Big Ten Preview: Ranking The Coaches

While the top of the Big Ten coaching circuit is fairly apparent, getting from Nos. 2-6 is hardly an easy task.

The constant struggle revolves around how much value on last year is too much? This ranking tries to weigh recent results against total resume – a task that only further muddles the water.

 

Urban Meyer’s track record puts him clearly in a class of his own among Big Ten coaches. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

1.      Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Two BCS national championships and two more undefeated seasons – Utah in 2004 and Ohio State last season – make Meyer an easy choice to top this list. The Buckeyes are considered prohibitive favorites entering 2013 and virtually odds-on favorites to reach the BCS National Championship Game in no small part because of Meyer.

2.      Bo Pelini, Nebraska

Say this for the Cornhuskers coach: He is certainly consistent. Nebraska has lost exactly four games in each of Pelini’s five seasons, though he has three 10-win seasons and three trips to conference championship games to his credit. Detractors will point out that Pelini has lost all three conference title games – two in the Big 12 and one, last year, in the Big Ten. Still, he inherited a program headed in the wrong direction from his predecessor and has brought Big Red back to relevance.

3.      Brady Hoke, Michigan

It didn’t take long for Hoke to take the Wolverines back toward the top of the Big Ten, leading them to the Sugar Bowl in his first season. Of course, he did benefit from a loaded roster left behind by former coach Rich Rodriguez, but all coaches can do is win with the talent they’re given. Hoke has proven an ability to coach – at Michigan and San Diego State – and has fared well on the recruiting trail. Michigan lost five games last year – three were against the Nos. 1-3 teams in the nation.

4.      Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

Perhaps one of the most consistently overlooked coaches in the league, Dantonio has two 11-win campaigns in six seasons in East Lansing. He tied for a conference title in 2010 and led the Spartans to the Big Ten Championship Game in 2011. Three 6-6 regular seasons, including one last year, keep Dantonio from ranking higher on the list.

5.      Bill O’Brien, Penn State

Most coaches with just one year of experience wouldn’t rank this high on a list like this. No coach, however, has ever had to deal with as much as O’Brien faced during his first season at Penn State. Under the circumstances, navigating a 6-2 record in the Big Ten last season was downright amazing. NFL teams agreed, with two contacting him about vacant positions. Now the question is how long will O’Brien stay in Happy Valley?

6.      Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

Leading Northwestern to five consecutive bowl games and its first bowl win in 64 years is undoubtedly an impressive feat. Fitzgerald’s lack of a huge season – his best conference record is 5-3, accomplished three times – keeps him from climbing higher on this list. The Wildcats’ 10 wins last year marked the first time they reached that height since 1995. They had never previously qualified for five consecutive bowl games.

7.      Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

A decade ago, while in the midst of winning two conference titles in three years, Ferentz would have ranked atop these lists. His previous accomplishments don’t get tossed out the window. They are, however, significantly watered down after he watched his team deteriorate from its 11-win season capped by an Orange Bowl win in 2009. Since then, the Hawkeyes have gone 8-5, 7-6 and, last year, 4-8. The recent slide has some wondering if Ferentz is capable of leading the required turnaroud.

8.      Gary Andersen, Wisconsin

Remember back in 2009 when Utah State went to hire its head coach? (Utah State? Of course!)  It ultimately chose between Andersen and current Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads. To that end, USU AD Scott Barnes hasn’t gotten a better job how, exactly? Before Andersen, Utah State was a college football wasteland. After consecutive 4-8 seasons, he led the Aggies to a winning record in 2011 before elevating them to 11-2 with a bowl win last year. Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez has proven himself as a talent evaluator as well, evidenced by his previous hire – Bret Bielema – leading the Badgers to three consecutive Rose Bowls.

9.      Jerry Kill, Minnesota

Kill has climbed the ranks in the college football world, going from Division II to the FCS division then from the MAC to the Big Ten. He has been successful at every stop and has left every program better than he found it. While Kill managed to guide the Gophers into a bowl game in 2012, there is still plenty of work to be done – especially considering the series of nobodies they played in the non-conference schedule.

10.  Darrell Hazell, Purdue

Until 2012, Kent State had won six games in a single season just twice since 1988. Hazell shattered the glass ceiling at his former stop, leading the Golden Flash to an 11-3 record and putting it on the verge of a BCS berth before losing to Northern Illinois. While Hazell won’t have to perform miracles at Purdue, the path won’t be easy in attempting to lead the Boilermakers to their second Rose Bowl since 1966.

11.  Kevin Wilson, Indiana

The Hoosiers showed rapid improvement last year after going 1-11 and putting Wilson firmly on the hot seat during his first year of 2011. Indiana especially improved its passing game – a calling card of Wilson during his time as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma. The next step for Wilson will be putting a defense in place that gives the Hoosiers a chance to return to a bowl game.

12.  Tim Beckman, Illinois

Entering his second season on the job, Beckman finds the hottest seat in the Big Ten. That’s what happens when you inherit a team that went to bowl games in back-to-back seasons and crash to a 2-10 season.  He likely needs to quickly correct course or find himself out of work.

Topics: Big Ten, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Gophers, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Northwestern Wildcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Penn State Nittany Lions, Purdue Boilermakers, Wisconsin Badgers

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  • wicyclone81

    Kevin Wilson as 11th best in the B1G? You’re kidding me right? All he has done is make this team competitive and a likely bowl team in less than three years. Is he near the top? No…. But he sure as hell shouldn’t be the 2nd worst coach in the Big Ten either.

  • Incorrigible1

    Pelini also consistently loses (at home) to teams he shouldn’t, and owns a large chunk of the worst Husker losses of the past 50 years. He looks upon recruiting as a chore. This Husker fan is ready to see Bo take his antics elsewhere.

    • LukeinNE

      Nebraska went undefeated in Lincoln last year.

      • Incorrigible1

        Four out of five = consistent.

  • hedonistimpulse

    Nebraska’s won 9 games in the last five years; only three other teams can make that claim and they’re pretty good, too: Boise State, Oregon, and Alabama. Bo may not be Tom Osborne, but he puts a good product on the field every season.

    • Incorrigible1

      Wisconsin, B1G Championship game.

      • Kyle Kensing

        Think Bucky pulls off the upset of Ohio State, then?

        • Incorrigible1

          Think Bucky humiliated Bo and co. Imagine what the Buckeyes would have done.

          • Kyle Kensing

            Ah, apologies. I misread. Well, we did see OSU vs. Nebraska last regular season and that didn’t go well for the Huskers. But then, Nebraska won the regular season game against Wisconsin for what it’s worth.

          • Jose Cuervo

            So when I say the phrase, “Scoring at will”, what kind of images come to mind?

      • hedonistimpulse

        Hence being in the championship game, aka a good product.

        • Incorrigible1

          Losing 70-31 to a five-loss team = good product? Bo’s defense has been genuinely Cosgrovian.

          • hedonistimpulse

            That loss was not a good showing and I’m not saying it was. What I am saying is that I agree with the author that Pelini is an excellent coach and that Nebraska’s lucky to have him.

          • Incorrigible1

            Bo, The defensive genius, has led the Huskers to eight of their 20 worst defensive performances of all time.

          • Luke Brietzke

            Who is the popular choice to replace Pelini if he gets canned? Last two times Big Red has looked to make a move, the popular choices have been Pelini and Turner Gill…

            Look at it this way, if you like: Still better than Bill Callahan.

          • Incorrigible1

            One thing NU has to get away from is the notion they MUST hire someone with NU ties. Jeebus, do a real search for a new HC. Someone that realizes recruiting to Lincoln is possible and won’t hire a bunch of no-names as his coaching staff. And Pelini has coached as many stinker games as did Cosgrove. How’s that “defensive genius” thing going for Bo?

          • Luke Brietzke

            Who would you list as a model hire from programs in the last four years? (In other words: Saban doesn’t count since there’s only one Saban.) Meyer was a great hire, but he was unemployed and didn’t come with the media/speculation headache of having to hire someone while under contract. I would argue unemployed hires are easier to make.

            Who’s on the wish list?

  • Smitty

    I stopped reading at “Of course, he did benefit from a loaded roster left behind by former coach Rich Rodriguez”

    • Luke Brietzke

      I would certainly argue the following all-conference or leading performers had a big hand in Brady Hoke going to the Sugar Bowl in Year 1: QB Denard Robinson, RB Fitz Toussaint, T Taylor Lewan, S Jordan Kovacs, CB JT Floyd, DT Mike Martin (committed to Lloyd Carr, signed by Rich Rod), LB Kenny Demens (committed to Carr, signed by Rodriguez), TE Kevin Kroger.

      • Smitty

        You named 8 upperclassman on a team filled w/ RR players. I think what you see is the coaching staff doing their best with a bad situation. Do you really think a Toussaint, Kovacs, Demens or Kroger type player would be starting for this Michigan team 2-3 yrs from now? Maybe, but doubtful. Kovacs was one of my favorite players from last years team, but Michigan is recruiting at an ELITE level again.

        2013-4th, 2012-6th, 2011-26th, 2010-16th, 2009-11th, 2008-10th

        2008 was RR’s highest ranked class, mostly recruited by Carr.

        Was there some talent on the roaster when Hoke took over? Of course, this is still Michigan. You have on average 25 scholarships a yr. You are bound to have some hits. But loaded, it was not.