Ranking the Big Ten's 2011 Football Coaches
The Big Ten has been in the news for the last couple of months for coaching changes. Remove Rich Rod, Jim Tressel, Tim Brewster, and Bill Lynch. Insert Brady Hoke, Luke Fickell, Jerry Kill, and Kevin Wilson and you have a huge shake up in the Big Ten coaching circle. Many questions surround this season including if these new coaches can turn their respected programs around, will Luke Fickell lose his interim label and become the official head coach at Ohio State, and which coach will be on the hot seat this year?
#12 Ohio State Luke Fickell
Luke Fickell takes over after Jim Tressel was fired. Fickell has a tall order ahead of him with NCAA sanctions looming at Ohio State, trying to fill the shoes—or should I say vest—left by Jim Tressel, and trying to manage one of the Big Ten's most talented teams.
Fickell is only 37 years old and has lived in Ohio all his life, so he may be able to recruit well even with the sanctions coming.
He is last on this list because he has the least experience out of all the coaches, but I do believe Ohio State can still win 8, 9 or even 10 games this year. If Luke Fickell can right the Buckeye ship than he may be looking at moving up this list quite a bit and earning himself the permanent head coaching job at Ohio State.
#11 Indiana Kevin Wilson
This is Kevin Wilson's first head coaching job. He was previously the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma (2006-2010).
He is known for his offensive power as he has a few awards for offensive coordinator of the year but that's not what Indiana needs. They need a defensive mind set because the Hoosiers can score but they always seem to get outscored. Indiana has been a bottom feeder in football for a long time now and it wouldn't surprise me to see Kevin Wilson out at Indiana in a few years; that's just how sports are now. Win now or get fired later.
#10 Minnesota Jerry Kill
At first glance, Jerry Kill's record at Northern Illinois doesn't look like much at 23-16 but he did a good job turning that program around that was 2-10 when he took over and improved it to 10-3 in just 3 years.
Jerry Kill has had many head coaching stops in his career with Saginaw Valley State, Emporia State, Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois. I bet he would like to make Minnesota his last stop and settle down as the long term coach.
Minnesota often struggled to score last season so the offense will need to be addressed. I don't see a dramatic turnaround like Kill did at Northern Illinois but I can see him taking Minnesota to a consistent 7 or 8 win team.
#9 Michigan Brady Hoke
No one seemed too excited to take over the Michigan job last year until Brady Hoke got the call he wanted. This is Hoke's dream job but not too many Wolverine fans were excited about the hire. His record doesn't exactly scream winner either. At Ball State he was 34-38 and at San Diego State he was 13-12 for an overall record of 47-50.
One thing that Hoke will need to take advantage of is the talent of Denard Robinson. I don't believe that putting Robinson in a traditional offense would be wise because he would just run QB draws all day. They need to groom Devin Gardner in case Robinson flames out this year with his throwing.
Hoke needs to rebuild Michigan's weak defense if he has plans to stick around in Ann Arbor longer than 5 years but he is on the right path though with a strong effort in recruiting this year.
#8 Purdue Danny Hope
Danny Hope enters his 3rd season as the Purdue head coach. It could also be his last if Purdue's record continues to dwindle. 5-7 and 4-8 are poor records and another one like them may spell the end for the Danny Hope era.
Danny Hope needs to find a quarterback that he can trust and is not so injury prone. I think Hope could be a good coach on the college football level but more of a MAC level which is where I see him coaching in the near future.
#7 Illinois Ron Zook
Ron Zook is on the HOT seat. He has been for the last couple of years ever since he took Illinois to the Rose Bowl. He quelled off some of the protesters last year by having an average season of 7-6.
He enters his 7th season as the Illinois head coach with a record of 28-45. I believe Ron Zook will win 8 games this year to save his job. The team needs to show improvements on both sides of the ball to show that this program is once again on the rise.
#6 Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald
Pat Fitzgerald is everything a young coach should be. He is full of energy, he pumps up his team, he is excited to be coaching. He has done great things for Northwestern so far as a player and a coach.
At 36 he enters his 6th season as the top wildcat. With his recent success he has drawn some interest in other coaching jobs including the Michigan opening. He has assured Northwestern that his heart is with them, and it must be exciting for Northwestern to hear that they have a solid coach for a long time.
He is 34-29 as the Wildcats' coach but that is a great record for a program that has struggled a lot before him. With Dan Persa returning from injury this year expect Fitzgerald to compete for a Big Ten title into November. I see a possible 8-10 wins for the dark horse this year.
#5 Nebraska Bo Pelini
This is Bo Pelini and Nebraska's first year in the Big Ten so I couldn't rank them too high. Nebraska is a tremendous program but I could see a few hiccups this year with Nebraska playing so many unfamiliar teams. There is no reason to think that Bo Pelini won't climb this list after the year is over as many people expect Nebraska to compete for the Big Ten title this year.
Nebraska will have a target on it's back this year as the new kid on the block so if Pelini can survive this year than he could jump into the top 3 coaches of the Big Ten.
#4 Penn State Joe Paterno
Joe Paterno enters his 46th season as the Penn State head coach. 46 years is hard to even imagine. Most Penn State fans have only known Joe Paterno as their head coach.
Paterno has put together a record of 401 wins and 135 losses. Before last year Penn State had an excellent 5 year stretch which put trust back into Joe Pa, but after a shaky season last year at 7-6 there were whispers at how much Joe Pa helps or actually coaches. There is not one person that thinks Joe Pa is bad for college football, but he may be making it awkward at Penn State by staying so long and who knows if he is even doing the majority of coaching. I think Joe Pa wants one more magical season before riding off into the sunset.
#3 Michigan State Mark Dantonio
Mark Dantonio enters his 5th season as the Spartans' head coach with a record of 33-19. This program was a mess before he took over and now is expected to win at least 8 games a year now. He has listened to fans and focused on stuff that has mattered to Michigan State fans, going 3-1 vs Michigan and making a bowl game every year.
Last year he took the Spartans to an 11-2 record and share of the Big Ten title, all while surviving and rehabbing from a heart attack he suffered right after the Notre Dame game. His program is favored to compete for a Big Ten title this year and I can see a win total of 9-11 wins this year again for Dantonio's program. Dantonio is a prime example of a coach who came into the Big Ten as a 3rd tier coach but has climbed the ranks every year.
#2 Iowa Kirk Ferentz
Besides Joe Paterno, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz has been around the longest in the Big Ten. He has an impressive of record of 89-60 and has shared the Big Ten title twice. Kirk Ferentz will soon be the new dean of the Big Ten after the firing of Jim Tressel and Joe Paterno's future up in the air.
Kirk always gets Iowa to compete every season even if they are not favored to win. Having the attribute to consistently win is just what Kirk Ferentz has and is why he is number 2 in Big Ten's head coaches.
#1 Wisconsin Bret Bielema
Bret Bielema enters his 6th season as the Badgers' head coach with a outstanding record of 49-16. Bielema has never had a losing season as the head coach of Wisconsin and has competed for a title every year, finally gaining a share of the Big Ten crown last year.
This year is no different as Wisconsin is seen as the favorite to go to the Rose Bowl again this year for the Big Ten. He will continue to build this program into a national powerhouse. Expect Wisconsin to be good for as long as Bielema is the head coach which could be another 20 years because he is only 41.