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Mark Dantonio Ranks Second in Athlon’s Big Ten Head Coach Rankings

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NCAA Football: Holiday Bowl-Washington State vs Michigan State Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio is a damn good football coach. That much is obvious amongst the East Lansing faithful, and he is plenty respected nationally as well (when the media can say his name correctly).

But if you were to rank all of the current Big Ten coaches, where would you place Dantonio? The majority of the audience reading this is most likely MSU fans, so we’re all probably a little bit biased. But even impartial third parties would likely rank Dantonio highly on such a list.

In fact, Steven Lassan, college football editor at Athlon Sports, listed Dantonio second among all Big Ten college football coaches. Dantonio ranked only behind Urban Meyer of Ohio State, who led the Buckeyes to a national championship in 2014-2015.

Here is what Lassan had to say about Michigan State’s head man:

“Michigan State was one of college football’s most improved teams last season, recording a seven-win jump from 2016 to ‘17. With last year’s 10-3 record and second-place finish in the East Division in mind, Dantonio jumps back to the No. 2 spot among Big Ten coaches. He’s 100-45 since taking over in East Lansing in 2007 and has just two losing records in that span. Additionally, Michigan State has claimed three Big Ten titles since 2010 and earned a trip to the CFB Playoff in ‘15. Prior to his stint at Michigan State, Dantonio went 18-17 in three years at Cincinnati (2004-06) and worked as an assistant at Kansas (1991-94), Michigan State (1995-2000) and Ohio State (2001-03).”

Dantonio has had nine wining seasons in 11 campaigns with the Spartans. He has also led MSU to six separate 10-or-more-win seasons, a tremendous feat seeing how MSU only had two seasons with that sort of success prior to Dantonio’s arrival (1965 and 1999).

The leader of the Michigan State football program has also led the Spartans to five bowl victories, including a Rose Bowl. As Lassan notes, Dantonio also took MSU to a College Football Playoff appearance in 2015. The Spartans have won five of their last six bowl games, and the only season MSU missed a bowl game under Dantonio’s tutelage was that dreadful 2016 season where nothing seemed to go right.

For those curious, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh ranked No. 4 on the list. James Franklin of Penn State ranked right behind Dantonio, earning the No. 3 spot. Northwestern‘s Pat Fitzgerald rounds out the top five. Lovie Smith of Illinois — who has taken an NFL team to a Super Bowl — ranked dead last in the Athlon article. But that will happen when you go 2-16 in conference play in your first two seasons.

My take is that this list is fair and these rankings make sense. Meyer, a three-time national championship winning coach throughout his career, is in a class by himself. However, the only coach in the conference that could even be mentioned in the same breath as Meyer is Dantonio, whose three Big Ten titles are the most out of all the league’s coaches — and more than Meyer and Harbaugh combined (see what I did there?).

Is this whole list accurate? Should Dantonio have the No. 2 spot? Should any other coaches be higher or lower? Let us know in the comments section.