Littrell coaches rankings art

North Texas head coach Seth Littrell speaks with a referee during the the Mean Green's win over Rice at Apogee Stadium last season. Athlon's placed Littrell third on its list of the top coaches in Conference USA.

Athlon's released its summer rankings of the coaches in Conference USA today.

It's an interesting take on the league and its coaches, including Seth Littrell.

North Texas' fourth-year coach checks in at No. 3 behind only UAB's Bill Clark and Florida International's Butch Davis, who come at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

The rankings call Littrell one of "college football’s top coaches on the rise." That's a fair characterization considering Littrell took over a program that won just one game in the season before his arrival and has guided it to three straight bowl games.

UNT has undergone a remarkable transformation.

The same can be said of UAB and FIU. UAB shut down its football program before reversing course during Clark's tenure.

The Blazers finished 11-3 last season, won the C-USA West Division title, the overall C-USA championship and beat Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton Bowl. UAB went 8-5 in its first season back under Clark in 2017.

FIU has gone to back-to-back bowls under Davis, who guided the Panthers to a win over Toledo in the Bahamas Bowl last season.

Doc Holliday of Marshall came in at No. 4. He runs one of C-USA's most consistent programs.

One could probably reorder any of the top four and have a good case.

The question is this -- Will the upcoming season cause a major shift in the rankings?

UAB was allowed to sign far more than the typical limit of 25 players when it restarted its program. The Blazers had 35 seniors last season and was playing with a stacked deck.

Clark is a great coach, but how will UAB fare without those seniors? If Clark leads UAB to another bowl game, it could solidify his place at the top of the heap. A down year could change perception.

Davis is 17-9 at FIU and has tapped into the school's potential. His reputation is bolstered by his track record as a head coach at Miami and North Carolina. 

Would a conference title elevate him further in the ranks of C-USA coaches?

All Holliday does is crank out winning season after winning season at Marshall.

An overall C-USA title would give Holliday a good case that he is at the top of the C-USA coaching heap.

And that brings us to Littrell.

UNT's head coach has very few holes on his resume. He's guided the Mean Green to back-to-back nine-win seasons and an appearance in the 2017 C-USA title game.

About all Littrell hasn't done is guide his team to a conference title or a bowl win. 

UNT was evenly matched with Army in 2016 Heart of Dallas Bowl and lost in overtime. The Mean Green ran into a loaded Florida Atlantic team in the C-USA title game in 2017 and has encountered some terrible luck in each of the last two bowl seasons. 

The Mean Green fell to a talented Troy team in 2017 New Orleans Bowl and a nationally ranked Utah State team in the New Mexico Bowl last year.

UNT was blown out in both of those bowl games.

The Mean Green lost quarterback Mason Fine to injury early on in the New Mexico Bowl and any chance it had of winning that game in the process.

It's hard to rank Littrell ahead of Clark, who led UAB to the conference title last season, or Davis due to his track record. Holliday could also move up with a conference title.

The rankings seem solid now but could change in a few months.

The debate is one we can revisit in January.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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