Coach of the Year: The Frontrunners

Photo by Perrone Ford for FSU Athletics

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The halfway point of the campaign now in the rear view mirror, coaches and their teams are preparing for the final leg of the 2014 regular season. It’s in November and early December that titles are won and individual honors, such as Coach of the Year, are captured. The separation for coaching honors continues, with less than half of the league’s leading men still remaining in serious contention.

6. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
Sure, Johnson has slipped from the perch on which he resided just two weeks ago. But there’s plenty of time to ascend in the rankings. The Yellow Jackets have dropped consecutive games to Duke and North Carolina by fewer than six points, leaving no margin for error, both here and in the Coastal Division chase. Johnson has a handful of high-profile opportunities left, including season-ending games with Clemson and Georgia. First, though, he needs to get back on track this week in Pittsburgh.
Signature Moment: Beating Virginia Tech and Miami in consecutive games

5. Bobby Petrino, Louisville
Petrino has been sort of lying in the weeds all season long in the Coach of the Year competition. In a week, though, he gets a shot to explode up the charts with a Thursday night visit from unbeaten Florida State. Petrino has lost just twice by eight combined points, despite dealing with key injuries on offense to QB Will Gardner and WR DeVante Parker. Now that everyone is getting healthy, and RB Michael Dyer is coming off his best game in three years, Louisville might be ready to finish with a flurry.
Signature Moment: Defeating Miami in the opener

4. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
Here come the Tigers, chugging toward a possible fourth straight 10-win season. Clemson has rebounded from early road losses at Georgia and Florida State to win the last four games. And the team will likely be favored to win the next five outings. Swinney and his staff have done a nice job of navigating a shifting landscape behind center. Life after Tajh Boyd has included Cole Stoudt as the successor, the insertion of rookie Deshaun Watson into the lineup and a return to Stoudt after Watson injured his hand.
Signature Moment: The current four-game winning streak

3. Mike London, Virginia
Last week’s 20-13 loss to Duke in Durham is what’s separating London from a pole position he’s held numerous times this fall. The coach has already exceeded expectations by doubling last year’s win total from two to four games. The Cavaliers began the year on a nine-game losing streak, yet quickly showed that the 2014 edition was going to be far more competitive. London and his staff have deftly melded veterans with rising young stars, such as true freshman S Quin Blanding.
Signature Moment: Upsetting Louisville in Week 3 [UVA Head Coach Mike London Fights Back Tears After Upset Over Louisville]

2. David Cutcliffe, Duke
Cutcliffe started slowly in this space in September, but no one has been coming on harder in October than the two-time defending Coach of the Year. Since losing in Miami on Sept. 27, the Blue Devils have won pivotal games over Georgia Tech and Virginia to become bowl-eligible and move into a three-way tie atop the Coastal Division. Duke gets a week off before resuming its quest for repeat divisional titles with an important Week 10 trip to Heinz Field to play Pittsburgh.
Signature Moment: Handing Georgia Tech its first loss on Oct. 11 [Duke Head Coach David Cutcliffe on Snapping 10-Year Skid vs Georgia Tech]

1. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
No one has a tougher job in the ACC than Fisher, yet all he does is continue to win. The fifth-year coach has passed every test so far this season, from the Oklahoma State opener and Clemson without Jameis Winston to last week’s thriller over unbeaten Notre Dame. The Seminoles face more than the average number of distractions, and live every day with a target on their chests. Still, they’re one of just three remaining Power Five teams that have yet to stumble.
Signature Moment: Becoming the first team to beat Notre Dame in 2014 [Jimbo Fisher Sings FSU's Praises After Big Win over Notre Dame]