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The 15 Best Active Coaches In College Football

With another fantastic college football season officially in the books, we here at College Spun have been cycling through a number of features for your reading pleasure. We've shown you the 16 most powerful fan bases, the 16 best games coming up in 2016, along with both the most difficult and the least difficult2016 slates among power five schools. Now, we're taking a look at coaches.

When it comes to ranking college football's active head coaches, there really are only two candidates for the top spot. But there's plenty of debate thereafter.

Remember, ranking college football's top coaches doesn't just come down to winning percentage, conference titles and bowl wins. There are many other factors too - including recruiting, program history, consistency and player development. It's also a plus if a coach has proven that he can win at multiple programs.

We've gone through and come up with what we believe is a list of college football's top 15 coaches. Brian Kelly of Notre Dame kicks it off.

No. 15: Brian Kelly - Notre Dame >>>

15. Brian Kelly - Notre Dame

It's true that Notre Dame, under Brian Kelly, has yet to return the glory days the program saw under Lou Holtz in the late 1980s / early 1990s. But Kelly has the program trending in the right direction, and one of these years, he and the FIghting Irish just might put it all together and make a title run. That year almost came in 2012, before the team was given a rude awakening by Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game.

Kelly, between his time spent at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Notre Dame, has compiled a record of 226-80-2. With the Fighting Irish, despite playing a very difficult annual slate, he has a 55-23 mark. This past year might have been his most impressive - as despite a number of major injuries, the Fighting Irish finished 10-3 with a Fiesta Bowl appearance.

Kelly's recruiting has been solid - not quite Nick Saban-level - but solid. In his seven recruiting cycles, Kelly has pulled in classes ranked 14th, 10th, 20th, 3rd, 11th, 11th and 12th, according to Rivals. He's also seen 20 of his former players drafted into the NFL.

Kelly has earned the right to stick around in South Bend - so long as he keeps the program on the right track. If he's ever able to capture that elusive national title, he'll skyrocket up the list. 

Next: No. 14 - Chris Petersen - Washington >>>

14. Chris Petersen - Washington

Thus far, Washington head coach Chris Petersen has yet to try his hand coaching a true power program. Still, what he's accomplished over the past decade is nothing short of incredible. Petersen, who has been with the Huskies the past two seasons, previously coached at Boise State for eight years. As you likely remember, the Broncos were one of the nation's top teams during his tenure.

Petersen, in his first year at the helm, led the Broncos to an undefeated campaign, which was capped off by a ridiculous Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma in what might be the best college football game ever played. In his eight seasons in Boise, Petersen posted a 92-12 record, with a 57-6 mark in-conference. He also led the Broncos, a team that only moved up to the FBS level in 1996, to a 5-2 bowl record during that time. In short, anyone who's paid attention to college football over the past decade knows that Petersen's Boise State teams were capable of beating anyone in the country - not just their conference foes.

Petersen took the job in Washington two seasons ago, and has thus far posted a 15-12 record. In his three years, he's seen recruiting classes ranked 36th, 30th and 38th, according to Rivals. While he hasn't had the immediate success he saw at Boise State - it just seems like a matter of time before he has the Huskies competing with the big boys in the Pac-12.

Next: No. 13 - Gus Malzahn - Auburn >>>

13. Gus Malzahn - Auburn 

There's no doubt that this past year was the worst of Gus Malzahn's tenure at Auburn. The Tigers, thought to be a national title contender, had serious issues on the defensive side of the ball. They also couldn't find a quarterback. The combination led to a 2-6 SEC record and a 7-6 campaign. But Malzahn isn't on this list for 2015. 

Despite the recent setback, there's no debate that Malzahn is one of college football's most gifted offensive minds. His hurry-up, no-huddle offense, while knocked by some of his peers, took the sport by storm in 2013. It also led the Tigers, coming off of a 3-9 year the season before, all the way to the BCS National Championship Game, where they came a play or two away from knocking off Florida State. It was one of the great turnarounds in the history of the sport. 

Malzahn, in his four years as a head coach, has a 36-16 record - and a 27-13 mark since arriving at Auburn. He's pulled in a top ten recruiting class every year he's been on campus, and seen 10 of his players drafted. Fans may not be thrilled with this past season, but he's still one of the game's best.

Next: No. 12 - Bill Snyder - Kansas State >>>

12. Bill Snyder

If this list were ranked based on gentlemanliness, Snyder would undoubtedly be No. 1, based on his correspondence with opposing players following contests. That being said, he's a damn good football coach, too.

Snyder has coached Kansas State a total of 24 seasons, and despite the fact that he's never won a national title, he's regarded as one of the best ever. Why? 

Simply put, he wins games, year after year, at a program that has historically struggled to compete. To put it into perspective - Snyder, at KSU, has 193 wins. Mike Ahearn, who coached from 1905 to 1910, has the next highest at the school, with 37. Snyder, who is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, also has the program's stadium named after him. He pretty much is Kansas State.

Snyder is 76 years old, so one of the years, he's going to hang it up. It'd be great to see one more Big 12 run before he goes.

Next: No. 11 - Les Miles - LSU >>>

11. Les Miles - LSU

Before the team's final regular season game this past year, virtually everyone in college football thought LSU's Les Miles was going to be fired as head coach. After an impressive performance by his team against Texas A&M, Miles was instead retained, and will lead the Tigers for his 12th year in 2016. We're going to show you how incredibly insane it was that Miles' firing was even being considered.

In his 11 seasons in Baton Rouge, Miles has put together a record of 112-32, with a 61-27 mark in the SEC. He's taken the Tigers to two national titles games - winning one, losing the other. LSU, during his tenure, has played in a bowl game every year - and finished in the top ten five different years. While he certainly may be one of the sport's weirdest head coaches, he's also one of its most consistent. 

When it comes to recruiting, Miles is top notch. The Tigers land a top 10 recruiting class virtually every year. And player development you ask? Miles has seen 64 of his players drafted by NFL teams during his reign. Miles may not be an LSU in the near future, but you can bet he'll have his pick of jobs if the Tigers do every decide to part ways with him.

Next: No. 10 - David Shaw - Stanford >>>

10. David Shaw - Stanford

Stanford head coach David Shaw does not have the longevity of a few of the other coaches on our list, but what he's done in his short time with the Cardinal is outstanding. Shaw, who has been with the program since 2007, was promoted to head coach in 2011 after Jim Harbaugh decided to try his hand in the NFL. Many expected a drop-off. It hasn't come.

Instead, Shaw has led the Cardinal to Pac-12 titles in three of his five years at the helm. In four of his five years, the program has put together at least 11 wins. He's coached in four New Year's Six bowls - posting a 2-2 record. His teams have finished ranked in the top ten four of five years. And this past campaign, Stanford finished No. 3.

Shaw has posted a 54-14 record in one of the toughest conferences in the country - despite having to play the likes of Oregon, USC and UCLA every year. He also owns a 36-9 league mark.

Shaw does not have a national title and has not seen his program reach the BCS title game or the College Football Playoff. When (not if) that happens, he'll start getting more respect. until then, he'll have to settle for the No. 10 spot on our list.

Next: No. 9 - Gary Patterson - TCU >>>

9. Gary Patterson - TCU

Believe it or not, Gary Patterson is actually the third-longest tenured coach in college football - behind only Bob Stoops of Oklahoma and Kirk Ferentz of Iowa. That should tell you something right there. But it isn't just Patterson's consistency with the Horned Frogs that's been impressive - it's his consistency despite the program continuously moving into more difficult conferences.

Patterson, who was the team's defensive coordinator for three years prior to becoming its head coach, took the job after the 2000 season. In his first four years - when the team was part of Conference USA - he posted a 32-16 record, which included two double-digit win seasons. When the program moved to the Mountain West Conference, Patterson turned it into a BCS buster. Those seven years saw at least 11 wins six different times - along with six bowl victories and four top-ten finishes.

When the Horned Frogs moved up to a power five conference in 2012 - the Big 12 - many believed their glory days were in the past. After two years, TCU was 11-14, with a 6-12 record in the league. But in the past two years, Patterson revamped the offense, leading to two consecutive 11-plus win seasons and two top 10 finishes. In short, Patterson was able to take the team from a mid-tier also-ran to a national title contender.

Patterson, in his 15 years with the school, has a 147-43 mark. It's a safe bet he'll have his job in Fort Worth as long as he wants.