When the Big Ten was a laughing stock about a decade ago, it was clear that a change in coaches needed to take place at most of the programs in the conference. Those changes have taken place and the impact has produced the best division in college football.
Of course, it was the hire of Urban Meyer which really lit a fire under the rest of the Big Ten, and the TV money didn’t hurt either.
The talent levels around the conference have improved because the recruiters have improved. If the schools can keep the coaches from taking bigger and better jobs, things are only going to get better for them.
A great head coach can make up for some deficiencies elsewhere, but when the best coaches have the most talent, life becomes difficult for everyone else.
So who has the best head coach in the Big Ten East? You already know.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
Urban Meyer is 49-4 against the Big Ten as the head coach at Ohio State. To write anymore than this would be unnecessary, but let’s continue. Meyer has two B1G Championships and six division titles (some shared) in his six seasons. That’s pretty darn dominating. The Buckeyes are 19-5 against ranked opponents under Meyer, who has a career record of 177-31. At Ohio State, Meyer is 6-0 against Michigan.
2. Penn State Nittany Lions
James Franklin is moving up this list gradually. In 2016, he was fourth in the division, and last year he was third. This year, momentum and recruiting are on his side. This wasn’t an easy decision, but it feels like an inevitability at this point. Penn State is 22-5 over the last two seasons and 4-4 against ranked opponents. Franklin is 60-32 overall and 36-17 at Penn State.
3. Michigan State Spartans
Mark Dantonio is probably second on most lists, but the 2016 season happened, no matter how quickly we want to forget about it. Before that ridiculous 3-9 oddity, however, the Spartans had ripped off 36 wins over the previous three seasons. Add the 10-3 to that number last year, and most of this punch bowl looks just fine. Dantonio is 100-45 at MSU and 9-9 against Top 10 teams. He has three B1G titles.
4. Michigan Wolverines
It is time for Jim Harbaugh to lose fewer than two games in conference play this season. He doesn’t need to win the conference, but at some point the division needs to be secured. Harbaugh is 28-11 in his three seasons at Michigan, which is two games better than Brady Hoke was. He is 1-7 against Top 10 teams at Michigan, but 4-0 against ranked opponents outside of the Top 10. He is 1-5 against MSU and OSU.
5. Indiana Hoosiers
In Tom Allen’s first year last season, the Hoosiers went 5-7, which was better than expected. In those seven losses were an overtime loss to Michigan, an 8-point loss at Michigan State, a 3-point loss at Maryland, and a 7-point loss at Purdue. Three of those four losses came with redshirt freshman quarterback Peyton Ramsey at the helm. Allen did as much as he could to keep the Hoosiers in games last year.
6. Maryland Terrapins
Despite a 10-15 career mark at Maryland, head coach D.J. Durkin is trending in the right direction. The Terps’ quarterback issues have held him back, however. Due to injuries in 2016 and 2017, Maryland has had four quarterbacks throw at least 10 passes each season. No other Big Ten team has had to do that even once in the last decade. The win at Texas last season is likely overblown, but it showed Durkin’s potential.
7. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
In Chris Ash’s first season, he led Rutgers to two wins. Last year in his second season, he doubled that total to four wins. I wouldn’t expect him to double it again, but if the Scarlet Knights could add two more to last year’s total, they would take it. Ash is 0-8 against ranked opponents so far. They were 8-4 against the spread last year, however, so that’s something at least.