Consider me a fan of what has gone on over the last couple of years in the Big Ten West.
For too long, Big Ten teams were sitting on their money and not getting the best coaches they could. That has begun to change for most of the programs, and we will continue to see the results on the field.
The longer that these on-the-cusp programs can keep their head coaches, the further over the cusp they will get.
Any team in the West Division could become a Wisconsin-type of program. The only thing holding them back is vision and consistency.
Both of those attributes are coming more into style all over the division, which is great for the conference as a whole.
But when we rank the coaches, the top of the heap still holds a familiar face. The rest of the list, however, is incredibly difficult to slot.
1. Wisconsin Badgers
This is Paul Chryst’s fourth year at Wisconsin, but it may as well be his tenth. He has things the way he wants them, which is the way they’ve always been. He is 34-7 at Wisconsin and an impressive 14-1 on the road. The only team to defeat him? Michigan (14-7) in 2016. The Badgers have won two NY6 bowls the last two seasons. Wisconsin is 22-6 in conference play under Chryst.
2. Northwestern Wildcats
Pat Fitzgerald is 87-65 in his career at Northwestern and 48-50 in conference play. The reason he is No. 2 on this list is mainly because he has maintained what Randy Walker started and expanded it. The Wildcats have won 27 games the last three years. Both Purdue and Iowa have an argument here, and Nebraska likely will very soon.
3. Purdue Boilermakers
Darrell Hazell won nine games in his four seasons at Purdue. The Boilers won seven games — including a bowl game — in Jeff Brohm’s first season as head coach. Getting Purdue to a bowl game is almost a miracle and shouldn’t be overlooked. Brohm is 37-16 as a head coach and 3-0 in bowl games. The future is bright, which is why Purdue has to do everything they can to keep him.
4. Iowa Hawkeyes
Kirk Ferentz is as consistent as a dirt road. No, it’s not the smoothest path, but it’s been driveable since 1938. Iowa could very easily be No. 2 on this list. The 28 wins over the last three years for Ferentz is the third such time in his career he has won at least 28 games in a three-year stretch. He is 86-69 in Big Ten play for his career and 143-97 overall.
5. Nebraska Cornhuskers
This is Scott Frost’s third season as a head coach, which is probably why he’s not higher on this list. I have referred to Frost as Urban Meyer 2.0 before, so I expect him to eventually travel up to the top here. I couldn’t put him any higher than this, however, because there are still defensive concerns even with what he did in his second season at UCF last year. If he tanks, I will scrub the internet of my comments.
6. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Amazingly, P.J. Fleck’s first year at Minnesota was also the worst season record-wise for the Gophers since 2011. The 5-7 season was a disappointment coming off of a nine-win season, but three of the losses were by a score or less. Things might not be much better this year considering the gigantic question mark right now at quarterback.
7. Illinois Fighting Illini
Lovie Smith is now in his third season at Illinois and is still looking for his first win over a ranked opponent. He is 5-19 overall and 2-16 in conference play. There is not much to get excited about here, though recruiting is starting to pick up. Every other team in the division has a vision and hope. Illinois may have a vision, but the hope is questionable and not many people are buying in.
2018 Big Ten Ratings
Coaches — East | West