Ranking the opposing coaches

The Big Ten coaching fraternity looks vastly different than it did several years ago, creating numerous intriguing coaching matchups for Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern. Which of the Wildcats' opposing coaches ranks as the best?

1.) Kirk Ferentz, Iowa - Kirk Ferentz currently stands as the dean of Big Ten coaches, the longest-tenured head coach. Ferentz enters his 14th season with the Iowa Hawkeyes, where he has brought the program sustained success.

Ferentz started 4-19 in his first two seasons with Iowa, but has gone 92-47 since then, including a pair of Orange Bowl appearances. Since 2001, the Hawkeyes have played in a bowl game in all but one seasons.

Pat Fitzgerald, entering his seventh season has head coach, stands behind only Ferentz as the conference's second-longest-tenured coach. With the two coaches at their respective schools, Northwestern and Iowa have seen many fascinating matchups. It is always fun to watch when the Wildcats battle with Ferentz and the Hawkeyes.

2.) Bo Pelini, Nebraska - When Bo Pelini took over the Nebraska football program, it was a mess. The storied "Blackshirt" defense had turned into an embarrassment, unable to defend a wall. After a national championship with LSU as its defensive coordinator, Pelini helped reshape Nebraska's defense and the team's record.

Mark Dantonio has made Michigan State a perennial Big Ten title contender.

Including an interim coaching appearance in 2003, Pelini's record with the Cornhuskers stands at 39-16, including a bowl appearance in each of his first four seasons. Nebraska has won nine games year.

Pelini has yet to lead Nebraska to that next step -- a BCS bowl. With his most talented roster yet on the 2012 team, this could be a big season for the Huskers.

3.) Brady Hoke, Michigan - After making his alma mater, Ball State, a 12-win team, then turning San Diego State into a 9-4 team, Brady Hoke brought Michigan to a Sugar Bowl in his first season as head coach.

The only reason Hoke isn't higher in these rankings is because he lacks the sustained success that Ferentz and Pelini possess.

However, Michigan is primed for another big season in Hoke's second year. If the Wolverines can provide an encore to Hoke's first season, he may emerge as one of the best coaches in the entire country.

4.) Mark Dantonio, Michigan State - Under the leadership of Mark Dantonio, the Spartans have not only become an annual winner, but also a contender for the Big Ten title each season.

Michigan State proved its 2010 mark of 11-2 was no fluke, going 11-3 the following season. A few bad fortunes kept the Spartans from becoming a national championship contender last season.

5.) James Franklin, Vanderbilt - One of the reasons Northwestern plays like-minded schools for its football schedule is to influence recruiting battles. Pat Fitzgerald has found himself battling for prospects with second-year Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin.

Franklin took a Commodore team that finished 4-20 in a two-year span and led it to a bowl game in his first season. Franklin has also built momentum in recruiting for Vanderbilt, proving the program could compete in the SEC down the road.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats and Chicago Cubs. He currently resides on Chicago's north side.
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