As we close out the twentieth century for Pac-12 Fridays when it comes to B1G football, we also come to the decade where the conference added former independent powerhouse Penn State to the league.
And the Nittany Lions—winners of Associated Press national titles in 1982 and 1986—added some star power to the B1G, for sure. Here are the best teams of the decade …
Honorable Mention: 1993 Wisconsin Badgers (10-1-1)
The Badgers won the Rose Bowl over UCLA to finish No. 6 in the AP Poll, and they posted a 3-0-1 record against ranked teams on their way. The tie against then-No. 3 Ohio State was big for Wisconsin, as it handed the conference title to the Badgers at the end of the regular season.
10. 1999 Penn State Nittany Lions (10-3)
This team started off 9-0 and rose to No. 2 in the country, before three straight conference losses—by a combined 12 points—derailed the season late. Penn State finished fifth in the SRS after beating then-No. 18 Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl by a 24-0 score. Four B1G teams won 10 games this season, but the Nittany Lions were the best of the bunch, sabermetrically.
9. 1990 Michigan Wolverines (9-3)
These Wolverines didn’t win the B1G after losing back-to-back games to Michigan State and Iowa in the middle of October. However, Michigan rallied to win its last 6 games, including a 35-3 walloping of Mississippi in the Gator Bowl. The Wolverines finished fifth in the SRS overall.
8. 1992 Michigan Wolverines (9-0-3)
Another No. 5 SRS finish for Michigan during this season, which the Wolverines can claim as an “undefeated” one if they want to. After tying Notre Dame on the road to open the season, Michigan won 8 straight games before tying Illinois and Ohio State to end the regular season. A 38-31 Rose Bowl victory over Washington gave the Wolverines a sweet ending, though.
7. 1995 Northwestern Wildcats (10-2)
A road win over then-No. 9 Notre Dame to start the season jumpstarted these surprising Wildcats, who went undefeated in conference play, outscoring opponents by an average margin of 14.4 points per game. Alas, the magic ran out in a 41-32 Rose Bowl loss to the then-No. 17 USC Trojans.
6. 1991 Michigan Wolverines (10-2)
Despite 20-point losses to No. 1 Florida State in September and No. 2 Washington in January’s Rose Bowl, this Michigan team went undefeated in B1G play to win the conference championship. Along the way, the Wolverines beat three ranked league rivals—Iowa, Illinois, and Ohio State—by a combined 94-27 margin.
5. 1997 Michigan Wolverines (12-0)
This squad rates surprisingly low sabermetrically, as Michigan’s only AP title winner since the 1940s. Despite beating seven ranked teams by an average of 13 points each, the SOS was only 34th in the country, and that means the overall SRS ranking was only No. 5 in the end. We sense our own MNC Wednesday analysis will address this when the time comes!
4. 1996 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1)
Finishing second in the SRS was a small consolation for this group, which started off 10-0 before losing to Michigan by four points at home in the regular-season finale. However, the Buckeyes rebounded with an epic 20-17 Rose Bowl win over undefeated Arizona State, costing the Sun Devils a national championship.
3. 1998 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1)
Another four-point home loss, this time to Michigan State, cost the Buckeyes a slot in the first-ever BCS Championship Game. Ohio State recovered to win its final three games, though, by a combined 100-44 margin, including a Sugar Bowl victory. The Buckeyes finished No. 1 in the SRS overall.
2. 1995 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-2)
An 11-0 start to the season was ruined, again, by a loss to the Wolverines in the regular-season finale, this time by 8 points on the road. A dispirited Buckeyes squad then lost the Citrus Bowl to Tennessee by 6 points. However, Ohio State beat six other ranked teams by an average of 16 points per game to finish No. 2 in the final SRS rankings.
1. 1994 Penn State Nittany Lions (12-0)
In just their second season in the B1G, the Nittany Lions dominated bigly. They played the 8th-hardest schedule in the country, and by outscoring opponents by 26 points per game, Penn State finished No. 1 in the SRS despite losing out on the AP title to Nebraska. They were robbed!