Ready for more Rose Bowl carnage for the B1G on our Pac-12 Friday series? Well, it’s what you’re going to get (mostly) as we look at the best teams from the conference that faces the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl (usually).
Get ready for an amusing ride through the 1980s, where one team dominated the conference while the B1G as a whole was pretty mediocre.
Honorable Mention: 1984 Ohio State Buckeyes (9-3)
This is a good example of how weak the B1G was in general during the 1980s. This league champion faced just one ranked team all year before losing in the Rose Bowl to No. 18 USC and ending up 12th in the SRS. But hey, Ohio State did beat Michigan, and that always counts for legitimacy.
10. 1983 Illinois Fighting Illini (10-2)
The recurring theme: The Illini won the B1G and were ranked No. 4 before losing to unranked UCLA in the Rose Bowl by a 45-9 margin. That is the lasting impression of B1G football in the 1980s, fair or not. Illinois did beat Top 10—at the time—teams from Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio State, though.
9. 1987 Michigan State Spartans (9-2-1)
One of just three B1G champs to win the Rose Bowl in the decade, the Spartans beat ranked USC squads twice while also beating four other ranked teams. MSU lost big to ranked Florida State and Notre Dame teams early before recovering to go 8-0-1 in its final nine games.
8. 1982 Michigan Wolverines (8-4)
How bad is it when a four-loss team makes into a list like this? Bad. These Wolverines didn’t beat a ranked team all year their way to the B1G title, and Michigan finished 0-3 against ranked teams after it lost the Rose Bowl to UCLA. A loss to Ohio State also was probably a downer in Ann Arbor.
7. 1985 Iowa Hawkeyes (10-2)
Ranked No. 4, these Hawkeyes lost to No. 13 UCLA in the Rose Bowl by 17 points. Earlier in the season when ranked No. 1, Iowa beat then-No. 2 Michigan at home, but the Hawkeyes lost to Ohio State on the road later to fall from the top of the polls. Those were the only ranked teams on the slate.
6. 1981 Michigan Wolverines (9-3)
When those in the know laugh at how overrated Michigan always is in football, it’s because of the 1980s: These Wolverines couldn’t win the B1G, but they did beat UCLA in the Bluebonnet Bowl. The strength of this ranking comes from a September 19 win over then-No. 1 Notre Dame by 18 points.
5. 1989 Michigan Wolverines (10-2)
Another Rose Bowl fail: Michigan was No. 3 when it lost to No. 12 USC in Pasadena. After losing to Notre Dame in their first game, the Wolverines won 10 straight, including four wins over ranked teams by a combined 28 points. Alas, Bo Schembechler went out a loser in the end, however.
4. 1986 Michigan Wolverines (11-2)
A 9-0 start got the Wolverines to No. 3 in the country before a home loss to unranked Minnesota derailed the season. Michigan did beat No. 7 Ohio State on the road, but in the Rose Bowl, the Wolverines lost to a lower-ranked team from Arizona State. See what we mean? Overrated!
3. 1988 Michigan Wolverines (9-2-1)
This was Schembechler’s last Rose Bowl victory, and overall, he was 2-8 in Pasadena. The Wolverines started 0-2 after losses to ranked Miami (FL) and Notre Dame squads. Then, Michigan finished 9-0-1 in its final 10 games, catching a break against demoralized USC in the Granddaddy of Them All.
2. 1980 Michigan Wolverines (10-2)
Schembechler’s first Rose Bowl finally came after a decade of failure in Pasadena. This team started 1-2 and was unranked as late as October 25. Upsetting Ohio State on the road to win the conference, the No. 5 Wolverines used the momentum to beat No. 16 Washington at the end.
1. 1985 Michigan Wolverines (10-1-1)
Huge irony here as easily the best team in the decade from the B1G didn’t even win the conference. The aforementioned loss above to Iowa and a random tie on the road against Illinois cost Michigan a lot. The Wolverines finished No. 1 in the SRS after beating Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl, fielding the top scoring defense in the country against the second-best schedule.