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Podcast Episode 061: Analyzing the Big Ten coaches

Stephen Prather from Coaches By The Numbers breaks it down

Is Bret Bielema the best coach in the Big Ten? What about Kirk Ferentz? Photo source: Getty Images

Last week I was pleased to introduce a new guest to the podcast when Stephen Prather from the new website Coaches By The Numbers stopped by to discuss the ACC coaches. I loved having him on and hearing how he and the rest of the staff analyze the coaches in the conference, so I decided to invite him back to discuss the Big Ten coaches.

While the Big Ten has five of the coaches in Coaches By The Numbers’ Top 50, there is a level of uncertainty entering the 2011 season. Will Joe Paterno retire or not and which way could Penn State turn in the future? What exactly is Luke Fickell going to do in his head coaching debut on an interim basis at Ohio State? How hot is the seat for Ron Zook at Illinois? How quickly can Brady Hoke turn things around at Michigan? Can Mark Dantonio repeat Michigan State’s success form a season ago? And how does Bo Pelini get his team to adjust to life in a new conference, when the expectations are already pointing toward an appearance in the Big Ten championship game?

Whew. This is going to be a fun season of Big Ten football it would seem.

As I did last week with my ACC coaches ranking, I decided to share my own Big Ten coaches rankings along with the posting of this podcast.

1. Bret Bielema, Wisconsin (49-16 overall) -If I’m starting a program right now and have to choose one Big Ten coach to lead it, Bielema is my guy.

2. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa (101-81) -Sometimes gets overlooked, although I’m not quite sure why. Has done a remarkable job with the Hawkeyes.

3. Bo Pelini, Nebraska (30-12) – Two straight Big 12 championship game appearances do not happen by accident. Now let’s see how he does in the Big Ten, entering as a division favorite right from the start.

4. Joe Paterno, Penn State (401-135-3) – No doubt Paterno is the most iconic of the coaches in this group, and his longevity should be commended. Would love to see one more great team cached by Paterno before his time is done.

5. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern (33-29) -Big fan of Fitzgerald, but win-less in bowl games (0-3). Would be interested to see what he could do elsewhere if given an opportunity he is interested in. One of the class acts in the country.

6. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State (51-36) – Last year was a great year and a great story for Dantonio and the Spartans. Had Michigan State played better (competitively) in the Capital One Bowl against Alabama, I would have no problem listing him higher right now. Let’s see if he can keep the Spartans going from start to finish in 2011.

7. Brady Hoke, Michigan (47-50) – Tremendous potential to move up quickly in this ranking, and plenty of optimism after the Rich Rodriguez era. Let’s see how he uses Denard Robinson and if the defense improves.

8. Jerry Kill, Minnesota (127-73) – Kill has plenty of reasons to like him, as Prather explains in the podcast, but he has plenty of work to do before Minnesota can start booking a trip for a postseason bowl game. If the Golden Gophers start winning a couple of games, I will consider moving him up a spot.

9. Danny Hope, Purdue (44-34) – It’s not easy coaching football at Purdue when you are in the same conference as Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin, and now Nebraska. Never mind the fact that Purdue is in the same state as Notre Dame.

10. Ron Zook, Illinois (51-59) – Looking like the final year for the Zooker in Champaigne. For now we’ll keep him just above the first-time head coaches in the conference.

11. Kevin Wilson, Indiana (0-0) – Wilson is making his head coaching debut and has been grooming for a head coaching opportunity for years after serving as an assistant at Miami, Oklahoma and Northwestern. He’ll have to start at the bottom, much like Indiana, and work his way up here.

12. Luke Fickell, Ohio State (0-0) – No offense to him, but he’s the new kid on the block and full of unknown potential.

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About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
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