If you haven’t been on the internet much this week (how could anyone blame you?) you may have missed a bit of offseason controversy. Athlon Sports released their Big Ten coaches power rankings.
You may or may not be surprised to find our own Kirk Ferentz in the bottom tier of the power rankings. And in it, ranked Kirk Ferentz 8th, right behind...Nebraska’s new lord and savior, Scott Frost.
Did I read that right? -rubs eyes- I did? Oh, ok. Well! That’s certainly...an opinion to have.
Let’s see what Athlon Sports writer Steven Lasson uses as his rationale for these rankings:
8: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Ferentz is the nation’s longest-tenured head coach going into the 2018 season. During his time in Iowa City, Ferentz has recorded 143 victories, guided the program to 15 bowl trips and finished six times in the final Associated Press top 25 poll. Also, Iowa went to the Rose Bowl in 2015 and has won at least eight games in four out of the last five years. Since 2007, the Hawkeyes have just one losing season (2012). It’s a sign of the Big Ten’s coaching depth when Ferentz ranks No. 8 in the league.
7: Scott Frost, Nebraska
It’s probably safe to assume Frost will be moving up in these rankings over the next couple of seasons. The former Nebraska quarterback has returned to Lincoln to restore the program to national prominence. Frost has established an outstanding resume in a short amount of time. After a short NFL career, Frost worked as a graduate assistant at Nebraska and Kansas State, followed by a two-year stint at Northern Iowa as a defensive assistant. He joined Oregon’s staff in 2009 and was promoted to offensive coordinator in ‘13. Frost called the plays for the Ducks’ high-powered offense until he was hired as UCF’s head coach prior to the 2016 campaign. The Knights made dramatic progress in Frost’s first year, improving from 0-12 in 2015 to 6-7 in ‘16. UCF took another big step forward in 2017, finishing 13-0 and No. 6 nationally in the final Associated Press poll. This is one of the top hires for the 2017-18 coaching carousel, as Frost should win in a big way at his alma mater.
Now, I am no Kirk Ferentz apologist or anything like that, but if nothing else, does the Dean of the Big Ten get no respect for, well, being the Dean of coaches in the Big Ten? And if not, let’s take a closer look at the logic of ranking Frost 7: a head coach about to enter his third year as a head coach, in a new conference that features a completely different style of play than his previous one, for a program that has delusions of grandeur, is better than the conference’s longest tenured head coach?
This sort of debate is exactly the reason why the Cornhuskers joined the conference and became rivals with the Hawkeyes (never forget when the Huskers and their fans refused to call it a rivalry because Iowa hadn’t yet won a game. Oh how the tides have turned...). There’s no doubt that Frost’s brief — and admittedly very successful — coaching career, as an assistant and a head coach, as well Nebraska’s pedigree, propels Frost over the likes of Lovie Smith, Tom Allen, Chris Ash, DJ Durkin, Jeff Brohm and PJ Fleck. But there’s also an argument to be made to put Frost last on the list by matter of principle. He’s the conference’s only new head coach this season (how is Lovie Smith still employed?), and as such, can he even be counted as a Big Ten coach?
I think most people would agree with me that overall, the Big Ten has a better pedigree as a conference than the American. It’s two completely different styles for the most part, and Frost will be a first year coach in the conference without a whole recruiting class of “his guys.” I highly doubt that will result in immediate success for Frost and company, regardless of what Nebraska fans might be thinking. There’s no second-year head coach in any program that on paper can come into any conference and immediately leap over the league’s longest tenured coach because of one winning season as a head coach!
But it doesn’t matter, we should have known this list was questionable anyways when it placed Pat Fitzgerald as the Big Ten’s 5th best coach. I mean, seriously?
In addition, Athlon Sports also wrote a follow-up piece about the power rankings, in which a different writer went more in-depth about their decision to place Frost over Ferentz. In essence, the writer argues that Frost is placed over Ferentz because of...future potential and a better contract situation.
NFL development and Mike Riley era bragging rights aside, Iowa finds itself facing a new animal. Frost is not only a competitor, but he finds himself with an immense responsibility. He has to bring Nebraska back to national relevance and this is a challenge he’s obviously embracing. His colleague across the Missouri river clearly doesn’t have these aspirations (if he does, he’s doing a great job of hiding them) and, quite honestly, he doesn’t need to.
Trolling level: expert. Of course Kirk Ferentz doesn’t have aspirations to bring Nebraska back to national relevance! He has aspirations to beat the Huskers by 30+ points for the third year straight, and keep the Heroes trophy in Iowa City for a fourth year straight.
Other talking points featured in Brandon Cavanaugh’s article include Kirk’s contract (yawn), Kirk’s 8-4 win average (double yawn), and the fact that “should the Hawkeyes beat Iowa State and Nebraska in the same season, I dare say that’s a quality year right now.”
I hate Nebraska just as much as anyone in this blogosphere, but I have no doubt that Frost has the potential to succeed in Lincoln. But there’s just so much we don’t know yet. The season is still (sadly) over two months away, and the next iteration of Iowa vs. Nebraska even more than that. What I do know is that, until it’s Black Friday and the Hawks are on the wrong side of a 56-14 beatdown, I’ll power rank Kirk Ferentz’s consistency over a potential anomaly undefeated season any day.