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Big Ten Programs of the Decade
Big Ten programs of the decade
January, 21, 2010
By Adam Rittenberg
The decade recap rankings conclude with a look at Big Ten programs from 2000-09. Ohio State dominated the Big Ten for most of the decade, so the Buckeyes are the clear No. 1. Iowa and Michigan are extremely close for No. 2, while Penn State's second-half surge improved its standings. Factors such as Big Ten titles, BCS bowl appearances, bowl record and number of losing seasons played a role in the rankings.
1. Ohio State: There should be no argument here, as the Buckeyes are the team of the decade in the Big Ten. They won six conference titles (outright or shared), including each of the last five, and made three trips to the national title game (1-2). Ohio State also won four BCS bowls this decade, while the rest of the league only won two.
2. Iowa: A very tough call here between Iowa and Michigan for the No. 2 spot. Michigan won more Big Ten titles this decade (3 vs. 2), but Iowa endured only one losing regular season while Michigan had two. The Hawkeyes also went 5-3 in bowls with an Orange Bowl championship, while Michigan went 3-5 in the postseason and 0-3 in the Rose Bowl. Kirk Ferentz has made Iowa a consistent winner in the Big Ten.
3. Michigan: If this list was made following the 2007 season, Michigan would be one spot higher. The last two bowl-less years really hurt the Wolverines, but their accomplishments under Lloyd Carr should be appreciated. Michigan won three league titles and finished first or second in the league in seven of eight years under Carr this decade.
4. Penn State: The Nittany Lions mid-decade turnaround restored their place among the Big Ten's elite, as Joe Paterno's squad has averaged 10.2 wins since 2005. Four losing seasons in the first half of the decade hurt, but Penn State has won as many Big Ten titles as Iowa and owns four bowl victories (three in January games).
5. Wisconsin: An inability to win a Big Ten title is the only reason the Badgers aren't higher in the rankings. Wisconsin averaged 8.6 wins per season during the decade, winning 12 games in 2006 and winning nine or more six times. The Badgers had four top 20 finishes and won five bowl games. Their Big Ten record is good (44-36), though soft nonconference schedules hurt their cause a bit.
6. Purdue: The Boilers opened the decade with a Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl appearance and reached bowls in seven of the first eight years in the aughts. Several tough losses prevented Purdue from getting over the hump, but Joe Tiller made the Boilers a consistent mid-tier team in the conference.
7. Northwestern: The Wildcats reached three fewer bowl games than Minnesota, but they won a Big Ten co-championship in 2000 and fared better against the Big Ten's upper half. Northwestern went 38-42 in conference play this decade and finished .500 or better in six of the 10 years. Pat Fitzgerald needs to keep making bowl games and start winning some.
8. Minnesota: Eight bowl games in the decade certainly counts for something, as Minnesota had only one terrible season (2007) and averaged 6.2 wins. The Gophers lose points because of a very poor Big Ten record (30-50), the inability to beat rivals (Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa) and because they scheduled their way into bowls with September cupcakes.
9. Michigan State: The future certainly looks brighter after three consecutive bowl appearances, but Michigan State might want to forget about this decade. The Spartans struggled to meet expectations and wasted strong starts in 2000, 2005, 2006 and, to a certain extent, 2003. They reached five bowl games, going 1-4, and made a push for the Big Ten title in 2008.
10. Illinois: What a strange decade for the Fighting Illini. Most teams that won a league championship (2001) and reached two BCS bowls (2001, 2007) could expect to be ranked higher than this. But Illinois' inability to build on success really hurts its cause. The Illini finished with losing records in every season they didn't reach a BCS bowl, enduring two 3-win seasons, two 2-win seasons and a 1-11 clunker in 2003.
11. Indiana: The Hoosiers had fewer disastrous seasons than Illinois -- Indiana won three or more games in nine of 10 years -- but they reached only one bowl game (2007) and went 18-62 in Big Ten play. The Gerry DiNardo years were rough in Bloomington, and Indiana couldn't capitalize when Antwaan Randle El was in town. Still, the program showed flashes of progress in 2006, 2007 and 2009.
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