The 1950s were very good to the Western Conference and Big Ten teams of the era. As we covered in our MNC Wednesdays series, the Midwest schools dominated the era. Now, for our Pac-12 Fridays ongoing feature, we take a look at the best teams from the B1G in this 10-season span.
After all, the B1G may have stolen the “Conference of Champions” moniker from the Pac-12 for these years …
Honorable Mention: 1956 Iowa Hawkeyes (9-1)
What does it say that this MNC winner (in our books) finished as the 11th-best team of the decade in the B1G? A lot. A three-point home loss to a ranked Michigan team is all that kept these Hawkeyes from a perfect season. Again, the mythical national championship is a nice consolation.
10. 1957 Ohio State Buckeyes (9-1)
This MNC winner we chose only had one loss: an opening-game defeat by 4 points to TCU. The Buckeyes then ran the table, jumping from No. 3 in the polls to No. 2 after a 17-point win over a ranked Michigan team on the road. There is irony here to see below, however.
9. 1953 Illinois Fighting Illini (7-1-1)
On November 14, this team was ranked No. 3 in the nation, and then the Illini lost by 27 points on the road to an unranked Wisconsin team. However, Illinois still finished No. 4 in the SRS after recovering to beat Northwestern by 25 points in the season finale.
8. 1953 Michigan State Spartans (9-1)
This was Sparty’s first season in the conference, as the league changed its moniker from the Western Conference (informally the Big 9) to the “formal” Big Ten. This team was the defending AP champion, and it ended up being the fourth-straight MNC winner from MSU in our analyses.
7. 1958 Wisconsin Badgers (7-1-1)
A midseason slump cost the Badgers so much more. They lost to then-No. 13 Iowa and tied then-No. 2 Ohio State in back-to-back weeks. Otherwise, Wisconsin outscored everyone else on its schedule by a 185-50 margin. These Badgers finished No. 2 in the SRS when all the dust settled.
6. 1951 Wisconsin Badgers (7-1-1)
So similar to the team above, this group’s slump came earlier in the season with loss to then-No. 8 Illinois and a tie against then-No. 9 Ohio State on consecutive weekends. The scoring margin in the other seven games? 180-33. Creepily comparable, and this Wisconsin gang finished No. 4 in the SRS by the end of the season.
5. 1957 Michigan State Spartans (8-1)
This is the irony we mentioned above. Ohio State won the B1G, the Rose Bowl, and the MNC—but MSU was probably the better team, at least on paper. The Spartans finished No. 1 in the SRS, but a 7-point loss to Purdue cost them everything, literally. Those are the breaks sometimes.
4. 1955 Michigan State Spartans (9-1)
This was the fifth MNC team in six years from Sparta, and perhaps the best of the bunch. The only MSU loss this year came in the second game on the road in Ann Arbor by 7 points. What joy that must have given the Wolverines, since it was a dull decade for the Michigan Maize & Blue with no teams on this list at all.
3. 1951 Illinois Fighting Illini (9-0-1)
This team didn’t win the MNC for bad-luck reasons, as its one tie came against a team (Ohio State) that lost to an undefeated team (Michigan State). So even though Illinois finished No. 1 in the SRS, circumstances disqualified them from the mythical title. These are the waters of college football.
2. 1958 Iowa Hawkeyes (8-1-1)
We gave this team our MNC, and it finished No. 1 in the SRS by a mile over the second team (see above). The Hawkeyes played six ranked teams out of the 10 on its schedule, only losing to a ranked Ohio State squad. Iowa also played the second-hardest schedule in the country.
1. 1954 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-0)
This was the team that interrupted Michigan State’s streak of MNCs, and it was an excellent squad, obviously, finishing No. 1 in the SRS. It played six ranked teams overall, and only three teams scored in double digits against the Buckeyes (all ranked teams, incidentally).