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Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Big Ten Champions Tournament: Game 3

By Brian Bennett

We've reached the third game of the first round in our Big Ten Champions Tournament, a fun little way to bring March Madness to the blog by pitting eight of the best Big Ten teams from the last 15 years.

The 1997 co-national champion Nebraska Cornhuskers opened up their tournament run on Tuesday as the No. 2 seed. At No. 3 is the team that shared the title with them that year. Let's take a look at the matchup:

No. 3 seed 1997 Michigan vs. No. 6 seed 2005 Penn State

All these Wolverines did was go undefeated, win the Rose Bowl and finish No. 1 in the Associated Press poll. Yet they can't claim to be undisputed champions since Nebraska finished atop the coaches' poll.

This was Lloyd Carr's finest team and featured Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, who became the first primarily defensive player to win the award. This wasn't an imposing offensive attack, though, as the team lacked a 1,000-yard rusher and did not have a receiver top 500 yards. But Brian Griese was solid at quarterback, and the Wolverines emerged unscathed against a regular-season schedule that included six ranked teams and three Top 10 opponents. The season concluded with a 21-16 win against Ryan Leaf and Washington State.

The 2005 Nittany Lions finished 11-1 and ranked No. 3. Their lone loss came at Michigan on the final play of the game. Stars included defensive end Tamba Hali, quarterback Michael Robinson, Bednarik and Butkus winner Paul Posluszny, and offensive lineman Levi Brown. They beat an average Florida State team in the Orange Bowl in a memorable triple-overtime thriller.

Now it's your turn to vote for the winner in this contest. If you want to break down this game and your reasons for voting the way you did, drop me a line, and the best responses will be posted with the result. Voting on this game will run through 9 a.m. ET Friday.