Big Ten goes green with envy on St. Pat's Day

March, 17, 2009
3/17/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The river in my city has turned green, which can only mean one thing: St. Patrick's Day is here! I got a head start on the holiday by making my first trip to the famous South Side Irish Parade on Sunday afternoon. Good times.

The celebration continues all day long on the blog network, so sit back, grab a beverage and enjoy our salute to St. Pat's Day. If you don't like the color green, too bad. It's sort of our theme for the day. 

Every college football team has some degree of envy. Some want better coaches or players. Others want better facilities or larger fan bases. Some simply want more wins.

So what makes Big Ten teams green with envy? Here's a look:

Illinois envies Wisconsin's sustained success -- Since Barry Alvarez won his first Big Ten title in 1993, Wisconsin has endured only two losing seasons and won eight or more games 11 times. Illinois went to the Rose Bowl in 2007 and the Sugar Bowl in 2001, but the Illini followed both breakthroughs with 5-7 breakdowns. They have posted only three winning seasons since 1995. 

Indiana envies Penn State's coaching longevity -- Joe Paterno will enter his 44th season as Penn State's head coach this fall after taking over the job in 1966. During the same span, Indiana has shuffled through eight head coaches, including four since 2001. The turnover at the top spot has hamstrung the Hoosiers from becoming a consistent program. 

Iowa envies Ohio State's recruiting base -- Recruiting is an ongoing challenge for Iowa, based on geography. According to a recent SI.com analysis, Iowa produced fewer BCS recruits than any other Big Ten state besides Wisconsin from 2004-08. Ohio, meanwhile, produced the fifth most BCS recruits, which bodes well for national powerhouse Ohio State. 

Michigan envies the Sweater Vest and his 21st century dominance -- OK, maybe not the sweater vest part, but it's got to be killing Michigan how Ohio State has dominated the Big Ten since Jim Tressel's arrival in 2001. Under Tressel, the Buckeyes have won a national title and five Big Ten championships, and own a 52-12 record in league play. More damaging, Tressel is 7-1 against Michigan, including a current five-game win streak. 

Michigan State envies Michigan's national profile -- Little brother they are no more, but the Spartans still get overlooked in the state that houses college football's all-time winningest program. Michigan State seems to have the ingredients to become a factor on the national stage, but it is known as a perennial underachiever that can't crack the top tier, where Michigan usually resides.

Minnesota envies Iowa's and Wisconsin's recent Big Ten titles -- The Gophers' top two rivals both have enjoyed revivals in the last two decades, while Minnesota's Big Ten title drought has reached 42 years. Minnesota has won more than eight games just once since the 1967 league title, a troubling trend of mediocrity for a former national powerhouse. At least Minnesota won't envy Iowa's and Wisconsin's on-campus venues after TCF Bank Stadium opens this fall. 

Northwestern envies Iowa's fan base -- Northwestern has been a competitive team since 1995, but the Wildcats still struggle to fill their home stadium and sell their program to bowl representatives. Only Penn State has fewer alumni in Chicago than Northwestern, which is located just miles from the city limits. Iowa and its sizable fan base leapfrogged Northwestern for the Outback Bowl last season even though Northwestern beat the Hawkeyes in Iowa City during the season.

Ohio State envies Michigan's Rose Bowl tradition -- The Buckeyes don't envy much in the Big Ten these days, but they wouldn't mind a trip to Pasadena every now and then. Ohio State hasn't been to the Rose Bowl since 1997, an amazing drought considering the team's success in Big Ten play. Michigan, meanwhile, is a regular at the Rose Bowl. Since the 1980 season, Michigan has made 11 Rose Bowl appearances; Ohio State has gone just twice. 

Penn State envies Ohio State's seven Heisman Trophy winners -- Despite its storied tradition, Penn State has produced just one Heisman winner, John Cappelletti in 1973. The Lions' inability to earn college football's top individual honor more often is somewhat troubling. Ohio State, meanwhile, is tied with Notre Dame and USC for the most Heisman winners with seven, most recently quarterback Troy Smith in 2006.

Purdue envies Michigan's intangibles -- Joe Tiller made a Purdue a consistent winner and an annual bowl participant, but the Boilermakers always seemed to have a ceiling. They couldn't get over the hump against the league's elite, particularly a Michigan team that handed them heartbreaking losses in 2004, 2002 and 2001. Teams like Michigan and Ohio State always appear to have the mental edge against Purdue, though the Boilers usually play hard. 

Wisconsin envies Ohio State's BCS appearances -- The Badgers are the last Big Ten team to win a Rose Bowl, but they haven't been back to a BCS bowl since the first day of the new millennium. Ohio State has replaced Wisconsin as the Big Ten's dominant team this decade, and the Buckeyes have reached six BCS bowls, including three national title games.

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