It’s hot outside, the sleet has subsided, and allergies are beginning to show up. It’s starting to feel like college football season is just around the corner, and a quick glance at the calendar reveals that the season is only a couple of months away. what we consider to be the best time of the year (sorry Christmas).
As the college football season begins, you’ll see a ton of lists and predictions, some better than others. We’re not immune to that either, so stay tuned if you like this kind of stuff.
As we prepare to expand coverage of the Ohio State football season, we thought it would be worth taking a look at the current head coaches in the Big Ten and ranking them from worst to first. That’s not to say we don’t like the guys at the bottom of this list, but the combination of hiring, records, championships and off-field measures speaks for itself for the most part.
Instead of being too nice and trying to analyze these 3,000 different ways to sunset, we just line them up and ask the question: “Who would you take on the lineup to coach your team?”
Here’s a look at our ranking of Big Ten football coaches ahead of Fall 2022. Let’s start the debate.
Scott Frost, Nebraska
September 28, 2019; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Scott Frost takes the field before a game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports
There is no way around this. Scott Frost has lagged far behind since taking over as Lincoln’s head coach in 2018. His teams were close to turning the corner, but we’re guessing Nebraska’s leadership was expecting a lot more than losing seasons each of his four years in the league.
Mike Loxley, Maryland
October 1, 2021; College Park, Maryland, USA; Maryland Terrapins head coach Michael Loxley watches the second half of a game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Credit: Scott Taetch, USA TODAY Sports.
Loxley is currently in the middle of his second sojourn in Maryland. It didn’t go so well the first time, but the administrators decided to try again after he rode Nick Saban’s coattails in Alabama as an assistant. The Terps did make the bowl last year, but the lack of depth and stiffness wasn’t addressed enough to be competitive in the Big Ten.
Bret Bilemah, Illinois
September 17, 2021; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Bret Bilemah retires from the field after losing to the Maryland Terrapins at Memorial Stadium. Credit: Ron Johnson, USA TODAY Sports.
Bilema was a rising star when he was in Wisconsin, but the SEC experiment with Arkansas was a trash can fire inside a derailed train. His Big Ten results were enough for Illinois to give him another shot, but there is still a long way to go to make everyone forget the last nine years of losing football.
Tom Allen, Indiana
Indiana Hoosiers head coach Tom Allen walks along the sideline during the fourth quarter of the NCAA Division I football game between the Indiana Hoosiers and Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday, October 23, 2021, at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Indiana. Photo: USA. TODAY Sports Network
Allen appears to have steered the Hoosier program in the right direction. After losing seasons in his first three years at Bloomington, he led the program to record straight wins in 2019 and 2020. There was a huge regression last year though for a team that seemed to have a lot of pieces to be a factor. in the Big Ten. There is still much to be proven.
Greg Schiano, Rutgers
Rutgers Scarlet Knights head coach Greg Schiano walks the field during a pre-game warm-up for an NCAA Division I football game between the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday, October 2, 2021 at SHI Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey. Credit: USA TODAY Sports Network.
From what we saw before Schiano arrived at Piscataway for the second time, Rutgers was showing signs of life, but the game had changed a lot since Rutgers hit the top ten. The team is strong and the culture has changed, but without some innovation, Rutgers will have a hard time winning Big Ten games every year.
Jeff Brom, Purdue
Purdue head coach Jeff Brom during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, October 2, 2021, at Ross Ad Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana. Photo: USA TODAY Sports Network.
There is no doubt that Brom has brought some explosive attacks to West Lafayette, but consistent wins and solid defense have yet to follow. To make the next leap, the program must make the culture tougher.
Mel Tucker, Michigan
Sparty welcomes new Michigan State football head coach Mel Tucker on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 at the Lansing Capital Region International Airport. Credit: USA TODAY Sports Network.
Yes, last year was an unexpected and joyful one for Mel Tucker, who is in his second year as Michigan State head coach. However, we cannot ignore what happened a few years ago. In Colorado, Tucker had two back-to-back 5-7 campaigns and then a shortened 2-5 COVID-19 year in the Big Ten in 2020. We’re not ready to crown Tucker as one of the best coaches in the conference yet.
PJ Fleck, Minnesota
November 30, 2019; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach PJ Fleck leads the Minnesota Golden Gophers onto the field before a game against the Wisconsin Badgers at TCF Bank Stadium. Credit: Jesse Johnson, USA TODAY Sports.
To be honest, we may not be giving Fleck enough credit. He took on the Minnesota program and turned it into a permanent bowling team, even flirting with the Western Division title in 2019. be lifted.
Kirk Ferenc, Iowa
(Bryon Houlgrave / Des Moines Register – USA TODAY Network)
Entering his 24th year at Iowa, Ferenc became the godfather of Big Ten football coaches. He does a lot with the talent brought to Iowa City, but mediocrity hangs around his neck nearly every year. Every few years, Ferenc’s teams will fight for the Big Ten titles, but nothing more. I have seen how some figures put Ferenc in first place in the league, but the numbers do not confirm this. Longevity does not make someone a great coach.
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
September 28, 2019; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Northwestern Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald yells at the referee during the second quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall. Credit: Jeff Hanisch, USA TODAY Sports.
With all the academic standards and recruiting challenges at Northwestern, perhaps no coach does more for less than Fitzgerald. His teams tend to train well and play hard. There are even a couple of Western Division titles to brag about over the past four years. If there’s a problem, it’s that Evanston simply has too many valleys to match the peaks.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
Jim Harbaugh would have owed Michigan a $1.5 million ransom if he left this year.
Ohio State Buckeyes vs Michigan Wolverines. Credit: USA TODAY Sports Network.
Okay, stay with us here. Yes, Harbaugh finally got the Ohio State monkey off his hacks by winning the Eastern Division and making it to the college football playoffs. But we cannot ignore the bulk of the work. Harbaugh has been largely behind in Michigan since his arrival in 2015. During that time, there was just one victory over Ohio State, one Big Ten title, and one bowl game win. Drop the novelty bias and wait until we see Michigan have some success.
James Franklin, PA
October 30, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin during the first quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Joseph Majorana, USA TODAY Sports.
If not for Ohio State, James Franklin would probably be considered one of the best coaches in the country. He picks up at a high level and constantly plays the Buckeyes as closely as he does with any other team in the league. The problem is that Penn State hasn’t been up to the mark over the past couple of years, leaving the impression that Franklin can’t squeeze enough juice out of an orange. And there is only one Big Ten title to speak of despite having come close many times.
Paul Christ, Wisconsin
January 1, 2020; Pasadena, California, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Paul Crist watches the first half of the game against the Oregon Ducks in the 106th Rose Bowl game at Rose Bowl Stadium. Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Paul Crist seems to keep Wisconsin at the top of the West’s Big Ten almost every year. In seven seasons at Madison, the Badgers won three division titles, won six bowls, and finished each season with a winning record no less than third in the West. All he lacks is a Big Ten title and a college football playoff spot.
Ryan Day, Ohio State
Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day watches a spring football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on April 16, 2022. Photo: USA TODAY…