Needless to say, this is not a good year for the B1G Conference in football, with news of game cancellations and COVID outbreaks already after one week of play. But that is why Pac-12 Friday comes to the rescue with some great assessments of the conference’s proud football history … although the best seasons of the B1G are far in the past.
Here we go with the 10 best seasons of B1G football (including earlier versions of the league, of course):
The Michigan Wolverines won the Associated Press title, and we confirmed that here in our MNC Wednesday series awhile back. But the Northwestern Wildcats and the Minnesota Golden Gophers also spent time in the AP Top 10 before finishing the season ranked 7th and 16th, respectively. That’s a strong season when three teams finish in the Top 16 like that.
Another MNC title team in our analysis, the Iowa Hawkeyes, took the top spot in the B1G this season, and four teams total finished in the AP Top 13: Iowa (No. 2), Wisconsin (No. 7), Ohio State (No. 8), and Purdue (No. 13). Each of these four teams had just one loss, although there were six ties combined among this strong quartet—five in conference play.
As we noted in the MNC Wednesday series, the 1950s were dominated by the B1G nationally. Ohio State was the top dog in conference, winning our MNC analysis, as well. But Wisconsin finished No. 9 in the AP poll, while Michigan finished 15th, too. Overall, eight of the 10 teams in the league were ranked in the AP poll at one point or another during the season.
This was Michigan State’s first year of competition in the conference, and the Spartans won our MNC analysis, too. This was an era of dominance for Sparty, as five teams overall from the B1G ended up ranked in the AP Top 20: MSU (3rd), Illinois (7th), Iowa (9th), Wisconsin (15th), and Michigan (20th). That’s a lot of firepower.
At various points during this season, Northwestern and Ohio State were both ranked No. 1 in the AP poll, although neither team ended up finishing ranked. Meanwhile, Wisconsin was the No. 2 team at the end of the season, and Minnesota was 10th as well. Michigan State and Purdue also reached the Top 10 during the regular season before falling out of the poll.
We did pick Michigan as our national champion for this season, despite the Wolverines’ No. 2 finish in the AP poll. Four other teams spent time ranked during the year, although none of them finished the season in the AP Top 20: Illinois (peaked at No. 5), Wisconsin (peak No. 9), Minnesota (peak No. 13), and Purdue (peak No. 14). That’s a lot of schedule strength right there.
Ohio State won our MNC analysis for the year, with a No. 2 finish in the AP poll. Michigan finished 8th in the poll, while Illinois ended up at No. 15 on the season. Indiana, Purdue, and Wisconsin also spent time ranked the poll. This was one of the World War II seasons that ended up concentrating a lot of talent in military-base teams, and limited regional travel was in effect.
We chose Minnesota for our MNC in this season, and there were other teams in the conference that were pretty good as well: Michigan finished No. 3 in the AP poll, while Northwestern finished No. 8 overall. Also, Iowa and Ohio State spent time ranked during the year. The year began with each of these five teams ranked in the poll overall.
The Golden Gophers finished No. 1 in the AP poll, but since they lost the Rose Bowl, they did not rate our MNC for the year. Nonetheless, Iowa was the No. 3 team in the AP poll, as well—followed by Ohio State (No. 8), Michigan State (No. 15), and Purdue (No. 19). Overall, eight teams in the conference were ranked in the Top 11 at some point during the season.
The best year in B1G football history didn’t even net the conference an AP title or our MNC championship. Nonetheless, Ohio State (final No. 6 in AP poll), Michigan (No. 7), and Minnesota (No. 8) represented the league well nationally, while Iowa and Northwestern also were ranked during the year. Every team except Indiana was a good team this season, showing big depth.