A Preview of Nebraska's Spring Game Attendees
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Hot Reads: The Big Ten Coaching Upgrade is Paying Off

May 10, 2018

Now is the time on the college football calendar when we rank things. Or we react to rankings. It's one of the great offseason traditions. (Note: We'll start doing some of our own ranking here soon enough.)

First up, CBSSports.com's ranking of the top 25 Power 5 coaches. Scott Frost, as a first-time P5 head coach, enters the rankings at No. 21:

Our voters think Nebraska's made a significant upgrade at coach this season. Mike Riley finished at No. 38 in these rankings, and Frost enters his first season in Lincoln at No. 21. That fictional "national championship" boost is real. 2017 rank: n/a

That feels fair enough given that there are only two seasons of results to draw upon (though a few other new head coaches with résumés just as short rank higher). Kirby Smart's two years at Georgia land him at No. 8. Lincoln Riley's one year at Oklahoma lands him at No. 15.

But rather than debate any individual ranking, my larger takeaway from this list was the Big Ten's presence on it. Urban Meyer (2) and James Franklin (10) were the only conference coaches in the top 10, but the Big Ten had eight coaches in the top 25, including six of the eight spots between No. 16 and No. 23. That's the most top-25 coaches of the five conferences by a comfortable margin. The SEC and Pac-12 were next with five, the Big 12 had four and the ACC three.

That feels pretty true to me. The Big Ten has quickly become a conference of good coaches, and that wasn't the case five years ago. Rank the Big Ten coaches from 2013 and you have Meyer and Mark Dantonio one-two. Pat Fitzgerald and Kirk Ferentz, the other two remaining coaches from 2013, are probably close to next depending upon how you would've ranked Bo Pelini and Brady Hoke at the time. 

But just look at some of the upgrades over those five years. Minnesota went from Jerry Kill (who was doing a good job) to P.J. Fleck (No. 41 on this year's list). That one's still up in the air. Penn State went from Bill O'Brien to Franklin. Wisconsin traded Gary Andersen for Paul Chryst, which has proven to be a bigger upgrade than I ever thought it would be. Purdue's going to have a hard time hanging onto him, but the change from Darrell Hazell to Jeff Brohm might be the biggest of all at this point.

Nebraska, of course, went back to hopefully take two steps ahead. And the timing was just right. The Big Ten at the moment is a conference with few easy outs when it comes to who is standing on the opposing sideline.

So place your bets now. When this list arrives next spring, is Frost in the top 20?

It's kind of a fun one to ponder.

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