Welcome to the 21st century in B1G football, as a part of our ongoing series on the best teams in the past from the conference that faces off against the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl (usually). On Pac-12 Fridays, this is our sports world, even if the real world has forced sports back onto college students during a pandemic …
And here we go with a decade dominated by the Scarlet and Gray.
Honorable Mention: 2004 Iowa Hawkeyes (10-2)
After losing two road games early in the season, one to Michigan which cost the Hawkeyes the B1G title, this Iowa team won its final 8 games in dominant fashion, including three wins over ranked teams by an average of 17 points per victory. The Hawkeyes beat LSU in the Capital One Bowl to end the season on a high note, finishing No. 8 in the Associated Press poll.
10. 2009 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-2)
A home loss to then-No. 3 USC early in the year set the Buckeyes back a little bit, but they recovered to win the conference and the Rose Bowl, finishing No. 5 in the AP poll in the process. Ohio State beat three ranked teams in its final four games, including No. 7 Oregon in Pasadena. The one unranked team in the final four matchups was Michigan, surprisingly.
9. 2007 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-2)
This team was No. 1 in the nation until a November 10 home loss to Illinois, and then the Buckeyes beat Michigan on November 17 to finish their regular season ranked No. 5 in the AP poll. However, so many teams ahead of them subsequently loss, putting Ohio State into the BCS Championship Game undeservedly against an equally undeserving two-loss LSU squad.
8. 2002 Iowa Hawkeyes (11-2)
Co-champs of the B1G with Ohio State, the Hawkeyes were ranked No. 3 in the AP poll at the end of the regular season. If not for a five-point loss early in the year to in-state rival Iowa State, then the BCS would have had a major mess on its hands with three undefeated teams (like it did in 2004). However, the Hawkeyes lost the Orange Bowl to No. 5 USC.
7. 2003 Michigan Wolverines (10-3)
Despite playing 8 ranked teams, the Wolverines finished with just the 34th-ranked schedule. Go figure. Michigan posted a 5-3 record in those tough contests, while winning the B1G despite a loss to a ranked Iowa team. However, the Wolverines lost the Rose Bowl again, this time to USC, which was the No. 1 team in the AP poll that year.
6. 2006 Michigan Wolverines (11-2)
This team lost the famous “No. 1 vs. No. 2” matchup with Ohio State to end the regular season, and then lost the Rose Bowl to USC one more time. But the 11-0 start featured just one victory over a ranked team, and 7 home games, so the reality is that the Wolverines were very overrated.
5. 2008 Penn State Nittany Lions (11-2)
Hey, another B1G champ lost the Rose Bowl to USC! No way! All jokes aside, Penn State started 9-0 before a one-point loss at Iowa on November 8 derailed the national hopes. Ironically, both Michigan defeats in the Rose Bowl above and this Nittany Lions loss were all by 14-point margins.
4. 2002 Ohio State Buckeyes (14-0)
The mythical national champions, these Buckeyes were the first team ever to win 14 games in one season—but they finished just fifth in the SRS overall. Go figure. Eight of their 13 regular-season games were at home, and it took double overtime for Ohio State to beat Miami-FL in the title game.
3. 2006 Ohio State Buckeyes (12-1)
These Buckeyes beat the Wolverines in that big game above and then crashed and burned in the BCS Championship against Florida in perhaps the worst emotional letdown example ever in the history of the sport. Ted Ginn returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and then hurt himself in the celebration—missing the rest of the game. There are no words.
2. 2005 Penn State Nittany Lions (11-1)
An officiating time-clock error in a road loss at Michigan kept the Nittany Lions from a perfect season, and Penn State had to settle for finishing No. 3 in the AP poll after beating Florida State in the Orange Bowl. The Nittany Lions also finished No. 4 in the SRS overall.
1. 2005 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-2)
It’s a sabermetric surprise to see these Buckeyes as the best B1G team of the decade. They lost to Penn State by 7 points on the road and had lost a three-point home game against eventual MNC Texas earlier in the year. But Ohio State beat 5 other ranked teams by an average of 19 points per game to finish No. 3 in the SRS—with the No. 2-ranked schedule in the country.