30 coaches who will define the next decade of college football


Nick Saban, likely the greatest coach in college football history, retired. Jim Harbaugh, the reigning national champion, left for the NFL again. All we needed was for one of those "Atlanta Falcons to offer Kirby Smart a jillion dollars a year!" rumors -- or Lane Kiffin's pleas on the topic -- to turn out true, and we'd have gotten a complete restart in the balance of power in college football coaching.

Smart is still at Georgia, but 2024 will still see a pretty big reset. And college coaching is quickly becoming a younger man's game. Only one of the projected top 15 teams in the winter SP+ rankings has a coach older than 53 years old (LSU's Brian Kelly is 62), while three are led by someone 40 or younger. Considering Saban was 52 when he won his first of seven national titles, this all says something pretty clear: The coaches who rule the sport in the coming years might do so for a while.

Who is potentially poised to take over college football? Some names are pretty obvious, but others aren't as easy to spot. So let's break things into categories and talk about 30 coaches who could rule college football through the 2020s and beyond.

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Already successful coaches
Young stars | Deion
| Group of 5 coaches
Top assistants | The next DeBoers

Successful head coaches with plenty of tread left on the tires

These coaches are all 50 or younger with a healthy number of wins, primarily at major schools (and mostly with at least one College Football Playoff bid), on their résumés. This is the cream of the crop.

1. Kirby Smart, Georgia Bulldogs. Smart probably belongs in a category to himself. He studied under Saban for 11 seasons before going off on his own, and unlike so many other former Saban assistants who couldn't live up to the master's standards, he is working on exceeding them. He was only 46 when he won his first title and 47 when he won his second, and in his past 48 games as a head coach, he has lost only to teams coached by Saban. The last active coach to beat him? Will Muschamp, a current Georgia defensive analyst, at South Carolina in 2019. That was nearly five years ago. He's the top dawg in this sport, and he will probably remain so for a while.