ACC coach rankings 2021: Dabo Swinney, Mack Brown continue to separate from a solid pack

CBS Sports Graphic

Last month, college football experts from CBS Sports and 247Sports participated in the voting process that powers our annual CBS Sports coach rankings. Those rankings, which take every Power Five coach and stacks them up from Nos. 1-65, give a glimpse not only into the hierarchy of coaches at the top of the sport, but how recent success and expectations lead to year-to-year changes.

When we ran through that same process here in 2021, ACC fans may have noticed that only two coaches from the league made the top 25: Clemson’s Dabo Swinney at No. 2 and North Carolina’s Mack Brown at No. 12. When compared to some of the other conference representation in the top 25, it was certainly lacking, but what makes the coaching in the ACC so interesting isn’t the absence of elite coaches but the abundance of coaches that are right in the middle. Being a Power Five head coach at all means you have reached a level of success in the industry, and those coaches that can hold Power Five positions with any kind of longevity are what every athletic director is looking for in a hire. 

If you throw out the top 15 and the bottom 15 of the 1-65 rankings, you are left with a “middle 35” which mostly includes schools that are in various stages of development but feel confident in their current head coach. That middle 35 is where you will find 10 of the 14 ACC coaches, reflecting a league that has one dominant power setting the pace but enough well-respected coaches to ensure competitiveness both within and outside of the conference. 

So while we detail how the consensus CBS Sports coach rankings shook out for the ACC coaches against each other, remember how fluid it can be for those coaches in the middle 35. A small adjustment in the full Power Five rankings can lead to big moves here in terms of how ACC coaches stack up against each other. 

Complete Power Five coach rankings: 1-25 | 26-65 

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