Originally, I was going to measure the hot seats of the conference’s head coaching ranks going into the 2012 season, but considering that the Penn State gig is going to be at a relative low temperature for quite some time, there went that plan.
12. Kevin Wilson, Indiana
Wilson had momentum and then some coming from Oklahoma. He was the guy who made Sam Bradford a superstar and laid the groundwork for Landry Jones, DeMarco Murray and others.
What resulted in his first year as the Hoosiers’ head man wasn’t pretty. Indiana ended the year ranked No. 80 in overall offense with losses to Ball State, North Texas and every Big Ten school they faced. Tack on the loss of Gunner Kiel and you can see why Wilson’s tush is frying after Year One.
The 2012 schedule isn’t too tough, but Wilson needs to improve a defense that gave up 35 points per contest last year.
11. Dan O’Brien, Penn State
O’Brien’s situation is odd to put it mildly.
Dan’s probably the first coach in recent NCAA history with no idea who will be on his roster come the first kickoff. Also consider that he can only take in 15 new players per year and have no more than 65 on the roster for quite some time. If he wanted to bolt, could you blame him?
If you’re a PSU fan, do you want him to excel knowing he may be poached by a program with much more to offer or is stinking up the joint for a few years and likely keeping him around (if he’s willing) the preferred path?
10. Jerry Kill, Minnesota
I’ll bet the folks behind FireJerryKill.com are probably the only ones torn about this ranking.
The Gophers started out alright last year as they were competitive against USC in Los Angeles. However, the loss to North Dakota State and dropping seven of their last nine left a sour taste in the Gopher faithful’s mouth.
Kill does have a dynamic quarterback in MarQueis Gray, but also laid claim to a passing attack that made defensive coordinators salivate (No. 109 in FBS last year).
Local Nebraskan writers think Minny’ll get to a bowl game. I’m just trying to figure out the six games they can actually win.
9. Tim Beckman, Illinois
The first new head coach in the 2012 edition of Big 10 in this year’s countup (or countdown, whatever) brings in a moderate success from Toledo where he went 21-16 in three years. Beckman spent time in defensive positions at Oklahoma State, Ohio State and Bowling Green as well.
Knowing the landscape of the Big Ten should help Beckman along with an Illini defense that managed to be salty at times last year.
The offense gets handed off to two SEC boys, Billy Gonzales and Chris Beatty, who should help Nathan Scheelhaase finally realize his potential.
8. Danny Hope, Purdue
Hope returns for his fourth year likely begging for some consistency and luck on the injury front for his Boilermakers. Last year, Purdue went 7-6 and amazingly never had more than a two-game winning or losing streak.
There were good wins (Minnesota, Illinois), bad losses (Notre Dame, Wisconsin) and even a thrill ride against Ohio State. Quarterback Caleb TerBush was good, but not great, and the defense just as sub-par.
If another .500 year hits West Lafayette, there may not be much hope left for…nope, not gonna do it.
7. Kirk Ferentz. Iowa
The highest paid coach and dean of the conference returns to Iowa City. Under Ferentz, Iowa has seen good times, bad times and a pile of torn ACLs.
Last year’s loss in Ames showed a team as stable as the trophy, but the Hawkeyes’ 21-point comeback against Pitt was impressive. A hit and miss trek through their Big Ten schedule before ending the year getting smacked in the mouth by Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl punctuated another “blah” year for Ferentz.
If he and James Vandenberg can weather both their schedule and the annual maladies at running back, Iowa could surprise in the Legends. Either way, Ferentz makes bank yet again.
That’s six down, six to go. Will Nebraska’s head man sit near the head of the class? Check back tomorrow to find out.