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Ranking the Big Ten football coaches going into 2022

Ranking the Big Ten football coaches going into 2022
Jim Harbaugh led Michigan to the College Football Playoff in 2021. (Credit: Adam Cairns/USA TODAY Sports)

ROSEMONT, Ill. (BVM) — With some conferences in flux, the Big Ten has never been stronger. Even with reports of USC and UCLA being added in 2024, the Big Ten is one of the strongest conferences as it currently stands.

With some teams preparing for their annual playoff run, others are still trying to find out the proper way to rebuild their program. The ability to build a consistent winner in college football starts and ends with the head coach. Here are the best of the best in the Big Ten:

14. Scott Frost, Nebraska

Record at Nebraska (Since 2018): 15-29

Each of the last few seasons, there have been rumblings about the security of Frost’s job. It seems like at this point, Frost is just fighting to keep his head afloat and the 2022 season could be the final wave to put him under.

 

13. Tom Allen, Indiana

Record at Indiana (Since 2016):26-32

The Tom Allen era has been a whirlwind for Indiana football. Indiana has gone over .500 twice in his time there, in 2019 and a shortened 2020 season. In 2021, Indiana took a big step back going 2-10. If Allen cannot get the program back on track in 2022, it could be his final season in Bloomington.

 

12. Bret Bielema, Illinois

Record at Illinois (Since 2021): 5-7

Illinois went 5-7 in Bielema’s first season with some highs and lows. After a season-opening win against Nebraska, they went on a fourgame losing streak to start the year 1-4. The highlight of the year was an upset win against Penn State in Happy Valley in a nineovertime game. Overall, it was an okay start to Bielema’s tenure and something to build off of in 2022.

 

11. Mike Locksley, Maryland

Record at Maryland (Since 2019): 13-23

Locksley’s tenure started in 2019 with a 3-9 record, but since then, it seems like he has been able to create a shift in the Terrapin football program. They went 2-3 in 2020 and then 7-6 in 2021, the best record for the program since 2014, their first season in the Big Ten. With Taulia Tagovailoa returning, Locksley and the rest of the Terrapins look to continue to progress.

 

10. Jeff Brohm, Purdue

Record at Purdue (Since 2017): 28-29

Purdue has been patient with Jeff Brohm and was rewarded in 2021. The Boilermakers finished the year 9-4 with a Music City Bowl win over the Tennessee Volunteers. After Aidan O’Connell’s 534yard and fivetouchdown performance in the bowl game, Brohm and the rest of Purdue hope to change the national perception of the football program with another good season.

 

9. Greg Schiano, Rutgers

Record at Rutgers (2001-2011; Since 2020): 76-81

Schiano had some great seasons with Rutgers in his first stint as a member of the Big East before trying his hand in the NFL. In 2020, all the stars aligned leading to a return to the program. Owning an 8-14 record since coming back to New Brunswick, there is optimism around the program that Schiano can make Rutgers respectable amongst its Big Ten foes.

 

8. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Record at Iowa (Since 1999): 178-110

There is not a head coach more synonymous with their program than Kirk Ferentz is to Iowa. While the Hawkeyes have never really had that breakthrough season under Ferentz to become a college football powerhouse, he has given the program stability for over two decades. While he has not won a National Championship in Iowa City, he still has gotten the program some trophies including the 2001 Alamo Bowl, 2004 Outback Bowl and the 2010 Orange Bowl. While Ferentz is still on the sidelines, Iowa will never be an easy opponent.

 

7. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

Record at Wisconsin (Since 2015): 65-23

Since Chryst was hired in 2015, Wisconsin has sneakily been one of the most consistent teams in the country. He has doubledigit wins in four of his seven seasons, with victories in the Cotton Bowl and the Orange Bowl. As long as Chryst remains in Madison, the Badgers will always have a shot to make an appearance in the Big Ten championship game. 

 

6. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

Record at Northwestern (Since 2006): 109-90

It is hard to imagine where the Northwestern football program would be today without Pat Fitzgerald. Before he arrived, the Wildcats had made six bowl appearances in 123 years. Since then, they have played in 10 bowl games in 13 seasons. He is already a member of Northwestern’s Mount Rushmore of athletics and it is fair to wonder how much longer he will stay. Already having been linked to NFL head coaching jobs, the Wildcats need to enjoy Fitzgerald as long as they have him.

 

5. P.J. Fleck, Minnesota

Record at Minnesota (Since 2017): 35-23

After a 13-1 season at Western Michigan in 2016, Fleck emerged as a rising star. This made his decision to go to Minnesota a little surprising. Nonetheless, Fleck has done wonders with the Golden Gophers. In 2019, Minnesota had its first season with doubledigit wins since 2003. After a truncated 2020 of going 3-4, they were back on track in 2021 with a 9-4 record. Only 41 years old, Fleck could be one of the faces of the sport within the next decade.

 

4. James Franklin, Penn State

Record at Penn State (Since 2014): 67-34

Penn State went 4-5 in 2020 and 7-6 in 2021, however, there is still a reason why James Franklin was linked to the opening at USC this offseason. It’s because he’s still a very good coach. In a four-year span from 2016 through 2019, Penn State won doubledigit games in three of four seasons with wins in the Fiesta Bowl and the Cotton Bowl. But it is fair to criticize the last two seasons and if Penn State were to make a change following the 2022 season, Franklin would likely be the hottest name in the coaching carousel.

 

3. Mel Tucker, Michigan State

Record at Michigan State (Since 2020): 13-7

After an 11-2 season in 2021, Mel Tucker is emerging as not only one of the most valuable coaches in the Big Ten, but in the entire country. Before the season even ended, there were already whispers about Tucker possibly leaving for another job. That was quieted when he signed a 10year, $95 million extension to stay with the Spartans. Now that he is locked up long term, it will be Tucker’s job to put Michigan State in the conversation for the best program in the conference.

 

2. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Record at Michigan (Since 2015): 61-24

Before the 2020 season, Harbaugh had done a fine job at Michigan. But after a 2-4 COVID-19 impacted season, there was some talk on whether the Wolverines should go in a different direction, even including a contract extension that made his buyout cheaper. He answered any questions in 2021, leading Michigan to a 12-2 record and a College Football Playoff appearance. After an offseason of agita for Michigan fans with him being linked to the Minnesota Vikings opening, Harbaugh returns to Ann Arbor for 2022 looking to get back to the playoffs.

 

1. Ryan Day, Ohio State

Record at Ohio State (Since 2019): 34-4

After Urban Meyer’s retirement following the 2018 season, there was some concern if offensive coordinator Ryan Day was ready for the role. He quickly put this to rest leading the Buckeyes to a 13-1 record in his first season. Day has kept the program strong averaging only one loss per season since his takeover. Now going into 2022, the Ohio State football program is more feared than ever.

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