It’s Big Ten preview week and here is a look at the best coaches, coaches on the hot seat and up and coming coaches.
1. Ryan Day, Ohio State – In two seasons as the man in charge in Columbus, he’s made two trips to the playoff. With the way he recruits and the way that you hear people talk about him both on and off the field, he’s a no-brainer as the top guy in the conference.
2. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern – What else is there to say about Pat Fitzgerad that hasn’t already been said? He’s easily the second-best coach in school history (after Ara Parseghian), and has routinely performed miracles in Evanston, winning the West two of the last three years, and making a bowl game in 10 of his 15 seasons on campus despite the obvious hurdles that come with the Northwestern job. His teams are always an embodiment of who he was as a player: tough, disciplined and tenacious.
3. James Franklin, Penn State – A really close call between Franklin and Paul Chryst for the third spot (honorable mention to Kirk Ferentz as well), but Franklin’s ceiling as a coach is the highest among the group. It’s still hard to fathom the success he had at Vanderbilt in comparison to everyone who came before or since there, and all he’s done since he got to Penn State is go 60-28 with three 11-win seasons. He’s still an excellent recruiter and great offensive mind, and no matter the situation, his teams always come to play.
COACHES ON THE HOT SEAT
1. Scott Frost, Nebraska – Oh, how the times have changed. Three years ago he was the hottest coaching commodity in the country after leading UCF to a perfect season that ended with a Peach Bowl victory over Auburn. Since returning to his alma mater though, he has yet to have a winning season, and the offense that he is known for has become more and more inept with each passing season. A fourth-consecutive losing effort this year may force new athletic director Trev Alberts to look in a new direction.
2. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan – In many ways, Harbaugh is the victim of expectations more so than anyone else in the country. If you throw out last year’s strange pandemic season, Harbaugh was never worse than 8-5, and has three double-digit victory seasons. But with all of the ballyhoo that he arrived with when he got to Ann Arbor, the Wolverine faithful have (and rightfully so) expected more from him. He has yet to beat Ohio State, and unfortunately for him, it doesn’t look like he will this season again without some sort of miracle.
3. Jeff Brohm, Purdue – After a promising start in West Lafayette, Brohm’s teams have gotten progressively worse each year under his leadership. However, last year’s 2-4 record is a bit of a mirage, as the Boilermakers only had star receiver Rondale Moore for three games, and were in every game until the end. Five of their six games finished within one score. Despite that, another losing season could spell the end for Brohm’s time with the Boilermakers.
1. Tom Allen, Indiana – The inverse of Brohm, Allen’s teams have improved every season since he took over full-time in 2017, culminating with last year’s 6-2 performance that had the Hoosiers runner-up to only Ohio State in the Big Ten East. Their victory over then-No. 8 Penn State rocketed him into the national spotlight, and Indiana finished last season ranked for the first time since 1988. The Hoosiers look like they could repeat that performance this season if things break right for them and Michael Penix Jr. is back to 100 percent.
2. Greg Schiano, Rutgers – Is including Schiano on this list cheating a little bit as it’s his second stint at Rutgers? Maybe, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that in only eight months on the job, he’s clearly turned around the culture of this program, as evidenced in the stellar start to the 2022 recruiting cycle and the general hype around the program. Already considered one of, if not the best coach in program history, Schiano has reinvigorated the program with his personality and demeanor. Let’s see if it translates to wins in the Big Ten.
3. Mel Tucker, Michigan State – Despite their 2-5 record last season, the Spartans did have some bright spots, including knocking off eventual West Division winners Northwestern 29-20 in late November. Tucker has been doing a solid job on the recruiting front, and has been the most active coach in the country on the transfer market, bringing in 10 new players, including big names such as Ronald Williams (Alabama), Maliq Carr (Purdue), Ben VanSumeren (Michigan) and Quay Crouch (Tennessee). If he’s able to get all of these new pieces on the same page, the Spartans could be dangerous this fall.