Coming into the 2015 season, the Big Ten has some of the most decorated coaches in the country. Urban Meyer has Ohio State coming off of a national championship, and their biggest rivals are in the same division. Mark D’Antonio and Jim Harbaugh are right on the heels of Meyer, and their mission will be to knock off the Buckeyes in the fall.
Urban Meyer is still the only coach in the Big Ten to win a national title, but he single handedly raised the stature of the conference last season. His ability to lead a pair of back up quarterbacks to the College Football Playoff was nothing short of amazing. With the Buckeyes a favorite to win another title, the bullseye will be squarely on Ohio State’s back.
A few newcomers have also entered the Big Ten, but none of them have more cache than Jim Harbaugh. Instantly, Harbaugh turned the Michigan Wolverines into contenders. They haven’t even played a single snap yet, but that doesn’t mean the Wolverines aren’t thinking of great things in Harbaugh’s first year. In addition, he welcomes the rivalries with Ohio State and Michigan State.
Mike Riley of Nebraska and Paul Chryst of Wisconsin are also embarking on their first season in the Big Ten. Each coach is expected to do great things from the start of the season.
Now let’s take a look at the Big Ten coaching rankings.
1. Urban Meyer– (142-26) Ohio State Buckeyes: In 13 years of coaching, Urban Meyer has two undefeated seasons and three national titles on his resume. The Buckeyes won the title a year earlier than expected, so Ohio State is a strong contender to repeat. Still, Meyer has a few coaching moves to make. For instance, at some point, he must decide on a starting quarterback.
2. Mark D’Antonio– (93-48) Michigan State Spartans: Mark D’Antonio is entering his ninth season with the Spartans. In 2014, Michigan State was one of the favorites to earn a trip to the inaugural College Football Playoff, but a pair of losses to the eventual National Championship contestants left the Spartans out of the picture. D’Antonio is sure to have Michigan State in the right frame of mind this season. He’s had one losing season with Michigan State, and has 11 wins or more in 4 of the last 5 seasons.
3. Jim Harbaugh– (29-21) Michigan Wolverines: Jim Harbaugh is in his first season with the Michigan Wolverines. Everywhere Harbaugh has been, his teams turn it around quickly. Harbaugh’s record doesn’t look great, but he performed one of the most impressive four year turnarounds in college football history. That has Michigan dreaming of a playoff bid in the first season. To say the least, Harbaugh and the Wolverines expect to vie for a conference title.
4. James Franklin– (31-21) Penn State Nittany Lions: James Franklins spent his first three seasons with the Vanderbilt Commodores. There, he won two bowl games before heading to Penn State. In his first season with the Nittany Lions, Franklin won another Bowl game. Now Franklin is looking to take the Big Ten by storm in the coming seasons. Double digit wins are a real possibility for Penn State, and they have the opportunity to set their program forward another step.
5. Mike Riley– (93-80) Nebraska Cornhuskers: Riley is an interesting addition to the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ program. Known as one of the nicest guys in college football, Riley brings potent offense to Lincoln. His quarterback friendly system should make the quarterbacks at Nebraska flourish in no time.
6. Jerry Kill– (48-42) Minnesota Golden Gophers: The only thing that Jerry Kill hasn’t done is win a Bowl game. Despite a few medical issues, Kill has steadily risen the Golden Gophers back to respectability. Now Minnesota is looking to reach that double digit win plateau. Maybe they’ll earn a coveted trip to the Big Ten title game.
7. Kirk Ferentz (115-85) Iowa Hawkeyes: Kirk Ferentz has spent his entire career with the Iowa Hawkeyes. However, his last double digit win season came back in 2009. He’s only had one losing season since then, but the Hawkeyes have yet to compete for conference supremacy. Ferentz has also lost his last three Bowl games. Still, Iowa always seems ready to play a physical brand of football.
8. Pat Fitzgerald (60-53) Northwestern Wildcats: In 2012, Pat Fitzgerald finally earned a 10 win season, and a Bowl victory. The very next year, Northwestern was on their way to a top 10 program. Since that point, the Wildcats haven’t been the same. Northwestern is (10-14) in the last two seasons, so Fitzgerald’s 10th season could be his most important.
9. Kyle Flood (23-16) Rutgers Scarlet Knights: In three short years, Kyle Flood has kept the Rutgers’ program afloat. Their transition into the Big Ten was as smooth as could be expected. If Flood is able to manage Rutgers’ conference schedule this year, he will be in contention for Big Ten coach of the year. He already won that honor in the Big East in 2012.
10. Paul Chryst (19-20) Wisconsin Badgers: Chryst takes over the Wisconsin program, and he may be the coach to lead the Badgers into the future. After three mediocre years in Pittsburgh, Chryst seems ready for a new challenge at Wisconsin. He’ll keep the tradition of a dominant running game alive, so opponents should expect the same physical dominance as previous years.
11. Randy Edsall (90-93) Maryland Terrapins: During Randy Edsall’s 15 years as a head coach, he has never had a double digit winning season. To be fair, he helped build the Uconn football program, and he took another rebuilding job with Maryland. After a pair of (7-6) seasons with the Terrapins, it’s time for Maryland to take a leap. They should be more comfortable with their Big Ten family as well.
12. Tim Beckman (33-41) Illinois Fighting Illini: At the rate Tim Beckman is going, he will have a winning record with Illinois this season. More specifically, the Fighting Illini will have eight wins. If Illinois takes a step back, it could be Beckman’s final season with Illinois.
13. Darrell Hazell (20-30)- Purdue Boiler Makers: Darrell Hazell only has one winning season on his resume, but his record has more to do with players than anything else. After a quick turnaround at Kent State, Hazell was hired by Purdue in 2013. They only won four games in two seasons, but the seeds have been planted for the future. If Hazell is able to double the win total, they’ll make a Bowl game, and that will be another step towards Big Ten contention.
14. Kevin Wilson- (14-34) Indiana Hoosiers: Kevin Wilson has turned a terrible Indiana team into one that can be competitive on a given Saturday. Still, his (5-7) record in 2013 is the best that the Hoosiers have done in Wilson’s four year tenure. Indiana’s position in the Big Ten East doesn’t help matters. However, a earning a Bowl game would keep Wilson at Indiana for at least another year.