With the 2021 regular season in the books, let’s take a look at the head coaches in the Big Ten and rank them on performance:

14. Tom Allen (Indiana)

This is a no-brainer. The Hoosiers were ranked 17th to open the season and did not win a single Big Ten game. That’s almost unfathomable. Allen was the Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2020, and he is the worst in 2021. Things sure change quickly in college football.

13. Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern)

I knew this was going to be a tough year for Northwestern because of how much it lost (and how much others brought back due to the free year of eligibility during the pandemic), but still, this was a rough year. And coming off 2 West titles in 3 years, the Wildcats bottomed out again. Here’s all you need to know: Northwestern was the only B1G team that didn’t play a close game with Nebraska. Enough said.

12. Scott Frost (Nebraska)

There are some good things to say about Frost and some bad things to say about Frost. I like that Frost continued to get his players to show up each and every week. Even as it became apparent that Nebraska wasn’t going to hit its goals this season, the Huskers still went out each and every week and put up a fight. But still, 3-9 is 3-9. Frost has no bowl game appearances in 4 seasons.

11. Greg Schiano (Rutgers)

The Scarlet Knights went 2-7 in B1G play after going 3-6 last year, and even though they still had a chance to make a bowl game in the final week of the season, it was a step back from Schiano’s first year. Lots of work to be done. At the end of last year, you could make a decent case that Schiano’s stock was higher than Mel Tucker’s. No more.

10. James Franklin (Penn State)

This season did not live up to expectations, plain and simple. Going 4-5 in the B1G for a second straight season is a disappointment, and that falls on Franklin. Penn State lost at home to Illinois, which is inexcusable. After that new contract, Franklin is held to a higher standard, and there is a case to be made he shouldn’t even be ranked this high.

9. Ryan Day (Ohio State)

I can’t tell if this is too high or too low, so I guess I split the difference. It may seem harsh to rank a coach who went 10-2 this low, but when that coach’s team was thoroughly outplayed in its 2 most important games of the year, can you blame me? If Ohio State wins 1 of those games, it is probably in the CFP.

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I think Day is a terrific coach, but there is some truth to Harbaugh’s “born on third” comment. Ohio State is absolutely loaded thanks to Urban Meyer. Day has continued to stockpile talent, too, and it has a significant talent edge in every game it plays outside of Alabama and Georgia. So losing twice in the regular season is a down year for Ohio State. Day is still obviously a terrific coach with a bright future, but he gets low marks for 2021.

8. Paul Chryst (Wisconsin)

Chryst deserves plenty of blame for the 1-3 start and the disfunction on offense. But he also deserves credit for the Badgers’ turnaround that featured 7 straight wins and a shot at the West title. Falling short in the final week against Minnesota is what fans will remember, though. This is the worst 2-year stretch for Wisconsin since 2008-2009, so Chryst has a lot to prove next season.

7. Mike Locksley (Maryland)

The Terrapins are bowl-bound for the first time since 2016, which is huge for this program. So Locksley undoubtedly gets credit for that. But still, 6 wins was the absolute ceiling for this team. Their 6 losses were all by 17 points or more, and 2 of their 3 B1G wins were by 3 points.

6. Kirk Ferentz (Iowa)

On the one hand, Iowa won the West. On the other hand, doesn’t Iowa feel a little … underwhelming? This team peaked Oct. 9, and it’s been downhill ever since. In the last 8 games, Iowa has won 5, all by 10 points or less; it has lost 3, all by 17 points or more. Maybe you could say that Ferentz has squeezed everything he could have out of this team, but as the longest-tenured coach in FBS, that’s just an indictment on his roster-building.

Even though Iowa won the West, I think this is the worst team it has had in 3 years. The 2019 team that went 10-3 and smashed USC in the Holiday Bowl would dominate this one. And I think the 2020 squad that just had 2 bad games to start the season would’ve also smashed this one. But neither won the West, while this one did. Strange how that worked out.

5. Bret Bielema (Illinois)

Illinois beat 2 ranked teams on the road in Bielema’s first season. That’s darn impressive. Just like Mel Tucker and Greg Schiano in their first seasons, Bielema had some impressive wins. But unlike those guys, Bielema’s team didn’t have a bunch of lopsided losses. Illinois was truly not competitive in only 1 Big Ten game, which was a 24-point loss to Wisconsin. Other than that, every loss was by 10 points or loss. Bielema deserves a lot of credit for that.

4. PJ Fleck (Minnesota)

Fleck was dealt a tough hand this season. His best player went down in the season opener, and later so did his 2 backups. But Minnesota was somehow in play for the West title on the final weekend. He also made significant strides on the defensive side of the ball, turning a middling defense in 2020 into a top-5 defense in the nation in 2021. Minnesota went 8-4 despite losing to Bowling Green.

3. Jeff Brohm (Purdue)

Brohm was one of the best coaches in the Big Ten this season. I don’t think anyone would disagree. Purdue won 4 of their last 5 and beat 2 top-5 opponents. Brohm vowed to take a more hands-on approach to the defense this year, and Purdue had the No. 31 defense nationally. Brohm also clearly figured something out with Aidan O’Connell, who turned into one of the B1G’s best QBs.

2. Mel Tucker (Michigan State)

I went back and forth on this one. Tucker could’ve been No. 1, but he’s not for a couple reasons: Michigan State lost 2 of its final 4 games, one of which was as lopsided as it can get; and Michigan finally beat Ohio State.

But still, that doesn’t diminish what Tucker accomplished this season. The Spartans were picked last in the East by the media, yet went 10-2 and are going to a New Year’s Six bowl. There’s a reason Michigan State backed up the Brinks truck to keep him from bolting to LSU.

1. Jim Harbaugh (Michigan)

Even after an incredible season from Tucker, Harbaugh has to be the pick. It’s impressive that Harbaugh got this kind of buy-in from a team that went 2-4 last year.

Michigan was a very good team all season. There never was a game where you could say the Wolverines didn’t show up ready to play. I think they were the better team in every game they played.

Harbaugh pushed the right buttons at every turn, starting with how he revamped his coaching staff. Then he made a great decision to name Cade McNamara the starter early on in training camp. He juggled a difficult situation with JJ McCarthy and seemed to keep everyone happy.

It’s funny because Harbaugh probably was the worst-performing coach in 2020, while Tom Allen was the best. Now, Harbaugh is the best and Allen is the worst. What a difference a year makes.