Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich// photo credit Lisa Horne
by Lisa Horne
With four weeks remaining in the regular season, it is time for Coach of the Year watch list to make its first appearance. It is long and impressive. All of these coaches deserve accolades.
Who deserves the most?
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
Freeze's stock took a bit of a drop after two straight losses but if the Rebels beat the Bulldogs in the Egg Bowl, game on.
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
Mullen's Bulldogs are currently 8-0 and ranked No. 1 in the College Football Playoff and AP polls. If this team goes undefeated, Mullen is a lock for Coach of the Year.
Willie Fritz, Georgia Southern
For football purists, nothing beats watching a team that rushes an average 402 yards per game. Fritz is generating a lot of smiles of approval.
Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
Some feathers were ruffled after the way the school and local law enforcement officials handled two players' off-the-field issues but if Florida State lands in another title game, Fisher certainly deserves top honors. It is difficult to go back-to-back in title games.
Mark Helfrich, Oregon
The Ducks finally got one monkey off their back when they routed Stanford. If Helfrich can keep his team focused, Oregon should be playing in the title game.
Sonny Dykes, California
Cal needs one more win to become bowl eligible. That is an incredible turnaround for a team that went a combined 4-20 in the previous two seasons.
Ruffin McNeill, East Carolina
The Pirates shocked ACC fans when they beat North Carolina 70-41. They also upset Virginia Tech 28-21. East Carolina is the best college football team in the Carolinas.
Jim McElwain, Colorado State
The Rams beat Power 5 teams Colorado and Boston College. They have also equaled or bettered every previous season's record since Sonny Lubick's squad went 10-4 in 2002.
PJ Fleck, Western Michigan
Last year the Broncos went 1-11. This year they are 5-3 and have a great shot at getting bowl eligible when they play Eastern Michigan this Saturday. That's a heckuva turnaround.
Bill Clark, UAB
The Blazers' last five season records were 2-10, 3-9, 3-9, 4-8 and 5-7. One more victory and they're going bowling.
Gary Patterson, TCU
Beating Texas Tech 82-27 was shocking. So was a 37-33 victory over Oklahoma. Only Kansas State and Texas stand in the Horned Frogs' way of winning the Big 12 crown.
Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Admit it, you're not shocked to see Snyder's name here. When will everyone else learn to stop underestimating his ability to develop talent?
Doc Holliday, Marshall
Yes, the Thundering Herd's schedule is a cupcake but going undefeated is still very impressive.
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Dantonio is one of college football's top coaches but his squad needs to beat Ohio State to stay in the thick of things here.
Todd Graham, Arizona State
One of the most polarizing coaches in college football has a bead on the rest of the Pac-12 South's teams. If the Sun Devils win out, Graham should be a serious COY contender.