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Big Ten Preseason 2022 “Position” Rankings: The Head Coaches

Is Kirk the best coach? What about the best emperor?

Vrbo Citrus Bowl - Iowa v Kentucky Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Well, hello there. Nice to see you survived the apocalypse that was the introduction of the new commenting system and have continued to frequent your favorite college sports site OffTackleEmpire. Which I have to say is a weird name for a college basketball blog, but whatever. It’s me, BoilerBot89, here to talk about college football for some reason.

Today we continue the preseason positional rankings by talking about the most important position off the field: the head coach! If the rankings seem off, please note that we had all of seven voters and one of them was ranking head coaches by weight so...

MNW said that we now have editors or something - I wasn’t really paying attention - so all errors are intentional to see if they are actually doing their job. Anyway let’s get started.

The Guys Getting Fired This Year

Nebraska v Wisconsin
No tears Scott. It’s going to be okay. Though if I was you I would have stuck to my original buyout.
Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

14 Nebraska Cornhuskers - Scott Frost 17 points

Frost enters Year 5 with a terrific 10-25 conference record. His winning percentage at Nebraska is worse than Big Ten legends (or were they leaders?) Bill Lynch, Rich Rodriguez, Danny Hope, and John L. Smith - none of whom got a 5th season at their respected football schools. But I guess Nebraska just isn’t in the same caliber of football programs as schools like Indiana and Purdue. Frost avoids the unanimous last place ranking because he’s middle of the pack in the weight estimation of one of our illustrious writers and because another writer thinks there are 4 guys even worse.

Reasons for optimism: Scott Frost is the only coach in the B1G that has claimed a national title as a head coach. The first half of the 2022 season schedule is completely manageable. Maybe the Cornhuskers get off to a hot start and with some momentum Frost gets things turned around. Maybe I also win the lottery.

Reasons for pessimism: I don’t feel like finding the article but the gist of it was as follows. Scott Frost says Huskers seek to make minor adjustments, not ‘drastic changes’ following a 3-9 season.

The Votes of No Confidence

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 20 Minnesota at Indiana
Keep your head up Tom. Love Every One.
Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

13 Indiana Hoosiers - Tom Allen 18 points

The writers were in agreement on Allen’s place in the rankings as he received all 12th and 13th place rankings. After giving Indiana preseason expectations - and a #17 preseason ranking - for the first time in a long time, the Hoosiers fell on their face in 2021. It sure looks like departed coordinators Kane Wommack (now HC at South Alabama) and Kalen DeBoer (now HC at Washington) were the keys to both the 2019 8WIndiana and setup the 2020 Penix stretching season as well.

Reasons for optimism: LEO is a great idea. We could all use more LEO and less hatred towards others. Except wisconsin. They know what they did. Indiana also isn’t going to open the season with 5 ranked teams in their first 7 games again. If you are a Hoosier fan, hopefully that means the players don’t give in halfway thru the season.

Reasons for pessimism: If Allen wasn’t the head coach of Indiana I would probably view him the same way as I viewed Danny Hope: a good guy in over his head in the B1G. Hope’s .449 winning % at Purdue was almost the same as Allen’s current .448 at Indiana.

12 Maryland Terrapins - Mike Locksley 30 points

Locksley ranked as high as 2nd in the writers’ poll - thanks to his weight class. Nobody else had him in their top 10 but his overall ranking didn’t change as a result of this one vote. The system works!

2021 went exactly how Maryland needed it to go. They weren’t ready to compete with any of the good teams in the conference, but the turtles swept their non-conference slate, eked by Indiana and Illinois, and then prepared for Buttgers Rutgers. Getting to a bowl game and winning it was a major first step for Maryland’s program under Locksley. Whether Locksley can build off of it is a whole different question and the majority of the OTE writers apparently don’t think so.

Reasons for optimism: Maryland has the DMV recruiting area and stringing together winning seasons could get Locksley towards the middle of this list in a few years.

Reasons for pessimism: This is the guy that was 8-43 as a head coach before 2021. Let’s not overreact to one 7-6 season that included a 6 point win over West Virginia, a 3 point win over Illinois, and a 3 point win over Indiana. I like Locksley and would be thrilled if Maryland won the East this year, but last year could have easily been a 4-8 season.

11 Northwestern Wildcats - Pat Fitzgerald 38 points

I’m not really sure why old Fitz was so far behind the group of coaches squished together in the middle. He has after all been to the Big Ten title game - something three of them can’t say. Then again he did make the decision to bring Mike Bajakian and Jim O’Neil back for another season so maybe this ranking is justified.

Reasons for optimism: It’s an even year. The writers - myself included - voted like it was an odd year because we are stupid.

Reasons for pessimism: With Mike Hankwitz as his DC, Pat is 96-67 at Northwestern. Without Hankwitz, Pat is just 13-23. Now I’m not saying Fitzgerald needs to have Hankwitz as his DC to be successful, but he almost certainly needs to have someone better than JON.

The Squishy Middle

2021 Big Ten Championship - Iowa v Michigan
Emperor Kirk looks on in approval at the Iowa offense during the Big Ten Championship game. Every picture of him is the same. Side profile. Bemused stare.
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

10 Illinois Fighting Illini - Bert 48 points

Out of active coaches in the Big Ten, Bert has actually won the most B1G titles. The fact that he comes in at 10th in our rankings probably tells you that our writers don’t know anything. That or we just collectively think he was coasting off the work of Barry Alvarez while at wisconsin.

Reasons for optimism: Illinois was this close to making a bowl game in year 1 under Bert. Had they not scheduled UTSA the one year the Roadrunners were really good or found a way to score any points against a moribund Purdue offense in the Cannon game, Bert would have the Illini program off and running.

Reasons for pessimism: Illinois had a lot of seniors of last years roster. Bert’s power run game didn’t work in the SEC and the modern B1G West has teams that have been doing it longer and better than Illinois last year. Convincing the recruits needed for that system to come to Illinois instead of Wisconsin or Iowa could be a tough sell. Especially since Bert has that tattoo of the Hawkeye.

9 Purdue Boilermakers - Jeff Brohm 54 points

I am outraged that Brohm isn’t higher on this list! Well, not really. I’m cautiously optimistic on Brohm’s future at Purdue after last year and I think he’s worked miracles post Hazell, but he will have to start beating some of the other guys in this group regularly (other than Kirk) before he moves up this list.

Reasons for optimism: 9Windiana may not have become a thing, but 9Win Purdue did become a thing just last year. Being the only passing team in the West has its advantages.

Reasons for pessimism: The OL is still an issue thru 5 seasons. Assistant turnover has been high - the good ones seem to move on and the bad ones are cycled out.

8 Minnesota Gophers - P.J. Fleck 55 points

Row the boat all the way to the middle of the Big Ten. Look, Fleck is a weird dude. He has annoyed many opposing Big Ten fanbases and coaches. But he also finished in the top 2 of the West twice in five years. His snake oil salesman routine may be annoying to us, but the recruits like it and he isn’t completely incompetent when it comes to actual coaching.

Reasons for optimism: Fleck gets his RBs back this season and probably won’t have to give carries to a walk-on LB. Fleck also gets to avoid Ohio State and Michigan this year.

Reasons for pessimism: Fleck is just 21-23 in Big Ten play. Sure he plays in the best division of the Big Ten (the West), but that’s still a losing record in conference play.

7 Penn State Nittany Lions - James Franklin 57 points

Franklin had the most disagreement among non-weight based voters. He got a first place vote and also was ranked as low as 10th. He’s won the conference before which makes him the 2nd most recent coach to knock Ohio State off their pedestal at the top of the conference. On the other hand, Penn State has had two back-to-back 4-5 conference records.

Reasons for optimism: Franklin has been guaranteed 70 million USD. He cares not for your petty rankings.

Reasons for pessimism: Although Penn State is one of the four East division teams to win the Big Ten in the current divisional format, they are the only one of those schools to not make the CFP as Franklin hasn’t been able to ever avoid the 2nd loss of the season.

T5 wisconsin Badgers - Paul Chryst 58 points

Chryst has won the West three out of his seven seasons at wisconsin. But wisconsin hasn’t ever won the conference under him and they seem to be slipping a bit as they haven’t even won the division three out of the last four seasons (Northwestern twice and Iowa once). Chryst can keep it simple though. Run the ball, run the ball, run the ball and continue to pump out winning seasons at wisconsin.

Reasons for optimism: No. I’m not doing that. I’ve experienced three wins against OSU since becoming a Purdue fan in something like 8ish games and none against wisconsin despite playing them every year.

Reasons for pessimism: The 14 game winning streak for the Axe has ended under Chryst. Minnesota has won the Axe twice in the past four seasons and wisconsin has been outscored in the aggregate those four games. Momentum in the wisconsin program seems to have slipped from its heights under Bert.

T5 Rutgers Scarlet Knights - Greg Schiano 58 points

Greg “the Miracle Worker” Schiano almost pulled off the most impressive program turnaround by a B1G coach since Jeff Brohm’s 2017-18 seasons at Purdue. He’s managed to win 8 games in 1 and a half seasons when the Scarlet Knights won just 9 in the four previous seasons. Good thing Tennessee didn’t hire him, right Tennessee fans?

Reasons for optimism: Rutgers was in “regular” bowl contention all the way to the last game of the season in 2021. They also played in the Gator Bowl last season - a more prestigious bowl game than Purdue, Minnesota, Maryland, or wisconsin played in. The sleeping giant isn’t quite awake, but the alarm clock is about to go off.

Reasons for pessimism: Sleeping giant or not, Rutgers still plays in the East division.

4 Iowa Hawkeyes - Emperor Kirk I 60 points

Emperor Kirk the first now ranks 4th on the Big Ten football coach all time wins list. Of course, he is also 68th in winning percentage on that same list.

BREAKING NEWS: Iowa athletic director Gary Barta has given Emperor Kirk another ten year contract extension!

Reasons for optimism: Kirk is going to Kirk. Nepotism, uninspiring offenses, and the far off stares of a guy who knows they aren’t winning the conference ever again will always be a part of the Iowa football program until his heir to the empire Brian takes over. At which point the cycle continues.

Reasons for pessimism: Oh, I already did this in the reasons for optimism section didn’t I? Oh well. It’s not all bad Hawkeye fans. Kirk has had just two losing seasons in the past twenty years. Consistency like that is something many programs are envious of. Right Cornhuskers?

The Kings of the Mountain

2021 Big Ten Championship - Iowa v Michigan
Jim Harbaugh hates the Chik-Fil-A cows
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

3 Michigan Wolverines - Jim Harbaugh 78 points

Despite getting the most first place votes in our writers’ poll and winning the conference just last year, Harbaugh looks up at his conference rivals once again. As one of those that voted for Harbaugh 1st, I can only look at my fellow “writers” and say really? Michigan hadn’t won the conference since 2004. It’s not that easy to win the conference at Michigan these days. Besides all of that, Harbaugh is related to Tom Crean by marriage. Which isn’t relevant, I just want to see the best Tom Crean gifs in the comments.

Reasons for optimism: Michigan hasn’t lost to Ohio State since November 2019. List of teams that have lost to their end of season B1G rival since then: Ohio State, Indiana, Nebraska, wisconsin, Minnesota, Northwestern, Illinois, Penn State, Michigan State, Rutgers, and Maryland. The only other two that haven’t: Iowa who has gotten to play Scott Frost and Purdue who is clearly the other top football program in the Big Ten. Yep, no need to dig into the details there. Everything I said is true.

Reasons for pessimism: Last year was nice and all, but Harbaugh still has a massive losing record against his rivals and has generally underperformed against ranked teams.

2 Michigan State Spartans - Mel Tucker 80 points

Mel Tucker rode one 11-2 season all the way to a 95 million dollar contract. That’s almost as impressive as Scott Frost riding a 9-15 record through two seasons at Nebraska to a $35M contract extension. Tucker is 2-0 against Michigan. But he also hasn’t shown that he can keep it within 40 points against Ohio State.

Reasons for optimism: Going from 2-5 to 11-2 in a single season is pretty impressive.

Reasons for pessimism: Close wins against Nebraska, Indiana, PSU, and Michigan probably overstate the actual talent of MSU last year.

1 The Ohio State Buckeyes - Ryan Day 85 points

Ohio State is a well oiled machine. How much does Ryan Day have to do with that and how much of that has to do with the long streak of success under his predecessors Tressel and Urban as well as the huge financial resources thrown at recruits by Ohio State boosters? I’m not really sure and didn’t rank him first as a result. But enough of our writers thing Day is good so he takes home the top spot.

Don’t get me wrong, Day is going to be successful at Ohio State - it’s pretty hard to fail completely there - but is he capable of leading a team to a national championship? I hope not, but I’m a self hating Ohioan.

Reasons for optimism: Among Big Ten coaches with more than one season of coaching, Day has the second highest winning percentage of all time.

Reasons for pessimism: He’s still a decrease in winning percentage from his immediate predecessor. Urban won the national championship in his 3rd year at OSU. Tressel won it in his 2nd year. Hayes won it in his 4th year. If Day is the latest in the line of coaches to lead OSU to a national championship, I’d expect it to be sooner rather than later. Or he’s more like John Cooper and Earle Bruce and OSU fans will have to content themselves with just winning the B1G often.

Poll

Which B1G coach is fired first?

This poll is closed

  • 85%
    Scott Frost
    (225 votes)
  • 14%
    OTHER - Tell me in the comments
    (37 votes)
262 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which B1G coach is the best at his job?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Jim "Eat Less Chicken" Harbaugh
    (37 votes)
  • 22%
    Emperor Kirk I
    (58 votes)
  • 7%
    Bert
    (19 votes)
  • 30%
    $Mel Tucker$
    (78 votes)
  • 24%
    I’ve already added you and the other BoilerBots to the ignore list
    (62 votes)
254 votes total Vote Now