Yesterday, we looked over the bottom half of the conference’s head coaches. Who makes their mark in the top six and, most importantly, rules the roost?
6. Bo Pelini, Nebraska
Year Five of the Pelini Era is going to be interesting, to say the least. Staff changes and recruiting strategy adjustments added intrigue in the offseason. The Californian development of Taylor Martinez turns the time between now and approximately October into one big question mark.
Bo is 10-7 in his last 17 BCS conference games, and some fans are tired of the 9 win “standard.” A conference title has been in Nebraska’s sights for years. It’s time to snag one.
5. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
No coach in America does more with less than what Fitz does in Chicago (Bill O’Brien’s first year at Penn State pending).
His All-American quarterback went down last year. No big deal. Just plug in Kain Colter and give a top ten Nebraska team a big dose of the bitterness that the Wildcats dish out as the conference’s yearly spoiler.
As Brandon, Derek and I have discussed, Fitz is probably one of the only guys in FBS that won’t answer the phone when another team calls with a tremendous offer to leave. Home is where the heart is. Northwestern is his alma mater and no other program can claim that.
Early games versus Syracuse and Vanderbilt should show us just how good a more experienced Colter and the ‘Cats can be if Fitzgerald can whip them into an excited froth.
4. Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Shocked? I’m not saying that Urban is a dolt or a bad coach, but outside of recruiting, Urbz has done nothing in the Big Ten…yet. He did get a good head start in evaluation as ESPN’s Big Ten color guy last year, and don’t think he can’t/won’t use that to his advantage.
Braxton Miller is a solid quarterback that has tremendous upside in Meyer’s offense. Just because the Bucks can’t win a conference title won’t deter them. Undefeated is undefeated. Will Meyer be able to rival Hoke’s one-year revival? Stay tuned.
3. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Nos. 2 and 3 were a tossup. Dantonio has done well in East Lansing, leading the Spartans to consecutive 11-win seasons and the most conference wins over the last four years (24). The biggest hurdle for in 2012 is replacing several studs like Kirk Cousins and Edwin Baker.
Le’Veon Bell does return, but Boise State tests Sparty early. We’ll let the three-week stretch where MSU plays Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska be the true tiebreaker.
2. Brady Hoke, Michigan
No coach in America did a better job taking a previously underachieving team to the top last year than Brady Hoke. Greg Mattison turn a Wolverine defense that was unable to stop an infant from crawling past them into the nation’s No. 6 scoring defense.
What Hoke can do with Denard Robinson against Alabama in Arlington could catapult him to the No. 1 spot, not only the conference, but the country. However, the top guy as of today is…
1. Bret Bielema, Wisconsin
“Dubstep” is at the top as he led the conference’s first title game winner along with the victors of the Rose Bowl last year.
His acquisition of Russell Wilson with a money offense surrounding Montee Ball and an offensive line that could shove back an avalanche from Mount St. Helens worked out perfectly.
While Bielema has a challenge in getting Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien acclimated to the Badgers’ system without Paul Chryst who bolted to Pitt, he has the best non-sanctioned team in a four-horse division race.
Book him and his Badgers a flight back to Indy.
Disagree? Have rankings of your own? Comment below.