5. James Franklin, Penn State
He continues to get a bit of a bad rap because Penn State isn’t winning national championships. All he did was bring the program back from the dead – or NCAA sanctions – and come up with five straight winning seasons with 31 wins in the last three years. This is a little bit of a critical season, though, because now this really is his team with his players and talent – this is when the program is supposed to be a superpower again. Ho hum – Penn State fans might have to settle for nine or more wins.
Last Season Preseason Ranking: 3
– 2019 Penn State Preview
4. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
Uhhhhhhh, what was that? Just about all of the key parts were back from the 13-1 team that came within a scoring drive against Ohio State of going to the College Football Playoff, and it painfully underachieved. That’s okay once – everyone is allowed one mediocre season after winning 34 games in three years – but even with a new quarterback and rebuilding line, the team is good enough to take back the West.
Last Season Preseason Ranking: 4
– 2019 Wisconsin Preview
3. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
This is based on a bit of an assumption that he and his staff fixed the glitch. Yeah, winning ten games or more four times in five years was great, but that one other season was the 3-9 2016 disaster. Two years later, Dantonio had a national championship level defense and a 7-6 offense. He’s not going to let that happen again.
Last Season Preseason Ranking: 2
– 2019 Michigan State Preview
2. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
Stop focusing on what he hasn’t done. How did Michigan do before he took over? 5-7. Since taking over the gig, has he won more games than Dantonio? Yes. Has he won ten games three times in the last four seasons? Yeah, and in this league, only Chryst and Urban can match that. How many ten-win seasons did the program have in the 11 years before he was hired? Two.
Yes, he hasn’t beaten Ohio State. Yes, he hasn’t won a Big Ten title. Yes, he hasn’t been to a College Football Playoff. And yes, he just upgraded his offense and has everything in place to finally silence his critics.
Now beat Ohio State.
Last Season Preseason Ranking: 6
– 2019 Michigan Preview
1. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Oh COME ON … the guy took Northfreakingwestern to the Big Ten Championship a year after winning ten games. How this for a run at a place where consistent greatness is next to impossible? He has won nine games or more in three of the last four seasons and four years in a row. When was the last time Northfreakingwestern did that? 1928 to 1931.
Remember when Northfreakingwestern one just won bowl game from 1892 up until 2012? Yeah, Fitzgerald has one three in the last three years.
Helped by his efforts and energy, the football program has the nicest practice facility in college football – at least, it’s the most scenic. He has one of the nation’s top quarterback talents – Hunter Johnson from Clemson – ready to take over his offense, the defense should still be strong, and he’s got a team in place that might be his best yet.
Last Season Preseason Ranking: 5
– 2019 Northwestern Preview