, Arizon (NR)
Cover photo of Justin Wilcox by Kelley L. Cox, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo