Dienhart: Ranking the top Big Ten teams of BCS era

Got a case of the “football blues” with basketball season in full-tilt mode? If so, than chew on this piece from Athlon Sports that picks the 12 best Big Ten teams of the BCS era. Or, if you prefer, the 12 best Big Ten teams since 1998. As you would suspect, Ohio State is well-represented with half of the countdown being Buckeye squads: 2002 (No. 1); 1998 (No. 2); 2006 (No. 4); 2012 (No. 5); 2007 (No. 7); 2010 (No. 12).

Hard to argue that. The 2002 squad won the national title, while the 2006 and 2007 teams played for national titles. But I think the 1998 team was better than those three with Andy Katzenmoyer, David Boston, Ryan Pickett and Joe Germaine, among others. Just loaded. Alas, that loss to Nick Saban and Michigan State still haunts.

[ RELATED: Watch the full episode of “Big Ten Elite: Ohio State 2002” on BTN2Go. ]

Wisconsin has three teams on this list, 1998 (No. 6), 2011 (No. 8) and 1999 (No. 11). Hmm, I know the 2011 team had three losses, but I think it was better than the 1998 Badgers. Russell Wilson is the difference.

Penn State (2005, No. 3); Michigan (2006, No. 9) and Iowa (2002, No. 10) each has one team on this list. I guess I am most stunned that the Wolverines have just one team on this list. It shows you how far the program fell over that period. But, Brady Hoke has things pointed up.

Would any Nebraska teams from 1998 to present have made this list? Sure. Frank Solich’s 2001 team that finished 11-2 and played (and lost) to Miami (Fla.) in the Rose Bowl for the national championship would have made it. And the 1999 Nebraska team also would deserve merit after going 12-1 and winning the Fiesta Bowl.

Here’s how I would rank ’em.

1. Ohio State 1998
2. Ohio State 2002
3. Ohio State 2006
4. Penn State 2005
5. Ohio State 2007
6. Michigan 2006
7. Wisconsin 2011
8. Wisconsin 1998
9. Iowa 2002
10. Ohio State 2012
11. Wisconsin 1999
12. Ohio State 2010

If I included Nebraska, I would put the 2001 team No. 7 and the 1999 team No. 10. What do you think?


About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Your Opinion?
Show Comments (6 Comments)
Go B1G Red on 1/29/2013 @ 10:27am EDT Said:

1999 Nebraska was better than the ’01 team. 2001 Huskers backed into the NC game after getting blown out by Colorado and failing to make the conference title game. ’99 Huskers were a fumble at the Texas 1 yd line (in Austin) from an undefeated season, going on to beat the Longhorns in a rematch at the conference title game, and defeating defending champion Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl. Both Nebraska teams finished #3 in the final BCS standings, but ’99 Nebraska beat four top 15 teams (#5 Tenn, #6 K-State, #14 TX A&M, #15 TX), whereas ’01 Nebraska beat one (#11 OK).

Kyle on 1/29/2013 @ 9:12pm EDT Said:

No doubt ’99 Neb was better than ’01. If the ’99 team didn’t have fumblitis, they likely would have been national champs.

K. John on 1/31/2013 @ 4:29pm EDT Said:

Wow, this dude is really a homer. Not surprising, I would expect anything less than a Big Ten media hack. Here is the real deal.

1. 2005 Penn State. Simply the best Big Ten team I have seen in 30 plus years of Big Ten football. Number two isn’t close. This team was the best team in the country. They had a rightful 12 and 0 record. They had the best defense in the country which was the best in Big Ten history.
2. 2005 Ohio State. The 05 Bucks only problem was playing the two best teams in the country.
3. 2002 Ohio State
4. 2008 Penn State
5. 1998 Ohio State

K. John on 2/5/2013 @ 8:52am EDT Said:

More thoughts on this ridiculous list.

6. Michigan 2006 – Fourth best team in the Big Ten at season’s end.
7. Wisconsin 2011 – Lost to Sparty twice. The ref’s disagreed the second time by blowing a call late.
9. Iowa 2002 – The third best team in the Big Ten that year behind Ohio State and Penn State who lost two games directly due to officiating resulting in instant replay.
10. Ohio State 2012 – On the field, they lost to Penn State by three touchdowns. Refs disagreed refusing to call 28 significant holding calls or personal fouls.
11. Wisconsin 1999 – Fourth best team in the Big Ten behind Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State.

tdailey on 2/6/2013 @ 9:57am EDT Said:

You can not include any Nebraska teams before they were a member of the Big Ten. They were not in the Big Ten in 1999 or 2001

    BTN.com staff on 2/6/2013 @ 11:39am EDT Said:

    TDailey, we understand this point of view and hear it occasionally. We choose to include them in lists like this as they’re a member of the Big Ten now. We know most (if not all fans) understand when schools joined, what happened before, and what happens after. We take the same approach with TV shows, and while we know this won’t change your stance, we want you to know we understand it. Thanks for the comment.