The 'what if' game is one of the greatest parts of being a fan; the opportunity to ask ridiculous questions with no clear cut answers is fun for fans across all disciplines. So, as we watch the clock tick away ever so slowly ahead of Saturday's home opener, I thought it might be fun to ask one such question. Here's the scenario:
You have one week to prepare for a one game playoff. You have a good team - say top ten level talent, good QB, a defense capable of lining up in several iterations. You can choose any coach in college football, but he will only have 24 hours to install his defense, offense, and special teams schemes. He has no prior experience with this group of players, so you can't pick the guy currently coaching the team. So the question is, who is the best flat out coach in college football? Who is the best in-game manager, inspirer, and the guy who just finds a way to get it done? (Also assume they take their coordinators with them and have to stick to the offense and defense they currently utilize.)
I limited to the field to eight, to keep things from getting too insane. My candidates are:
Gary Patterson, TCU: has won at the lowest and highest of levels. One of the great preparers in the game; you won't see his teams caught off guard very often. Runs what is a relatively basic offense whose success is predicated on execution over out-scheming, but one of the more unique defensive sets out there. Has shown the ability to be successful with any talent level.
Urban Meyer, OSU: widely considered one of the best all-time motivators in college football. Great player manager, from talent all the way to egos. Gets guys to buy in, runs a basic enough scheme that most players would be familiar with the concepts of.
Nick Saban, Alabama: Most consider him the best coach in college football, after winning titles at LSU and Alabama. With the ability to stockpile talent at an obscene level, he has accumulated more depth in Tuscaloosa than any program over the last several years. The knock on him is that while he has just about more players drafted than anybody, the pan-out rate for them is low. A supreme delegator, Saban is not as hands on as some of the other coaches of the list.
Art Briles, Baylor: Author of one of the biggest turnarounds of the modern era, Briles turned moribund Baylor in to a recruiting powerhouse and two time Big 12 champion. It remains to be seen if the Bears can win a major postseason game though, as they have gone 0-2 in BCS bowls.
Les Miles, LSU: One of the better defensive coaches of his generation, Miles is a bit of a mad hatter on the sidelines, going against the grain with his play calling and risk taking. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but the one thing you can be sure of is that you're never quite sure what he will do next.
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State: All he does is win. Not flashy, not often with the highest recruits, Dantonio's teams are always competitive in the up-and-down Big Ten. Having developed and produced top-level talent of the defensive side of the ball, the Spartans can fall victim to somewhat uninspired offensive play calling from time to time, but he's been known to pull a rabbit out of his hat from time to time.
Bob Stoops, OU: Yes, his Sooners were disappointing in 2014, and yes, they aren't quite as invincible in Norman as they once were. But Stoops continues to get things done in Oklahoma, winning a Sugar Bowl over Bama just two years ago and retooling his offense around a dynamic young coordinator and a QB with an overload of dance moves and swagger. He's always been able to get the players he wants to wear Crimson, but questions about how he has used them crop up annually.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn: Maybe the surprise entrant on this list, Malzahn is as unconventional as they come. With a National Championship under his belt as an offensive coordinator, Gus' Tigers almost took home another is his first year as the head coach in 2013. It has been shown that Malzahn's teams can score and score big, and he is as good as they come when it comes to quarterback development. He is also smart/humble enough to bring in a big name defensive coordinator, vaulting Auburn in to the playoff conversation in 2015.
Who would my choice be? While I think Patterson is one of the best coaches in the country, and has a proven track record of winning at every level and with every type of recruit, his 4-2-5 defense isn't conducive to teaching in a short time period, therefore the one week to game plan rules him out, in my opinion. As much as I hate to say it, I would run with Urban. He has a unique ability to motivate players on a week in, week out basis, and to get his guys to buy in unlike any other program. Now mind you, he has had a wealth of talent to work with, but getting that talent to work is no sure thing - just ask Charlie Strong. He doesn't do anything so unique or special on either side of the ball that it would preclude him from getting results despite the short preparation period, and he is 39-3 since arriving in Columbus, which kind of speaks for itself.
Who would be your pick? Did I leave anyone out of the top eight that should have been included? Should I be fired for even mentioning Briles? State your case in the comments and be sure to vote in the poll below.