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Pac-12 Week: Best coaches, hot seat, rising stars

Mario Cristobal
Mario Cristobal (Getty Images)

It’s Pac-12 preview week. Here is a look at the league's best coaches, up and comers and more.


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PAC-12 WEEK: Top five MVP candidates | Five best position groups | Players in need of bounceback seasons

BIG 12 WEEK: Top five MVP candidates | Coaches report | Five best position groups | Top freshmen | Players in need of bounceback seasons | Sleepers | Predictions for each team | Impact transfers | NFL Draft prospects

ACC WEEK: Top five MVP candidates | Five best position groups | Coach report | Players in need of bounceback seasons | Freshmen to watch | Sleepers | Predictions for each team | Impact transfers | NFL Draft prospects

SEC WEEK: Top five MVP candidates | Coach report | Five best position groups | Players needing bounceback seasons | Top true freshmen | Sleepers | Predictions for each team | Impact transfers | NFL Draft prospects

BIG TEN WEEK: Five MVP candidates in the Big Ten | Five best position groups | Coach report | Five players needing bounceback seasons | Freshmen to watch | Sleepers | Predictions for each team | Impact transfers | NFL Draft prospects

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TOP COACHES

1. Mario Cristobal, Oregon - Cristobal has proven that he's among the elite of the elite when it comes to recruiting, and that's already translating to success at Oregon, where he's won two conference titles in three years. And don't forget the miracles he was able to perform at FIU, historically one of the worst programs in the country. He's a coach on the rise, and he's at a program that has nearly unlimited resources. He's building the Ducks into the premiere program in the conference.

2. David Shaw, Stanford - In retrospect, David Shaw looks more and more like the driving force behind the success of the Jim Harbaugh led Stanford teams that had so much success in the late 2000s and early 2010s. While Harbaugh has flailed at Michigan, Shaw has gone 90-36 at the helm of the Cardinal with a 62-24 record in conference play, including three Pac-12 titles and two additional North Division titles. His steady hand, underrated recruiting prowess, and unassailable character make him one of the consistently best coaches in the country, and the main reason he's been named the conference's top coach four different times.

3. Chip Kelly, UCLA - I'm sure you're a bit confused as to why I'm giving this nod to a guy who's gone 10-21 at his current stop, but let's take a step back and look at his career as a whole. First of all, his stint at Oregon was simply phenomenal - 46-7 with a 33-3 record in Pac-12 play, including an appearance in the 2010 national title game. Secondly, he inherited a UCLA program that was a much bigger mess than most people realize, and his teams have gotten progressively better in each of his three seasons in Westwood.

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COACHES ON THE HOT SEAT

Herm Edwards
Herm Edwards (Getty Images)

1. Clay Helton, USC - It feels like he's been on the hot seat since the day he became the head coach in 2015. Helton's 45-23 record simply won't cut it at USC, and it's a miracle he's lasted this long. If the Trojans don't win 10-plus games this season, he's not coming back again next year.

2. Herm Edwards, Arizona State - This isn't an indictment about Edwards' coaching and recruiting abilities so much as it is of all of the off-the-field drama that has emerged over the past few months, specifically the NCAA investigations into assistant coaches. There's a lot of smoke in the air in Tempe, and if a fire emerges from that smoke, you can be pretty sure that Edwards is going to have to take accountability for everything going on.

3. Nick Rolovich, Washington State - Similar to Edwards, there's a lot of off-the-field issues that are plaguing the Cougars' program more so than anything on the field. Between the issues that he had at Hawai'i (remember when he took away the benches on the sidelines?), his disregard for COVID protocols and punishing players who opted out, his time in Pullman may be coming to an end sooner rather than later.

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RISING STARS

Justin Wilcox
Justin Wilcox (Getty Images)

1. Justin Wilcox, Cal - Wilcox has proven that he is one of the top defensive minds in all of college football, not just from his stops as a coordinator at Washington, USC and Wisconsin, but his Cal teams have always performed way better than the sum of their parts. Cal is always going to have recruiting limitations given the academic caliber of the institution, but Wilcox has proven that he can overcome those and make the most out of what he's got. With a proven quarterback now in Chase Garbers, there's a chance that the Golden Bears make a big jump this year.

2. Jimmy Lake, Washington - He's only had one (very) abbreviated season in charge at Washington, but he's already made the transition from Chris Petersen to him almost seamless, which is not that big of a surprise given the fact that he spent eight seasons coaching under him. Lake clearly has a great defensive mind, evidenced by the strong defenses that his teams put up under him, and the fact that he's developed some outstanding defensive backs in his time in Seattle. Expect big things from Lake going forward.

3. Jedd Fisch, Arizona - While a lot of people were a bit miffed by this hiring, I absolutely loved it. Fisch is going to instill a much needed culture change in the wake of both Kevin Sumlin and Rich Rodriguez leaving the program in a worse place than they found it. Fisch is a high energy guy who, given the reports out of Tucson since his hiring, has brought new life to this program.