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David Cutcliffe atop another coaching list

In some ways, coaches of elite programs get way too much credit. And in other ways, they never get enough.

Look no further than Ohio State. In the 10-year Jim Tressel era, the Buckeyes made eight BCS bowls, won at least a share of seven Big Ten titles, played in three BCS title games and won one national title. (All of these numbers include their vacated 2010 season.)

Urban Meyer overcame the loss of a pair of Heisman-caliber quarterbacks to win a national title in Columbus, Ohio, this past season, his third season with the program. (Two years after going undefeated in his debut campaign with the Bucks.)

Neither Tressel nor Meyer own Big Ten coach of the year awards, which is likely a byproduct of outrageous annual expectations at one of the nation's blue-blood programs.

In the ACC, Jimbo Fisher experiences similar first-world problems, with Florida State having won the league title in each of the past three seasons -- along with a national title in 2013, part of a 29-game winning streak that spanned two seasons -- but having no individual hardware to show for it.

In the latest list ranking the ACC's head coaches, this one from the Sporting News' Matt Hayes, Fisher comes in at No. 2, less than two weeks after his Seminoles set the modern-day record of 29 NFL draft picks over a three-year span. But his ranking seems reasonable when looking at the guy above him: Duke coach David Cutcliffe.

"Even Steve Spurrier himself couldn't have imagined what could be at Duke when he left after 1989 with the greatest season in Duke modern history," Hayes writes. "Spurrier won eight games that year (in a much easier league), and brought Duke to its first bowl in 28 years."

Sure enough, Cutcliffe took the Blue Devils to the Coastal division title and the ACC title game in 2013 with a 10-win season. He backed that up last season with a nine-win campaign, and the program's progress was further validated this month, when guard Laken Tomlinson became the school's first first-round pick in the regular NFL draft since 1987.

The consistency has helped in the perception department, as Cutcliffe has made a steady climb up Hayes' list, from No. 11 in 2012 to No. 7 in 2013 and to No. 3 last season.

None of this is to take away from Fisher's run at FSU. But this appears to be the rare case in which the guy receiving much of the attention really has worked wonders with what he has been given, enough to overshadow the big-name program that has carried the conference banner.

Cutcliffe's boss, Duke athletic director Kevin White, expressed similar thoughts in December when asked about the program's growth.

"So the whale wasn't on the beach when David came. It was up in the parking lot," White said. "And so I knew it was going to take a couple years to get the whale down in the sand, and then a couple years to get the whale's belly wet, and here we are, now we're looking for the gulfstream. We've got a chance to have a darn good football program and we've got, I think, arguably the very best coach in college football."

It's hard to argue against it.