Top 25 Big Ten Football Teams of the 1990's

Last year I did a little comparison to find how all of the Big Ten teams ranked over the span of the 1990's. Obviously it is no longer the 1990's and so my list is complete.

The teams were selected according to the following criteria (in no particular order):

TEAM #25: 1990 Michigan State Spartans
Overall Record: 8-3-1
Conference Record: 6-2
Power Rating: .716
Strength of Schedule: .648
Big Ten Strength: .566
Losses to: Notre Dame (8), Iowa (23), Illinois (26), Syracuse (30)-TIE
Blown out by: nobody
Significant Wins: Michigan (10), USC (19)
Record vs. Top 30: 2-3-1
Average Pts Scored: 26
Average Pts Allowed: 19
Key Players: Tico Duckett, John Langeloh, Carlos Jenkins, Jim Johnson, Eric Moten, Duane Young, Courtney Hawkins

Summary/Comments: While selecting teams, I limited my scope to teams that finished among the top two of the conference. As a result, we did get one team, this one, that in actuality was probably worse than a number of third or fourth place Big Ten teams from other years. But, the Spartans did finish as co tri-champs in 1990, albeit in a down year for the conference. They began the year 1-2-1 in the first half before putting things together and winning 7 of their last 8, including their last 6. While many of their numbers are subpar relative to the others on the list, their losses were all to good teams and they were in all of the games, never losing by more than a TD.

TEAM #24: 1996 Iowa Hawkeyes
Overall Record: 9-3
Conference Record: 6-2
Power Rating: .756
Strength of Schedule: .688
Big Ten Strength: .642
Losses to: Tulsa (77), Northwestern (21), Ohio State (1)
Blown out by: Northwestern
Significant Wins: Texas Tech (31), Penn State (6), Wisconsin (28)
Record vs. Top 30: 2-2
Average Pts Scored: 28
Average Pts Allowed: 21
Key Players: Sedrick Shaw, Ross Verba, Nick Gallery, Jared DeVries, Damien Robinson, Matt Sherman, Tim Dwight, Tom Knight

Summary/Comments: The Hawkeyes finished in a tie for second place in 1996. They were not unlike the '99 Wisconsin team in that they lost an early season game against a lightly regarded team (Tulsa), but then rebounded to play well the rest of the year including a shutout thumping of a decent Wisconsin team followed by a 27-0 bowl win over Texas Tech. They ranked ahead of '90 MSU based on the conference being tougher, a more sigificant victory (a very good Penn State team), better record vs top teams, not to mention simply a higher power rating. In fact, without the loss to Tulsa, it is conceivable that this team could have rated about 5 or 6 places higher.

TEAM #23: 1994 Ohio State Buckeyes
Overall Record: 9-4
Conference Record: 6-2
Power Rating: .768
Strength of Schedule: .725
Big Ten Strength: .652
Losses to: Washington (25), Illinois (19), Penn State (2), Alabama (7)
Blown out by: Illinois and Penn State
Significant Wins: Michigan (10), Wisconsin (24)
Record vs. Top 30: 2-4
Average Pts Scored: 26
Average Pts Allowed: 16
Key Players: Korey Stringer, Matt Finkes, Mike Vrabel, Lorenzo Styles, Joey Galloway, Marlon Kerner, Scott Terna

Summary/Comments: The Buckeyes finished second in the Big Ten in 1994. The team featured a pretty talented defense and a young offense that had yet to mature. They were totally hammered by Penn State and lost handily to Illinois, yet were otherwise respectable. Their primary strength was an outstanding schedule with the Big Ten possessing 7 or 8 good teams. Besides beating the 3rd and 4th place teams (Michigan and Wisconsin) convincingly, they also manhandled decent Indiana and Michigan State teams. They basically were pretty even with the '96 Iowa team but were given the nod due to a bit more talent as well as a tougher schedule with basically similar results. They also did not have a loss to a bad team.

TEAM #22: 1996 Northwestern Wildcats
Overall Record: 9-3
Conference Record: 7-1
Power Rating: .713
Strength of Schedule: .612
Big Ten Strength: .642
Losses to: Wake Forest (96), Penn State (6), Tennessee (10)
Blown out by: Tennessee and Penn State
Significant Wins: Michigan (15), Wisconsin (28), Iowa (16)
Record vs. Top 30: 3-2
Average Pts Scored: 28
Average Pts Allowed: 23
Key Players: Steve Schnur, Darnell Autry, Justin Chabot, D'Wayne Bates, Pat Fitzgerald, Matt Rice, Eric Collier, Paul Burton

Summary/Comments: The Wildcats were the Big Ten co-champs in 1996 and wound up in the Citrus Bowl against Tennesse after losing the tie-breaker to Ohio State. Much like the 96 Iowa team, they also lost early in the year to a horrible Wake Forest team before running off 7 straight victories. They were not a dominating team by any means with narrow wins over Minnesota, Illinois, Purdue and a gift win against Wisconsin that many of us remember all too well. They were dominated by the two elite level teams they played. In short, they were a team that wasn't terribly talented, but knew how to win. While some of their raw numbers even fall slightly behind the teams rated below them in this countdown, they were vaulted ahead by virtue of blowing out one of those teams head to head (96 Iowa) and faring better against top teams than the other (94 OSU). And, they WERE co-conference champs in a season which the Big Ten was pretty strong.

TEAM #21: 1991 Iowa Hawkeyes
Overall Record: 10-1-1
Conference Record: 7-1
Power Rating: .780
Strength of Schedule: .472
Big Ten Strength: .537
Losses to: Michigan (6), BYU (22)-TIE
Blown out by: Michigan
Significant Wins: Indiana (28)
Record vs. Top 30: 1-1-1
Average Pts Scored: 29
Average Pts Allowed: 15
Key Players: Matt Rogers, Rob Baxley, John Derby, Mike Devlin, Ron Geater, Danan Hughes, Mike Saunders, LeRoy Smith, Alan Cross, Mike Wells

Summary/Comments: The Hawkeyes finished second in 1991 behind Michigan. The '91 Iowa squad was far and away the least tested of any teams that made the final list. They rolled over their non-conference competition and capitalized on a terrible year in the Big Ten to compile a 10-1 regular season record with their only loss coming big to Michigan. They then tied BYU in the Holiday Bowl. What is impressive about the Hawkeye resume is that they really handled most teams on their schedule (which accounts for their pretty good power rating) with their only close games coming against Wisconsin and Illinois (and to a lesser extent OSU who they beat by 7). But, they fall below the teams that will be coming in the next few days simply because they didn't beat anybody, with their only quality victory coming over a solid but unspectacular Indiana team. It is a team that frankly may have been better than their ranking here, but also very well could have been a typical 3rd or 4th place team if not for the gimmie schedule. We just don't know.

TEAM #20: 1998 Michigan Wolverines
Overall Record: 10-3
Conference Record: 7-1
Power Rating: .781
Strength of Schedule: .682
Big Ten Strength: .616
Losses to: Ohio State (2), Notre Dame (24), Syracuse (21)
Blown out by: Notre Dame, Ohio State
Significant Wins: Wisconsin (4), Penn State (15), Arkansas (16)
Record vs. Top 30: 3-3
Average Pts Scored: 28
Average Pts Allowed: 18
Key Players: Steve Hutchinson, Jon Jansen, Jerame Tuman, Jason Strayhorn, Jeff Backus, Tai Streets, James Hall, Rob Renes, Ian Gold, Sam Sword, Tom Hendricks, Andre Weathers

Summary/Comments: The Wolverines were the 1998 co-champs with Wisconsin and Ohio State. They began the year with two very bad losses to Syracuse and Notre Dame. Although the Syracuse game did not go into the books as a blowout due to some late consolation scores, the Wolverines were never really in the game. From there they ran off 8 consecutive wins, some impressive such as a dismantling of Wisconsin, while others (narrow wins over Northwestern, Iowa, and Minnesota) were less than impressive. They were hammered pretty well by a very good Ohio State team and won their bowl game in a shootout with Arkansas. They ranked ahead of '91 Iowa due to a much tougher schedule (though it was not as tough as others on the list so far). All of their losses were to solid teams and they were decent against top teams in general.

TEAM #19: 1990 Michigan Wolverines
Overall Record: 9-3
Conference Record: 6-2
Power Rating: .791
Strength of Schedule: .716
Big Ten Strength: .566
Losses to: Michigan State (22), Iowa (23), Notre Dame (8)
Blown out by: none
Significant Wins: Illinois (26)
Record vs. Top 30: 1-3
Average Pts Scored: 32
Average Pts Allowed: 17
Key Players: JD Carlson, Dean Dingman, Tripp Welborne, Jon Vaughn, Greg Skrepenak, Desmond Howard, Tom Dohring, Erick Anderson

Summary/Comments: The 1990 Michigan Wolverines were co-champs in the Big Ten despite a relatively pedestrian (for a champion) 6-2 record. They were also one of the hardest teams to rank despite a high powered offense and some impressive offensive numbers. They began the season with a narrow 4 point loss to top 10 Notre Dame followed by convincing NC wins against Maryland and UCLA. After squashing a terrible Wisconsin team, they lost 1 point games to Michigan State and Iowa before running the table the rest of the way, with the only close games being Ohio State and Illinois. They then creamed a bad Mississippi team in the Gator Bowl. So on one hand, we have a good power ranking (thanks to so many convincing victories) with the losses being tough ones. But on the other hand, they only beat ONE top 30 team and finished 1-3 vs. such teams, hardly an impressive feat. In some ways, they were very similiar to the '98 version of the Wolverines, being a team that seemed to jell as the season progressed but ultimately paying for some early season underachievement.

TEAM #18: 1995 Penn State Nittany Lions
Overall Record: 9-3
Conference Record: 5-3
Power Rating: .782
Strength of Schedule: .774
Big Ten Strength: .668
Losses to: Wisconsin (41), Ohio State (3), Northwestern (4)
Blown out by: none
Significant Wins: Texas Tech (22), Auburn (26), Michigan (13), Iowa (20)
Record vs. Top 30: 4-2
Average Pts Scored: 33
Average Pts Allowed: 22
Key Players: Jeff Hartings, Bobby Engram, Brian Miller, Brett Conway, Terry Killens, Andre Johnson, Keith Conlin, Brandon Noble

Summary/Comments: The 1995 Penn State Nittany Lions are the only 3 conference loss team as well as the only 3rd place team to make the list. So, why? Well, for starters, they played one of the most brutal of all schedules of any team on the list (actually 3rd toughest). Their losses came to a decent Wisconsin team and dynamite Northwestern and Ohio State teams that we will see much higher on the list. All were close games. They also are the first team to appear on the countdown with as many as 4 wins over top 30 squads. Of these wins, all were commanding wins except for the Texas Tech win. Therefore, their power ranking is quite high as is their success against top teams. This team was the transition team behind the undefeated '94 PSU team and the very very good '96 PSU team (both to come later on the list) and featured some future stars in the making.

TEAM #17: 1999 Michigan State Spartans
Overall Record: 10-2
Conference Record: 6-2
Power Rating: .823
Strength of Schedule: .772
Big Ten Strength: .645
Losses to: Wisconsin (10), Purdue (25)
Blown out by: Wisconsin, Purdue
Significant Wins: Oregon (17), Illinois (20), Michigan (4), Penn State (9), Florida (12)
Record vs. Top 30: 5-2
Average Pts Scored: 32
Average Pts Allowed: 20
Key Players: Plaxico Burress, Robaire Smith, Amp Campbell, Craig Jarrett, Julian Peterson, Shaun Mason, Chris Baker, Paul Edinger, Aric Morris

Summary/Comments: The 1999 Michigan State Spartans are the first team in the countdown that has what I would call some dominating credentials. They amassed a terrific power rating thanks to a very tough schedule and a super 5-2 record vs. top 30 schools including 2 wins over top 10 teams. The only drawbacks to the team however are those two losses, both of which they lost very very badly (by 24 and 30 points respectively) which dropped them down a notch or two from where they might have aspired to be. For the season, the Spartans tied for second with a 6-2 conference record, in large part due to a very athletic and aggressive defense. They handled the also-rans on their schedule with ease and other than their very bad two game stretch at mid-season, were one of the best teams of the year in college football.

TEAM #16: 1999 Wisconsin Badgers
Overall Record: 10-2
Conference Record: 7-1
Power Rating: .795
Strength of Schedule: .523
Big Ten Strength: .645
Losses to: Michigan (4), Cincinnati (83)
Blown out by: none
Significant Wins: Michigan State (5), Minnesota (22), Purdue (25), Stanford (31)
Record vs. Top 30: 3-1
Average Pts Scored: 34
Average Pts Allowed: 13
Key Players: Ron Dayne, Bill Ferrario, Chris McIntosh, Vitaly Pisetsky, Wendell Bryant, Jamar Fletcher, Casey Rabach, Brooks Bollinger

Summary/Comments: The 1999 Badgers were the Big Ten champions and won their second straight Rose Bowl. The interesting thing about this team is that many Badger fans will tell you that they were the best of Barry Alvarez's Rose Bowl teams, and yet because of one horrible loss, they are rated as the worst of the three. On the downside, they suffered one of the worst defeats in recent memory by a nationally elite type team. They also had a poor strength of schedule despite playing 5 games against top 31 teams. On the plus side, they did well against the good teams they played, despite playing 3 of them on the road. They also are one of the few teams in the list that could claim one personnel move (Bollinger) made them into an entirely different team. While that may be so, for the purposes of this list we need to look at the entire season, and that drops them quite a few places. You also might have noticed that the team beneath them, '99 MSU, had a tougher schedule and thus a higher power ranking. So, why Wisconsin? Simple really. They WERE the conference champs and they utterly destroyed the Sparties which in my book weighs in much more heavily that a slight edge in a power ranking.

TEAM #15: 1997 Ohio State Buckeyes
Overall Record: 10-3
Conference Record: 6-2
Power Rating: .812
Strength of Schedule: .633
Big Ten Strength: .582
Losses to: Penn State (18), Michigan (2), Florida State (3)
Blown out by: Florida State
Significant Wins: Arizona (25), Michigan State (28), Iowa (30)
Record vs. Top 30: 3-3
Average Pts Scored: 30
Average Pts Allowed: 13
Key Players: David Boston, Andy Katzenmoyer, Antoine Winfield, Brent Bartholomew, Eric Gohlstin, Damon Moore, Rob Murphy

Summary/Comments: The '97 Buckeyes, who finished tied for second in the Big Ten, were another one of those teams that was full of some interesting splits, making them a tough team to rank. On one hand, they dominated everyone they beat, with nobody finishing within a touchdown of them with only two teams losing by less than double figures. The two close Big Ten games they played, they lost, to nationally ranked Penn State and co-MNC Michigan, both in close games before getting shellacked pretty good by an excellent Florida State Seminole team. Overall, they played a very good schedule and finished a solid 3-3 against top teams. However, they could not get over the hump in those 3 critical games that might have put them in contention for a top 10 1990's ranking finish. But, they were the core of what proved to be an even better team the following year.

TEAM #14: 1993 Penn State Nittany Lions
Overall Record: 10-2
Conference Record: 6-2
Power Rating: .816
Strength of Schedule: .706
Big Ten Strength: .628
Losses to: Ohio State (5), Michigan (15)
Blown out by: Ohio State
Significant Wins: USC (19), Indiana (26), Michigan State (30), Tennessee (13)
Record vs. Top 30: 4-2
Average Pts Scored: 32
Average Pts Allowed: 18
Key Players: Bobby Engram, Jeff Hartings, Kyle Brady, Tyoka Jackson, Ki-Jana Carter, Lou Benfatti, Brian Gelzheikser, Derek Bochna, Shelly Hammonds

Summary/Comments: The 1993 Penn State Nittany Lions finished the '93 season in 3rd place, a half-game behind co-champs Ohio State and Wisconsin. The '93 team was an emerging offensive juggernaut (culminating in '94 of course). Although a 3rd place finisher, their resume is quite impressive. For one, they played a pretty solid schedule (though they did miss Wisconsin). Secondly, their losses were to two quality teams in Michigan and Ohio State, which produced a very respectable 4-2 record vs. top 30 teams. Perhaps the biggest win for them was against Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl, a game they dominated 31-13, giving them their most impressive victory of the season and cementing their status as team #14.

TEAM #13: 1996 Penn State Nittany Lions
Overall Record: 11-2
Conference Record: 6-2
Power Rating: .821
Strength of Schedule: .682
Big Ten Strength: .642
Losses to: Iowa (16), Ohio State (1)
Blown out by: Ohio State
Significant Wins: Wisconsin (28), Michigan (15), Texas (24), NW (21)
Record vs. Top 30: 4-2
Average Pts Scored: 31
Average Pts Allowed: 16
Key Players: Curtis Enis, Brett Conway, Kim Herring, Brian Miller, Keith Olsommer, Brandon Noble, Aaron Collins

Summary/Comments: The 1996 Penn State Nittany Lions finished tied for second in the Big Ten, though they were a point away from sharing the title. They began their season with 4 very impressive victories, including convincing wins over decent USC and Louisville clubs (that did not go down as quality wins but were still solid nonetheless). They then eeked out a tight win over a solid Wisconsin club before getting hammered by league champ Ohio State. Following another dominating win over Purdue, they dropped a one point decision to Iowa before running the table the rest of the way, including a rout of Texas in the Fiesta Bowl. While the '96 Lions did not beat a top 10 team and had only 4 wins total over top 30 teams, their schedule was solid (though not great) with a bundle of teams that were competitive (solid Big Ten power rating in '96). What was impressive about this team is that they not only won most of these games, but that they really whipped them good.

TEAM #12: 1992 Michigan Wolverines
Overall Record: 9-0-3
Conference Record: 6-0-2
Power Rating: .837
Strength of Schedule: .545
Big Ten Strength: .532
Ties to: Notre Dame (4), Illinois (42), Ohio State (15)
Blown out by: none
Significant Wins: Washington (8)
Record vs. Top 30: 1-0-2
Average Pts Scored: 36
Average Pts Allowed: 14
Key Players: Elvis Grbac, Tyrone Wheatley, Steve Everitt, Joe Cocozzo, Rob Doherty, Derrick Alexander, Chris Hutchinson, Corwin Brown, Doug Skene, Tony McGee, Shonte Peoples, Matt Dyson

Summary/Comments: The 1992 Michigan Wolverines were the Big Ten champs, capping a five year consecutive title run for the Maize and Blue. They opened the year with a tie to a top 5 Notre Dame team, following by 8 straight wins, all but one by decisive margins (though none of them over a top notch team). They then stumbled, tieing a fair Illinois team and a good Ohio State team before rebounding with an exciting win over Washington in the Rose Bowl. The '92 Michigan club posted an exceptional power ranking thanks in large part to their impressive vitory margins. It also cannot be discounted that they did not lose a game either. However, they were downgraded a bit because their strength of schedule was pretty poor and the Big Ten was the weakest it was all decade. Factor both of these together, and you get only one quality victory. Also, the tie to Illinois was not too unlike the '99 Wisconsin team losing to Cincinnati or the '96 Iowa team losing to Tulsa (though not quite as bad).

TEAM #11: 1993 Wisconsin Badgers
Overall Record: 10-1-1
Conference Record: 6-1-1
Power Rating: .828
Strength of Schedule: .646
Big Ten Strength: .628
Losses/Ties to: Minnesota (67), Ohio State (5)
Blown out by: none
Significant Wins: Indiana (26), Michigan (15), UCLA (14), Michigan State (30)
Record vs. Top 30: 4-0-1
Average Pts Scored: 30
Average Pts Allowed: 16
Key Players: Darrell Bevell, Brent Moss, Cory Raymer, Joe Rudolph, Joe Panos, Mike Roan, Lamark Shackerford, Jeff Messenger, Lee DeRamus, Yusef Burgess, Reggie Holt

Summary/Comments: The 1993 Wisconsin Badgers were the co-champs of the Big Ten along with Ohio State, with Wisconsin being the Rose Bowl rep due to Big Ten tiebreakers. The Badgers of '93 have an overall nice resume. Their only two blemishes being a flukey loss to Minnesota and a tie to the co-champs, a game that Wisconsin took command of in the 4th quarter but couldn't pull out. While they did not beat a top 10 team, their 4-0-1 record against top 30 teams is impressive, especially considering that only the UCLA and Michigan games were even close. The Big Ten was also a very good conference in '93, in contrast the early seasons in the 1990's. While generally assumed to be an overachieving team that used chemsistry and hard work to attain their goals, the NFL-level talent from that team (Raymer, Rudolph, Panos, Road, Fletcher, Gales, Hall, Brady, DeRamus, Saleh, Monty, Verstegen, Thompson, Engler, Wunsch, Simmons, Hayes, etc.) is pretty deep.

TEAM #10: 1991 Michigan Wolverines
Overall Record: 10-2
Conference Record: 8-0
Power Rating: .848
Strength of Schedule: .719
Big Ten Strength: .537
Losses to: Florida State (3), Washington (1)
Blown out by: Florida State and Washington
Significant Wins: Notre Dame (9), Indiana (28), Iowa (13)
Record vs. Top 30: 3-2
Average Pts Scored: 35
Average Pts Allowed: 17
Key Players: Desmond Howard, Greg Skrepenak, Erick Anderson, J.D. Carlson, Elvis Grbac, Matt Elliot, Chris Hutchinson, Mike Evans, Ricky Powers

Summary/Comments: The 1991 Michigan Wolverines were the Big Ten champions that year with a perfect 8-0 conference record. They truly were a feast or famine type team as not a one of their games was decided by a TD or less. They were a team that interestingly enough played an overall solid schedule, though the Big Ten was way way down (which accounts for their lack of close games). If the Big Ten had been stronger, they may have been more tested which would have improved their ranking. However, one cannot discount the fact that they were blown out in their two losses, leading one to belive that they probably would have been a typical 7-1, 6-2 type Big Ten team in an up year for the conference. Still, don't be fooled, their numbers are quite good and they were a real quality team.

TEAM #9: 1999 Michigan Wolverines
Overall Record: 10-2
Conference Record: 6-2
Power Rating: .829
Strength of Schedule: .788
Big Ten Strength: .645
Losses to: Michigan State (5), Illinois (20)
Blown out by: none
Significant Wins: Alabama (6), Penn State (9), Wisconsin (10), Purdue (25)
Record vs. Top 30: 4-2
Average Pts Scored: 30
Average Pts Allowed: 21
Key Players: Steve Hutchinson, Jeff Backus, Rob Renes, David Terrell, Ian Gold, Anthony Thomas, Marcus Knight, Dhani Jones

Summary/Comments: The 1999 Michigan Wolverines tied for second in the Big Ten last year with a 6-2 conference mark. They struggled at times early in the year against good but not great competition, eeking out wins over Notre Dame and Syracuse before posting solid wins over Wisconsin and Purdue. They then lost 2 straight, though both were to good teams, losing handily to Michigan State and in a rather fluke-like game to Illinois. After the 2 straight losses, they ran the table including an Orange Bowl win over Alabama. The '99 Wolverines' strengths were its very tough schedule (the toughest so far in the countdown), as well as having 3 wins over top 10 teams which is the most so far in my countdown. Their victory margin was not always terribly impressive, but some of that can be explained by the scheduling. They never were truly a dominant team, but their credentials are hard to discredit.

TEAM #8: 1993 Ohio State Buckeyes
Overall Record: 10-1-1
Conference Record: 6-1-1
Power Rating: .838
Strength of Schedule: .706
Big Ten Strength: .628
Losses to: Michigan (15), Wisconsin (6)-TIE
Blown out by: Michigan
Significant Wins: Washington (27), Michigan State (30), Indiana (28), Penn State (8)
Record vs. Top 30: 4-1-1
Average Pts Scored: 29
Average Pts Allowed: 16
Key Players: Jason Winrow, Korey Stringer, Joey Galloway, Dan Wilkenson, Lorenzo Styles, Tim Williams, Chico Nelson, Raymont Harris, Jason Simmons, Cedric Saunders

Summary/Comments: The 1993 Ohio State Buckeyes were the co-champions with Wisconsin. They won their first 8 games, all in convincing fashion with their tightest game being a 7 point win over Michigan State. They then tied Wisconsin (a game many believe they were outplayed in), narrowly beat a solid Indiana team, before being destroyed by Michigan. They then beat an overmatched BYU in the Holiday Bowl. The '93 Buckeyes achieved their rank thanks to a nice power ranking to go with their very good record against top teams. However, if we narrow the criteria to top 20 teams as opposed to top 30, their record is then 1-1-1 which doesn't stand out quite as much which is why they are at #8 as opposed to the top 5. This team also featured a ton of NFL talent (Wilkenson, Stringer, Galloway, Harris, George, Hoying, etc.) though their top years were still a couple years away.

TEAM #7: 1998 Wisconsin Badgers
Overall Record: 11-1
Conference Record: 7-1
Power Rating: .854
Strength of Schedule: .546
Big Ten Strength: .616
Losses to: Michigan (12)
Blown out by: Michigan
Significant Wins: Purdue (18), UCLA (9), Penn State (15)
Record vs. Top 30: 3-1
Average Pts Scored: 32
Average Pts Allowed: 12
Key Players: Ron Dayne, Aaron Gibson, Matt Davenport, Tom Burke, Jamar Fletcher, Kevin Stemke, Casey Rabach, Chris McIntosh

Summary/Comments: The 1998 Wisconsin Badgers finished in a first place tie with Michigan and Ohio State. They began the year with a 9 game winning streak, with the only worries coming against San Diego State (played without Dayne), a game in the rain at Indiana, and a tight home game against a good Purdue team. They then went into Michigan and were handled handily. However, they rebounded the following week with a dismantling of Penn State as well as an upset win over top 5 (at the time) UCLA in the Rose Bowl. While their schedule was very mediocre thanks to a poor NC schedule, the Big Ten was pretty good in '98 while their victory margin and power rankings were outstanding. Their 3-1 record vs. top teams was also quite good, especially considering that none of them were against non-top 20 teams. While the offense was only so-so, the defense was among the best in the nation.

TEAM #6: 1995 Northwestern Wildcats
Overall Record: 10-2
Conference Record: 8-0
Power Rating: .858
Strength of Schedule: .853
Big Ten Strength: .668
Losses to: Miami (Ohio) (19), USC (15)
Blown out by: none
Significant Wins: Notre Dame (8), Michigan (13), Penn State (11), Iowa (20)
Record vs. Top 30: 4-2
Average Pts Scored: 26
Average Pts Allowed: 15
Key Players: Darnell Aurty, Rob Johnson, Ryan Padgett, Sam Valenzisi, Pat Fitsgerald, Chris Martin, Brian Kardos, D'Wayne Bates, Matt Rice, Hud Ismaeli, Rodney Ray, Eric Collier

Summary/Comments: The 1995 Northwestern Wildcats shocked college football by winning the conference title with a perfect 8-0 conference record. They opened their season by stunning Notre Dame before returning to what people believed was earth with a loss to Miami (Ohio) the following week (a team that turned out to be very good). From there, they won their final NC game before running the table in the Big Ten. Unlike the '96 Cat team which was good though not great, the '95 team was a truly excellent team. Though they missed Ohio State and Michigan State, their schedule in fact was the toughest of any of the 25 teams on the top 25 list, which is the primary reason they were vaulted ahead of most of the teams below them on this list. 1995 was THE best year for the Big Ten this decade so going 8-0 is quite a feat. Throw in a NC that included USC (in the Rose Bowl), top 20 teams in Notre Dame and Miami (OH), and a respectable Air Force team (8-5, ranked #37) and 10-2 is again, quite a feat. They are certainly a notch below the elite teams that will be coming on this list during the next week due to their lack of NFL type talent, though you would be hard pressed to find too many teams that ran a gauntlet like the '95 Cats did and yet came out relatively unscathed.

TEAM #5: 1995 Ohio State Buckeyes
Overall Record: 11-2
Conference Record: 7-1
Power Rating: .867
Strength of Schedule: .812
Big Ten Strength: .668
Losses to: Michigan (13), Tennessee (5)
Blown out by: none
Significant Wins: Notre Dame (8), Washington (24), Penn State (11), Iowa (20)
Record vs. Top 30: 4-2
Average Pts Scored: 36
Average Pts Allowed: 17
Key Players: Bobby Hoying, Eddie George, Orlando Pace, Rickey Dudley, Terry Glenn, Mike Vrabel, Shawn Springs, Matt Finkes, LeShun Daniels, Luke Fickell, Greg Bellisari

Summary/Comments: The '95 Buckeyes finished second in the Big Ten behind undefeated (in conference) Northwestern. They began the year with 11 consecutive wins to place themselves square in the national title hunt. Their only close game during this impressive run was a tight 3 point win AT Penn State as the Bucks put up some serious point totals (low game of 27 at Wisconsin). However, in game 12, they fell to arch rival Michigan in a hard fought game, giving the conference title to Northwestern. The Buckeyes then fell to Tennessee in a close game in the Citrus Bowl. The big question regarding '95 OSU is why put them ahead of league champion Northwestern on this list? Their significant wins are vitually identical (Notre Dame, Iowa, Penn State) and Northwestern beat Michigan while the Bucks lost to them. Northwestern also played a slightly tougher schedule. Well first off, Ohio State was much more impressive in their wins than Northwestern was. Ohio State beat 8 teams by 17 or more points while the Cats only beat 3 teams by that margin. Hence, Ohio State wound up with a higher power rating. Secondly, losing to Tennessee is much "less worse" than losing to Miami (OH) at home (even if Miami was a good team in '95). Thirdly, the talent just does not compare, pushing the Bucks slightly ahead of the Cats in the rankings. STill, I don't think I would quibble too much if you wanted to flip flop them. They were that close.

TEAM #4: 1998 Ohio State Buckeyes
Overall Record: 11-1
Conference Record: 7-1
Power Rating: .897
Strength of Schedule: .695
Big Ten Strength: .616
Losses to: Michigan State (35)
Blown out by: none
Significant Wins: Missouri (22), West Virginia (30), Penn State (15), Michigan (12), Texas A&M (7)
Record vs. Top 30: 5-0
Average Pts Scored: 36
Average Pts Allowed: 12
Key Players: Joe Germaine, Michael Wiley, Rob Murphy, David Boston, Andy Katzenmoyer, Damon Moore, Antoine Winfield, Na'il Diggs, Ben Gilbert, John Lumpkin, Dee Miller, Ahmed Plummer, Brent Bartholomew

Summary/Comments: The '98 Buckeyes finished in a first place tie with Michigan and Wisconsin. They jumped out to a 7-0 start and seemingly a place in the national title game as they rolled through the competition with nary a threat. However, in game 8, they were upset at home by Michigan State, dashing their title hopes. They then close with 3 solid wins includinga 10 point win over Texas A&M in the Sugar Bowl. The '98 Buckeyes are the first team that I would consider of elite quality. They didn't play a close game other than their loss as well as going 5-0 against top teams (to the tune of 152-70!!). Their schedule wasn't tremendous, especially when you consider home/away, but it wasn't too bad either. The Big Ten as a whole was solid, though a year away from being terrific. There isn't a lot separating the top 4 teams, but that one loss to Michigan State certainly did the trick for the Buckeyes.

TEAM #3: 1997 Michigan Wolverines
Overall Record: 12-0
Conference Record: 8-0
Power Rating: .925
Strength of Schedule: .624
Big Ten Strength: .582
Losses to: none
Blown out by: none
Significant Wins: Michigan State (28), Penn State (18), Washington State (11), Ohio State (12)
Record vs. Top 30: 4-0
Average Pts Scored: 27
Average Pts Allowed: 10
Key Players: Zach Adami, Jon Jansen, Jermaine Tuman, Glen Steele, Marcus Ray, Andre Weathers, Charles Woodson, Brian Greise, Steve Hutchinson, Jeff Backus, Josh Williams, Sam Sword, Jason Vinson

Summary/Comments: The '97 Michigan Wolverines won the Big Ten and were co-national champs, sharing the award with Nebraska. Michigan went undefeated of course, with relative close calls against fair Notre Dame, Iowa, and Wisconsin teams, as well against a pretty good Washington State team in the Rose Bowl. The big question most of you are probably asking here is....#3??!!! They were the only Big Ten team to garner a share of the national title. How can you rank them #3? Well, most will be covered when I get to the #2 team, but simply put, they were not tested as much as the top 2 teams. In 1997, the Big Ten was its worst over the last 7 years. Throw in the fact that their non-conference schedule was relatively pedestrian relative to the other elite teams (.624) and you get a team that never had to be tested by other top teams. They did not play a top 10 team and one of their 4 quality wins was against Michigan State (#28). Their 3 relatively tight games were also over non-rated teams. In some respects, I think the fact that this team went 12-0 is pretty impressive. Defensively they were terrific of course, but offensively, while they were competent, they certainly were not dominant. So, to finish as co-national champs (though I think they were robbed) with a very very good but not spectacular team is a solid accomplishment.

TEAM #2: 1996 Ohio State Buckeyes
Overall Record: 11-1
Conference Record: 7-1
Power Rating: .906
Strength of Schedule: .753
Big Ten Strength: .642
Losses to: Michigan (15)
Blown out by: none
Significant Wins: Notre Dame (17), Wisconsin (28), Penn State (6), Iowa (16), Arizona State (4)
Record vs. Top 30: 5-1
Average Pts Scored: 38
Average Pts Allowed: 11
Key Players: Orlando Pace, Mike Vrabel, Matt Finkes, Andy Katzenmoyer, Shawn Springs, Pepe Pearson, Juan Porter, Luke Fickell, Greg Bellisari, Damone Moore

Summary/Comments: Wow! The '96 Ohio State Buckeyes go down as my pick for most underrated team of the decade. When you start looking at their resume and consider that rarely are they mentioned as one of the best couple of teams of the '90's, you have to come to the conclusion that they truly are underappreciated. The '96 Bucks won their first 10 games, all in a convincing fashion other than a narrow win over Wisconsin. They were awesome on both offense AND defense,, all while playing a very strong schedule in a strong Big Ten year, playing 6 top level teams. Their one flaw (much like the '98 team losing to MSU at home late in the year) was a 4 point loss to top 20 team Michigan at home in game 11. They then closed out their year by narrowly beating Arizona State in the Rose Bowl. So, why rank them ahead of '97 Michigan? They beat 2 top 10 teams (to none for '97 Michigan) and were comparatively much more dominant (to the tune of 10 PPG difference) DESPITE playing a solidly stronger schedule. Whereas '97 Michigan often snuck by so-so teams, '96 Ohio State destroyed almost everyone...beating Rice by 63, Pitt by 72, top 20 Notre Dame by 13, top 20 Penn State by 31, Purdue by 28, top 20 Iowa by 12, Minnesota by 45, Illinois by 48, and Indiana by 10. With Pace, Katzenmoyer, Springs, etc. they not only had NFL talent, but top level NFL talent. Safe for one week in November, they were probably the best team the conference has seen in terms of overall balance and dominance in the last 10 years.

TEAM #1: 1994 Penn State Nittany Lions
Overall Record: 12-0
Conference Record: 8-0
Power Rating: .927
Strength of Schedule: .729
Big Ten Strength: .652
Losses to: none
Blown out by: none
Significant Wins: USC (14), Michigan (10), Ohio State (13), Illinois (19), Oregon (18)
Record vs. Top 30: 5-0
Average Pts Scored: 47
Average Pts Allowed: 21
Key Players: Kerry Collins, Ki-Jana Carter, Jeff Hartings, Kyle Brady, Bobby Engram, Bucky Greeley, Freddie Scott, Brian Miller, Todd Atkins, Phil Yeboah-Kodie, Brian Gelheizer, Tony Pittman, Marco Rivera, Willie Smith

Summary/Comments: What an offensive juggernaut. The Nits won the Big Ten in 1994 and were robbed of a chance to compete for the national title thanks to the system in use at the time as well as some questionable voting by the pollsters following a "closer than it really was" victory over Indiana. '94 Penn State was far far and away the most dominant offensive team in the Big Ten during the '90's and probably in the history of the Big Ten, putting up about 10 PPG more than the nearest other elite team. Their defense was no better than average, but they still walked through their schedule. The only remote blemishes were a 7 point win AT top 20 Michigan and wins over Indiana and Illinois which were really greater than they appear on paper. Penn State is kind of the melding of teams 2 and 3 on the list. They not only went undefeated, but they were very dominant doing so. Some of their impressive wins were 24 over ranked USC, 49 over ranked OSU, and 18 over ranked Oregon. While they didn't beat a top 10 team, much like '97 Michigan, all of their quality wins were in the top 20, lessening that blow. They also sported the highest power rating in the conference in the decade and won the Big Ten convincingly in an up year for the conference. A truly great team and without a doubt the best of the decade in the Big Ten.

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