[Note: welcome to one of our newest contributors, Mark Niemi! Excited to have Mark aboard for the beginning of football season. - JT]
Ranking the Big Ten Coaches (overall college record/record at school)
1. Urban Meyer - Ohio State (142-26/38-3): With no regular season losses in three years at Ohio State, Urban Meyer is the cream of the Big Ten's crop.
2. Mark Dantonio - Michigan State (93-48/75-31): Mark Dantonio is the total package. Not only has he turned around the mess that he inherited from John L. Smith, but he's also turned the Spartans into a perennial top five program.
3. Jim Harbaugh - Michigan (58-27/N/A): Harbaugh turned himself into a commodity by taking Stanford to the BCS and the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl. Now let's see what he can do without Andrew Luck.
4. James Franklin - Penn State (31-21/7-6): There's no question James Franklin can turn a program around. The question that remains is whether or not he is the type of coach who can take a team to an elite level, which is the standard that Penn State is looking for.
5. Jerry Kill - Minnesota (152-99/25-26): Does anyone else remember when the national media proclaimed Tim Brewster a better hire than Mark Dantonio? Health concerns aside, Jerry Kill has turned the Golden Gophers into one of the Big Ten West's top programs, which was something that Brewster was never able to do.
6. Pat Fitzgerald - Northwestern (60-53): Pat Fitzgerald may not be the best game day coach, but he certainly can develop a program. As a Northwestern alum, Fitzgerald is the right man for the job in Evanston.
7. Paul Chryst - Wisconsin (19-19/N/A): Why Bret Bielema or Gary Anderson would leave Wisconsin for lesser programs like Arkansas and Oregon State are two of the bigger questions that I may never quite understand. The fact of the matter is Wisconsin runs a system, and former Badger offensive coordinator Paul Chryst is the right man to keep things rolling in Madison after a brief stint as the head coach at Pittsburgh.
8. Mike Riley - Nebraska (93-80/N/A): Oh how the mighty have fallen. While Bo Pelini clearly wasn't ready for the challenge of coaching in the Big Ten or even the Big Twelve, Nebraska should have been able to do better than a middle of the road coach from the Pac 12 as his replacement.
9. Kirk Ferentz - Iowa (127-106/115-85): Whether it's a lack of talent, a lack of innovation or both, the once revered Kirk Ferentz is on the hot seat in Iowa.
10. Kyle Flood - Rutgers (23-16): Rutgers' prime recruiting base is offset by poor facilities. So far Kyle Flood has proven to be up to the challenge of the Big Ten, but could do even better as Rutgers' revenue increases.
11. Randy Edsall - Maryland (94-100/20-30): A decent coach in the Big East and ACC, Randy Edsall is learning that things will be much tougher in the Big Ten.
12. Kevin Wilson - Indiana (14-34): Kevin Wilson and his staff deserves some time to see what they can do with one of the Big Ten's worst jobs, especially with QB Nate Sudfeld coming back from injury.
13. Tim Beckman - Illinois (33-41/12-25): After going 6-7 in 2014, Tim Beckman has earned one more season to prove that he should remain the Illini's head coach.
14. Darrell Hazell - Purdue (20-30/4-20): A warning to all those who think that one good season at a mid-major program qualifies you to run a BCS program.
After nearly a decade of trending downward and plenty of national ridicule, the Big Ten is once again on the rise as a power conference on the college football scene, or as Colin Cowherd might say they're "a buy," and no longer "a bye."
The only team that held serve over this period was Michigan State, both in terms of positively representing the conference during its downturn, and being a part of the rebuild.
The Big Ten's downtrend was characterized by a variety of different issues that plagued the conference's traditional powers, namely Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan.
Less than a decade after winning a National Championship in 2002, Ohio State was besieged by an off the field investigation pertaining to impermissible benefits that lead to NCAA sanctions and the forced resignation of their once beloved coach, Jim Tressel.
Penn State was, in all likelihood. looking for an excuse to come up with an exit plan for their aging legend, Joe Paterno, long before the Sandusky scandal.
Meanwhile, The University of Michigan, discontent with Lloyd Carr's regular double digit win seasons, blew up their entire program to replace him with spread offense guru Rich Rodriguez. Only then did they realize they made a mistake and fired Rodriguez to bring in Brady Hoke, a Lloyd Carr clone.
Unfortunately for Michigan fans, and as anyone who saw the Michael Keaton movie Multiplicity knows, every clone is slightly duller and slower than the original. Brady Hoke didn't have the ability to beat his biggest rivals, or even find a set of working headphones to let him communicate with his coordinators.
Just as the Big Ten's lean years were caused by some coaching scandals and blunders, the conference's resurgence is being led by a new class of highly regarded coaches.
Urban Meyer became the unquestioned king of college football after leading Florida to two National Championships in just six seasons before his feigned retirement allowed him to come back to coach at his alma mater, Ohio State.
Not surprisingly, last year Meyer guided the Buckeyes to a National Championship in just his third season in Columbus.
Things are also looking up in Happy Valley after Bill O'Brien decided to bolt from Penn State due in part to what turned out to be some of the NCAA's harshest sanctions in years.
And just as it looked like the NCAA had finally flexed their muscle and brought down a traditional football power, they took a page out of Roger Goodell's playbook and arbitrarily reduced Penn State's punishment with no real precedent or reasoning, reminding us all why we'd quit our fantasy football leagues if they were run by either Goodell or NCAA President, Mark Emmert.
Sure enough, with Penn State's sanctions being erased and phased out by 2016, their job once again became an attractive position, which allowed the Nittany Lions to poach James Franklin away from Vanderbilt, who became a hot commodity after he transformed what was once a regular doormat into a bowl contender in the powerful SEC.
And no program has generated more buzz this offseason than Michigan by bringing their once ostracized ex-quarterback, and now revered coach Jim Harbaugh back to Ann Arbor where he single handedly made the "dad bod" sexy, even if some of his former star players like Richard Sherman have a "Passionate hate" for the man.
While the Big Ten's big three are finally on the upswing, Michigan State took advantage of the situation when they were down and made a genius hire in Mark Dantonio and thrust themselves in the mix for the foreseeable future.
Dantonio not only knew how to win, having been the defensive coordinator on Ohio State's 2002 National Championship team, but he knew the Spartan culture inside and out as well.
Not only was Dantonio an assistant on Nick Saban's Spartan staff in the late 1990's, but he coached at Ohio State and Cincinnati, which allowed him to make connections with high school coaches in the heart of Michigan State's recruiting territory.
Sure, the national media who doesn't deal with Dantonio on a regular basis may call him by the wrong name, refer to him as "a humorless coach void of any semblance of personality," or think that Jim Harbaugh will be a better coach, but let's not mistake a dry wit with a lack of personality, or realize that his results are on par with the nation's best .
Mark Dantonio may not be Steve Spurrier or Jim Harbaugh when it comes to making an ass of themselves in front of the camera, but Coach D has swag with a capital block "S."
This is the same coach who routinely ignores questions from sideline reporters and just slyly smiles and talks about whatever the hell he wants to talk about, such as when he smugly reminded a shocked national audience that the name of game winning fake field goal against Notre Dame was "Little Giants."
Or that Northwestern "took the cheese" on the fake punt he called "Mouse Trap" that helped his Spartans come back from a 17-0 deficit one month later.
Of course, who can forget Dantonio putting Mike Hart and every Michigan fan in their place by saying, "Pride comes before the fall," and, "It's not over, and it will never be over here" before rattling off 6 of 7 wins against their in-state rivals.
After 4 eleven win seasons in the last 5 years under Dantonio, Michigan State has now surpassed the likes of Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska and firmly cemented themselves as one of the Big Ten's elite programs.
Regardless of what the conference's traditional powers are able to accomplish or the national media might think, so long as Mark Dantonio remains the head coach at Michigan State, his Spartans will be the bar that other programs in the Big Ten strive to become.