Rivals National Columnist Mike Farrell is here with a comparison of some Big Ten coaching jobs this season, 10 things that stunned us this season and five players whose NFL Draft stock has plummeted.
The season is about to end and it’s always fun to compare the job coaches did against each other in each conference especially based on preseason expectations. Here are my Big Ten coaching comparisons.
Jim Harbaugh vs. Mel Tucker — A great debate, right? Harbaugh has Michigan 10-1 and a win over Ohio State away from a playoff berth while Michigan State has been a huge surprise despite the blowout loss to the Buckeyes. I had Michigan State missing a bowl game this season so the nod goes to Tucker over Harbaugh especially since he beat him head to head. But both men have done an amazing job.
Ryan Day vs. Paul Chryst — Why this matchup? Because it’s likely to be who we see in the Big Ten title game barring upsets. Day clearly gets the nod here but let’s credit Chryst who started 1-3 but avoided a potentially disastrous season.
Jeff Brohm vs. PJ Fleck — A good battle here with neither team expected to be a legit contender for the West in my book but Brohm gets the nod here for me. No one expected Purdue to beat two top 10 teams and be ranked in the AP Top 25 late in the season while Fleck had more weapons returning overall on offense.
James Franklin vs. Kirk Ferentz — Two coaches known for having solid but not spectacular seasons each year in the Big Ten with a rare exception, Penn State has struggled much more overall than Iowa despite the Hawkeyes’ horrible offense. Give me Ferentz this season as more was expected from Penn State after its run of wins last season.
Now let’s talk some ridiculousness from the 2021 season. This isn’t the final list, of course, with games and conference titles to be had but it’s always fun to shoot these around a bit. I found these 10 things to be stupid ridiculous.
1. Purdue beats not one, but two top-five teams while unranked — The re-emergence of the “Spoilermakers” knocked two top-five Big Ten foes from the ranks of the unbeaten this season. First, it was No. 2 Iowa in Week 7, then, three weeks later, they took care of No. 3 Michigan State. They’ve been giant killers.
2. Texas keeps on losing — There was a moment during the Red River Rivalry game where it looked like the Longhorns were truly back. But the only thing they were back to was choking away second-half leads. Since being up 38-20 at the half and 41-30 at the beginning of the fourth quarter against the Sooners, Texas has gone on to lose six consecutive games. The bottom truly dropped out last week when UT lost to Kansas for the first time ever at home.
3. Pittsburgh‘s offense — Coming into the season, if you had to bet on who would have the top offense in the ACC, how long would it have taken you to get to Pitt? Well, with one week to go in the regular season, the Panthers are second in the country with 529.1 yards per game and scoring 43.9 points per game, good for third in the nation. Kenny Pickett has been a revelation, and has worked himself into both the Heisman conversation and the first round of next year’s draft.
4. Indiana‘s woes — There was a lot of promise for the Hoosiers heading into the year – the return of Michael Penix Jr., a good receiving corps lead by Ty Fryfogle, and one of the best defensive backfields in the country. They had a clean shot at winning double-digit games for the first time in school history, but a massive amount of injuries have completely hampered this team. They’re sitting at 2-9 with only Purdue left on their schedule, and have to be disappointed by the way things played out this season.
5. The Gators were good? — On Sept. 18, Florida was a two-point conversion away from taking Alabama to overtime, and it looked like Dan Mullen had been able to retool the offense and once again be among the top in the country. The Gators were ranked as high as 10th in the country heading into their game at Kentucky, which is when it all started to fall apart. Since then, their only wins are against a pathetic Vanderbilt team and barely beating Samford after giving up 42 points in the first half to the FCS Bulldogs.
6. How many ways can Nebraska lose? — Nebraska’s season has got to be one of the craziest of them all. The Cornhuskers are 1-7 in league play despite a positive point differential. They’re 3-8 overall despite outscoring their opponents by 70 points on the season. Their biggest loss on the season is by nine points to Ohio State, who we know is as good as they come. They’ve been in every single game they played, and with a couple of different bounces of the ball, you’re looking at a team with a legit shot to win the division.
7. Oklahoma‘s offensive offense — Every year in the Lincoln Riley era, the Sooners have had one of the two or three best offenses in the country, and this year was supposed to be more of the same. With Spencer Rattler back at quarterback, the return of Kennedy Brooks after he sat out last season at running back, transfer Eric Gray joining them in the backfield and the usual stable of receivers, OU looked poised to put up huge numbers yet again. But something hasn’t quite clicked, and the Sooners sitting at 31st in the country in offense, and that includes a game where they racked up 624 yards against FCS Western Carolina. Rattler has been benched, and Caleb Williams has added some fire to the team, but they still seem off.
8. Bailey Zappe‘s arm — Zappe had put up some stellar numbers at Houston Baptist in the FCS, so we knew he could sling the ball around, but few people thought that he would deliver this big and this consistently at the FBS level. He’s the country’s leading passer with 4,650 yards, leading second-place Will Rogers by over 500 yards. His 48 touchdowns are 10 more than anyone else in the nation and his Western Kentucky team is third in the country in total offense and fifth in scoring.
9. Clemson‘s fall from grace — Yes, everyone knew that the Tigers would take a step back, as they lost Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, Amari Rogers and Co., but D.J. Uiagalelei had shown a lot of promise in spot duty last season. So seeing how poor they’ve been offensively has been a shock. Their line cannot block anyone, and because of it Big Cinco and crew have not been able to get anything going. So while their defense has done an admirable job, the offense has done nothing of the sort, ranking 95th in total offense, 100th in passing offense, and 77th in scoring offense. Woof.
10. Meep Meep! — One of the best stories of the season has been plucky UTSA making it all the way to the end of November undefeated. Jeff Traylor has the Roadrunners playing excellent football in every phase – they’re in the top 30 nationally in more categories than you can count and have a true stud at running back in Sincere McCormick. And smartly, the administration has locked up Traylor with a big long-term contract as they enter the American Athletic Conference as early as next year.
Finally, we all know Spencer Rattler is likely headed to the transfer portal to rehab his image and career (Arizona State, cough, cough). But along with Rattler who else has hurt their NFL Draft stock the most this season.
1. QB Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma – The odds-on favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the spring heading into the season now isn’t even starting for his Oklahoma team. Rattler still has elite arm talent, but his demeanor and decision-making are what’s holding him back. If he elects to go pro he’ll still get drafted, but it won’t be until the third round at the earliest and likely much later.
2. WR Ty Fryfogle, Indiana – Fryfogle had a breakout year in 2021, but elected to come back to play one more season at Indiana and that’s starting to look like a questionable decision. No, he has not been helped one bit by the lack of QB play this year, but he’s regressed in every category this season. He’s also struggled a lot with drops – he’s got eight already this year after having five combined over the past three seasons. He’s also done a poor job on what used to be the best part of his game – going up and getting 50-50 balls. Fryfogle is bringing in only 31.6 percent of contested catches, down from 57.6 percent over the previous three seasons. He’s looking like a back half of the draft prospect right now.
3. OT Jaxson Kirkland, Washington – Kirkland is a guy who had some buzz as being the first or second tackle taken in the draft, but he, like the rest of his Washington team, has struggled this season. PFF has him graded as the 77th best tackle in FBS, and he’s given up three sacks and 15 pressures in 159 pass sets this season. He’s got really nice measurables, and will probably still end up in the second or third round at worst, but he’s not going to get drafted in the first round at this point.
4. OT Rasheed Walker, Penn State – Another tackle who has outstanding measurables and had a lot of first-round buzz entering the season, Walker has seen his stock plummet with inconsistent play. PFF has him ranked at 285th among all FBS tackles, and his grade has dropped 10 points from last year to this. He’s given up four sacks and 26 pressures so far this season on 180 pass-blocking attempts. Those aren’t the kind of numbers you want from your starting left tackle.
5. RB Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M – There was a strong case for Spiller to be RB1 in the 2022 NFL Draft before this season, and for good reason. He’s a hard runner, solid receiving option out of the backfield and durable. But he has not had the season that he would have hoped for and isn’t even the top option on his own team at this point with the emergence of Devon Achane. He’ll be a late Day 2 pick at best.