5. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Gary Barnett and Randy Walker proved it was possible to win at Northwestern, but to do it as long as Fitzgerald has is amazing. The program is just now getting the facilities in place, but it’ll never get the five-star talents. Even so, he has two ten-win seasons in the last three. Now, going bowling and winning isn’t seen as some sort of a desperate dream.
– Preview 2018: Is This A Power Program?
4. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
He found his groove. Just okay at Pitt, at least he came up with three straight bowl appearances to go along with the 19-19 record. But the former Badger quarterback has been brilliant so far in Madison with two straight Big Ten Championship appearances, three straight major bowl wins, and one late drive last year away from going to the College Football Playoff.
– Preview 2018: Get Into The CFP Already
3. James Franklin, Penn State
The guy took Vanderbilt – freaking VANDERBILT – to three straight bowl appearances, and he doesn’t get enough credit for taking over a Penn State program hamstrung by NCAA issues and its past and turning it into a monster again. Yeah, the first two seasons were rough, but at least he went bowling. Two straight 11-win seasons, one Big Ten championship, and two New Year’s Six bowl games later, it’s all working.
– Preview 2018: Give James Franklin His Due
2. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Six ten-win seasons in the last eight, three Big Ten championships, a Rose Bowl win, and five bowl victories in the last six appearances. That one bowl loss? It was in the College Football Playoff. Oh yeah, and he’s able to keep beating Michigan on a regular basis. And now, he might be coming into the season with his best Spartan team yet.
– Preview 2018: It’s Okay To Be A Superpower
1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State
The only thing missing is that he’s doing all of this at the same time that Nick Saban is doing that in Alabama.
Meyer is an even better head coach than you think, with seven 12-plus win seasons in the last nine years, and one of the seasons he didn’t hit the mark was 2016 – but he went to the College Football Playoff. Two Big Ten titles, a 47-3 conference record, a national title, and four straight top six finishes – and remember, the pressure was on to do all this, and he’s actually exceeding the expectations.
No, really, how good is he? He’s now 6-for-6 in double-digit win seasons in Columbus. Yeah, new era, a few more games each year, but … Woody Hayes won ten games or more five times in 28 years at Ohio State.
– Preview 2018: Be Perfect. That’s All