Big Ten: big ten champions tournament 2012

Either Nebraska and Ohio State fans are even more passionate than I thought, or there was some computer tinkering going on. But either way, the 1997 Cornhuskers are the winners of our Big Ten Champions Tournament, capturing 64 percent of the vote over No. 1 seed Ohio State 2002.

There were somehow more than 3.5 million votes in the title game poll as of 9 a.m. Wednesday, which is crazy on many levels. Regardless, the poll settled matters in this tournament, and Nebraska had a great and very worthy team.

Here are some comments from those who voted:

Nate from Boston: Seriously, 2002 OSU a #1 seed? You will probably dismiss 1997 Nebraska's huge victory over them as just NU fanboys and homers racking up votes, but you would be mistaken. I hate Nebraska and I even voted for them in this match-up because 2002 OSU stunk and 1997 NU may have been one of the greatest teams of the 90's.

Joe R. from Paducah, Ky.: While I certainly acknowledge the truth of the matter that Nebraska's offense was far and away superior to Ohio State's, the exact same was said of the Miami team that OSU beat to win the title. In a game that was supposed to be a blowout, the "unstoppable" and "overpowering" speed and strength of that Miami team only notched 24 points and that in 2OT. As for the rest of the season, teams averaged a little over 12 ppg. You just didn't score on that OSU team, and I am not convinced that anyone would, even an offensive juggernaut like the '97 Huskers.

KentuckyHusker from 3rd Recon Bn, Okinawa, Japan: The 1997 Nebraska team was an unstoppable force. I don't know this from experience, I was only 10 when they clobbered Tennessee that year. But, being a completely biased fan makes me a subject matter expert. And on this matter, all I have to say is the only team that could have beaten the '97 Huskers was the '95 Huskers.

Chris K from Columbus: Brian, it's crazy for anyone to vote against the 2002 OSU national championship team in your football march madness. Sure, that OSU team had a reputation as being a scrappy, win-at-the-last-second team, but in hindsight, that NCG against Miami was unbelievably talented. Out of 43 starters (Chris Gamble started both ways), 41 were drafted into the NFL. That's unheard of in any NCG before or since. So despite that team's scrappy reputation, it won the most talented NCG ever played in the BCS era (sorry 2005's USC-Texas, you had the star power, but not the depth). The Nebraska team was great, to be sure, but the 2002 Ohio State team might be the most underrated national championship team of all time.

David M from Cleveland: I don't know what people are thinking of on this vote. You have Ohio State, coached by Tressel with D'antonio on D, and you are going to bring a one dimensional, Big Ten throw back Nebraska team to come in and RUN on them? Hey, respect to Nebraska, but that dog don't hunt. Tressel and Dantonio were all about MAKING teams one dimensional then squeezing them to death with time, field position and special teams (again, field position). Not to say the OSU offense would have changed, but you only need to win by one point. OSU's D in 2002 gave them the edge when it came down to THAT stat.

Dubs from Boulder, Colo.: Sure, tOSU did beat a Miami team with a lot of firepower, and--I believe (at the time, at least)-- the most first-rounders of any one school in that year's draft... But, the 1997 Husker team was almost unstoppable. They beat five teams that ended in the final top-25 poll that season, despite their sole close call at Mizzou. Don't forget, tOSU was aided by a relatively dubious PI call at the end of the Nat'l Championship...1

David from Stow, Ohio: Why the 2002 Buckeyes would beat the 1997 Cornhuskers: Defenses win championships. We've known this for years; why were we surprised when we saw it in the 2003 BCS championship? Miami could not get their star-powered offense going against the OSU defense. Nebraska would have had the same problem. I remember watching the Nebraska-Missouri game in 1997. Missouri and God gave it to Nebraska in the end. OSU's 2002 defense would not have been so generous. Whether God would have intervened for another TD catch off of another receiver's foot I do not know, but barring acts of God I give the advantage to 2002 OSU.

Dan on campus from Lincoln, Neb.: I understand that it seems that Nebraska was an offensive first team but ask any fan or look at the players. The 1997 Nebraska team was a defense first team, with the majority of the talent on that side of the ball. Just look at who played on that defense: Grant Wistrom, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Jason Peter, Eric Warfield, Mike Rucker, Carlos Polk, Octavious McFarlin and Mike Brown.

Jeff from Salina, Kan: NUs team in 97' was almost as nasty as the 95' version. That O-line was a monster and pushed people all over the field, and lets not forget that D. Often overlooked because of the offense, that D was one of the best in the country that year. Charlie Mcbride liked to blitz from all over, Krenzel wouldnt have time to pass the ball making Ohio St. one dimensional.

Dave M from Johnston, Iowa: Although both teams were clearly elite, I think the 1997 Husker team came from the smash-mouth era of physical, fast, bruising football out of Lincoln. I don't think the '02 Buckeyes had the total package the Cornhuskers had. The Tom Osborne teams of the mid '90s had the offense, defense, and special teams that didn't give up much.

Seth W. from Lincoln: This game I feel would be an embarassment. Not only did the 1997 big red rushing attack set records, the blackshirts led by Grant Wistrom were absolutely dominant. Although Ohio State had a lot of talent, they did not have the special pieces that Nebraska did. The 97 big red team also destroyed a very good Tennessee team, which was led by the greatest quarterback to ever play the game (besides brett favre of course) in Peyton Manning. Manning was ineffective all game long, on his back, and confused. If they 97 blackshirts were able to do that to Peyton Manning, I would put my life savings on them doing the same, if not worse to Krenzel, or whoever the Ohio State quarterback was that year

Andy P. from Omaha: If a time warp opened up allowing 97 Nebraska and 2002 tOSU to play on the field with both at their best, the clock would finally strike midnight on the Cinderella 2002 tOSU Buckeyes offense.That offense just wouldn't come close to getting it done against the 97 Blackshirts. As I have said previously in other posts, the 97 Blackshirts, specifically the D line and blitzing outside backers would eat a stand in the pocket, lack of mobility, weak armed QB like Krenzel for lunch. That list is long with Qb's like Krenzel that were terrorized by the Nebrasa front 7. Krenzel was no K. Jones of Missouri who played the game of his life and used that athletic ability to nearly upset Nebraska.Not near enough offense from 2002 tOSU and too much run it down your throat, Power I formation counters, iso's, counter traps, stretch plays, to A. Green. Oh.. and then T.O. might call an option play to make that defense defend the entire width of the field after getting gashed in the middle. 97 Nebraska by 21.

Eric from Princeton, N.J.: That 2002 Ohio State team was as good of a team as I can remember. Their defense was phenomenal and was the reason they won so many games. Their offense struggled often, but found ways to get it done, especially with Maurice Clarett. When he came in he totally sparked the victory in the meat-chicken game, and I would expect more of the same here. We all know how that story ended up, but he was the best running back I have ever watched extensively, including AP. That defense could slow down anyone. Miami had such a good offense that year that nobody thought we even had a chance, but the game was tied 17-17 at regulation--they could slow down anyone. They could stop anyone, and knew how to score just enough points to get the job done. 2002 OSU = victory.

Tim from Columbus: There is no way 2002 OSU loses to any team on the field. No way. Anyone that watched that team knows the Defense would not allow it. That is the best defense of the last 15 years in College. No doubt in my mind. They shutdown a team that was touted as the best ever. With the best ever Oline to step on the field. First play of the game, blew up that theory and began what should have been a discussion that the 2002 OSU d-line and defense was the best ever to play. The 2002 OSU team fits the refuse to lose term perfectly. 97 Huskers were good, but not good enough. They would not be able to run. You had to pass to have any chance of winning against the 2002 OSU team. Scott Frost would be eating dirt the whole game. The Buckeyes D is the difference.

Christopher from Detroit: Your Big Ten Champions Tournament 2012 looks to be full of rampant cheating by Nebraska fans. How else do you explain over a million votes in that poll so far? Look at the other rounds in the tournament. The opening rounds only had under 10,000 votes per contest. Now look at the semifinal match-up between Michigan and Nebraska, you'll see the numbers jump to over 830,000 votes. While in the other semifinal, there were only 3,700 votes cast. I'm all ears for a logical and rational explanation.

Cheating? In a poll? I don't know if that's technically even possible. But whatever. Nebraska is the champion, and this was a whole lot of fun.
Our Big Ten Champions Tournament, celebrating the league's best teams from the past 15 years, is down to two contenders for the crown. So let's settle this:


Who would win this title matchup?


Discuss (Total votes: 4,045,790)

No. 1 seed Ohio State 2002 vs. No. 2 seed Nebraska 1997

In one corner we have the 14-0 Buckeyes, the only Big Ten team from the past 15 years to finish as undefeated, undisputed national champions.

In the other corner we have the 13-0 Cornhuskers, who finished No. 1 in the coaches' poll and often embarrassed their opponents (including No. 3 seed Michigan 1997 last week).

Nebraska has a little more star power and a lot more offense than that Ohio State team, which often slipped by people on the way to its title. But those Buckeyes had a great will to win and beat an extremely talented Miami team in the BCS title game.

Could the Buckeyes' defense slow down Nebraska's vaunted running game while getting just enough from Maurice Clarett and Craig Krenzel and their excellent special teams to pull out the victory? Or would the Huskers' record-breaking rushing attack just be too overpowering?

Here's your chance to vote on the outcome. Polling will close on Wednesday. And as always, drop me a line to tell me why you voted the way you did and to break down this matchup. The best comments will appear in the results post.
Our title match is set.

No. 2 seed Nebraska 1997 settled (well, not really) its long-running debate with No. 3 Michigan 1997 in the Big Ten Champions Tournament, winning 96 percent (!) of your vote. (Was there ballot-box stuffing, or what?)

People have been taking sides on that split national championship for 15 years, so there was no surprise that passions ran high. Here are some of your comments:
Matt from North Platte, NE: I look at the FINAL rankings of the opponents to make my argument as to why Nebraska was the better team in 1997. By the end of the season, Nebraska had defeated five teams that finished ranked in the final top-25 (Tennessee, Kansas State, Washington, Texas A&M, and Missouri, winning by an average margin of 23 points). 4 of 5 of these victories were road games. Michigan only finished the year with 3 victories over teams that finished ranked in the top-25 (Washington State, Ohio State and Penn State, only winning by an average margin of 12 points). 2 of these games were road games.Not only did Nebraska have more big wins, but they handled all but one of them on the road and did it with a larger margin of victory than Michigan did in its 3 big games.Nebraska had Baylor down 42-7 at the half before calling off the dogs. It took Michigan the whole game just to score 38. Also, Nebraska had to deal with the altitude and thin air in Boulder while Michigan got to play Colorado at the Big House. One more thing:Nebraska 42, Payton Manning 17Michigan 21, Ryan Leaf 16. Enough said.

McLovn from Honolulu: I agree the Nebraska the offense was better, but the reason NU runs away with this is game is because their defense was better too. Look at 4th quarter scoring, NU gave up 82 points. Thats double their next highest qtr 41. They were so far ahead all season that backups were giving up points late. In January when this game would have been played, the Orange Bowl Huskers were superior to the Rose Bowl Wolverines

Joshua from Omaha, Neb.: I like to think of this as an equation. Although Nebraska's defense wasn't as good as Michigan's, Nebraska still had a Top 25 defense in coalition with the best offense (especially offensive line) in the country. Michigan's offense was not Top 25, although their defense was the best in the country.So, Nebraska = great offense/above average defense, against Michigan = average offense/great defense. Stats aside, never disregard intangibles. Tom Osborne was coaching his last game ever as a Husker, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a group of coaches or players that didn't love their coach more or want to play as hard as possible for their coach. I doubt Michigan wouldn't have been motivated to win, but you could tell in the second half of the Nebraska/Tennessee game that Nebraska took their game to another level and thoroughly dominated a physically talented Tennessee team. Never underestimate the team with something greater to play for.

Dan B. from Lowden, Iowa: You didn't mention that in Nebraska's blowout of Tennessee, that they (UT) were being quarterbacked by the (someday) Hall of Fame shoe in, P.Manning. They owned him that night, just ask him. Nebraska's '97 defense wasn't to the caliber of the '94 & '95 teams, but they were solid. Go into the radio archives and listen to WGN Sports radio the day (or two) after the game (Chicgao's a B1G Ten/Notre Dame town) and listen to Tom Waddles comments about the game and the beef that Micigan fans had with splitting the title? If they'd have played head to head? NU would taken home both titles. Last thing. Nebraska went 60-3 in five years, won 3 National Titles, missed a 4th by a field goal. Consider what you want for modern era's, but that was an amazing run. GBR!

Chris from Charlotte, N.C.: Brian-1997 was my senior at Michigan - I got to go to every home game and saw this team in person. Michigan wins this on defense and a special player who had a special year. Charles Woodson lived up to the hype almost every game - the punt return against Ohio was one of the most thrilling moments I have ever witnessed. Our schedule was the toughest in the nation and other than the three games mentioned we blew everyone out. Let our defense (rated number 1 against the run) stack the box and make the Huskers throw on Woodson & Co. -- we win easily. I actually think the Florida State team that year would of beat both of us -- thank you Florida!

Jim from Cypress, Texas: NU would win. Their offense was far better, and their defense was almost as good as Michigan's. Why? Go back and study the games. The combo of NU offense and defense put the game out of reach and their third-string guys on the field by mid 3-Q in most games -- that's when opponents got most of their yards and points. Michigan's first-string defense had to stay on the field almost to the end almost evetry game, which made their stats better.

Joe T. from Plano, Texas: I bleed scarlet and cream. But...Based only on the bowl game results I thought Nebraska would have handled Michigan. That was a pretty weak Washington State team Michigan was lucky to beat (a dropped touchdown pass made the difference if I remember correctly), while Nebraska manhandled a Tennessee team that would win the national championship the next season.I think it also would have depended on when the game would have been played. Right after the regular season? Maybe anyone's game but we also run into Nebraska having won a conference championship game (pretty handily against a decent A & M team) while Michigan did not. Play each other in the bowl game? Might have been closer than if they played the week after their respective bowls, but the X factor is Tom Osborne's retirment. I truly believe with the cast of character's Nebraska had, there was absolutely now way they would have lost that man's last game coaching. Anyway you slice it, Nebraska would have won. Better offense and a defense that wasn't too bad either!

Patrick I. from Watervliet, Mich.: There are 2 reasons we are even having this discussion. If there was instant replay in 97 the game against Missouri would be a loss. If Phil Fulmer does not vote Michigan #4 in the coaches poll, because he's ticked that Woodson won the Heisman over his boy Manning, and votes them #1 or #2 like everybody else, Michigan gets all 4 trophies instead of only 3.

Derek S. from Waukesha, Wis.: The '97 Michigan team obviously featured a defense that decided games with relentless pressure and takeaways. But what people don't remember is the talent that squad had offensively and specifically how they gelled as the season progressed. The mammoth o-line was led by three future NFL stars in Jon Jansen, Steve Hutchinson and Jeff Backus, not to mention three tight ends who would play 5 plus seasons in the NFL: Jerame Tuman, Mark Campbell, and Aaron Shea. The 3 headed running back tandem of Chris Howard, Clarence Williams, and a blossoming Anthony Thomas could catch the ball out of the backfield and eat first downs and clock with the best of them. Tai Streets and Russell Shaw were clutch possession receivers that had just enough "stretch the field" speed to keep defenses honest. Lastly, Brian Griese's leadership and decision making that season were almost infallible. When that team needed him most, he got it done, plain and simple. Nebraska was a monster in '97, but give me the Wolverines with Lloyd Carr and Jim Hermann in a head to head brawl.

Jason L. from Kansas City, Mo.: I believe the 97 Huskers were a better team than the 97 Wolverines were. I agree with you that the Huskers had the better offense but to say Michigan had a better defense is debatable. The Blackshirts lead by Grant Wistrom had a great defense too. Nebraska shut down Peyton Manning's #3 ranked Tennessee Volunteers in the Orange Bowl and won 42-17 while Michigan survived in the Rose Bowl against Ryan Leifs #8 ranked Washington St team winning 21-16. The game ended with Washington State running out of time at Michigan's 16 yard line. While Tennessee went on to win the National Championship the following year without Peyton Manning, Washington State went 3-8 without Ryan Leif. So, Nebraska not only won more their bowl game more decisively, they clearly beat a better team.

Craig H. from Omaha, Neb.: I believe this game would've been settled by Nebraska's defense vrs Michigan's offense. On a neutral site, I'd have to go with Nebraska. The fun part of this whole debate is that I believe Nebraska and Michigan will become natural rivals and with NU in the Big Ten now, we have many great games to look forward to over time.

Matt from St. Louis: Michigan was the best team in the nation in '97. They played and conquered the nation's toughest schedule and won all of their games in regulation. The November game against #2 Penn State in Happy Valley was as dominant a performance as I have ever seen in a football game. College football hasn't seen a player of Charles Woodson's talent since. Then again, I am blinded by my maize and blue fan goggles.

So the showdown for the trophy is set: No. 1 seed Ohio State 2002 vs. No. 2 seed Nebraska 1997. Look for that matchup on the blog next week.
It's time.

If the Big Ten Champions Tournament accomplishes nothing else, at least it will let us try to settle a debate that has raged for 15 years. Bring on this long-overdue matchup of:

No. 2 seed Nebraska 1997 vs. No. 3 seed Michigan 1997


Who would win this semifinal matchup?


Discuss (Total votes: 837,231)

Curse the BCS all you want, but if that system were in place in 1997, there would have been no split-national title controversy. Of course, Michigan was the No. 1 team in the final Associated Press poll after beating No. 8 Washington State 21-16 in the Rose Bowl, while Nebraska was No. 1 in the coaches' poll following its 42-17 blowout of No. 3 Tennessee in the Orange Bowl. Legendary Huskers coach Tom Osborne announced his retirement before the bowl, which may have influenced his fellow coaches' votes.

So which team was more deserving? Nebraska averaged 46.7 points per game and won by an average margin of more than 30 points per game. The Huskers also needed a miracle against Missouri and edged Colorado by a field goal.

Michigan averaged 26.8 points per game and won by an average of more than 17 points per game. The Wolverines had close calls against Notre Dame, Iowa and Ohio State and had to hold on to win the Rose Bowl.

Common opponents: Michigan beat Colorado 27-3 and Baylor 38-3, both at home. Nebraska beat Colorado 27-24 and Baylor 49-21, both on the road.

Michigan had the better defense, Nebraska the better offense.

The computers favored Nebraska, but Michigan had been No. 1 all season.

Michigan had the Heisman Trophy winner in Charles Woodson. Nebraska had the Lombardi Award winner in Grant Wistrom and the Outland Trophy winner in Aaron Taylor.

So it's a tough debate, and it's a shame this game was never played on the field. But vote in our poll and decide a winner. Big Red fans always turn out in force, so Michigan fans will need to mobilize in support of their side as well.

Voting will close at 9 a.m. on Friday. And don't forget to drop me a line to break down this matchup and explain your vote. I'm sure there will be very strong opinions.
One side of our Big Ten Champions Tournament final is set.

Top-seed Ohio State 2002 took out No. 4 seed Ohio State 2006 with ease, winning 70 percent of your vote. And here are a few comments from those who voted:
Kevin from Charlotte: The 2002 team was the most exciting season of football of my life. Hands down the winner with ease. The brought back a championship to Columbus and I still watch highlights of the "Holy Buckeye".

Peter from Columbus, Ohio: I've always thought of the 2006 Ohio State team as the best team in the conference in recent memory. That's not to say the National Champions weren't a great team, they just had a few games that were too close, especially on the road (4 point win at C-USA UC, OT win at Illinois, Holy Buckeye at Purdue), whereas the 2006 team won big at Texas and Iowa. Going 2-1 against #2 ranked teams isn't bad either, although I'd call it a toss-up between the 2OT Miami game and OSU-Mich 2006.

Steve from Milwaukee: This, to me, is the toughest match-up yet. I still believe the 2006 Buckeyes, despite their pitiful showing in the NCG, were the best team that year. The talent on offense alone was tremendous and their complete domination of the regular season was undeniable (let's not forget they also won @ No. 2 Texas).In contrast, the 2002 Buckeyes were probably not the best team that year; however, they fought tooth-and-nail and earned every victory. This is a battle of talent vs. intangibles. The 2006 Buckeyes would likely lose to the "underdog" here as their overconfidence gets them once again.

Our other semifinal will be coming up later today. And it's a doozy.
It's Final Four time in our Big Ten Champions Tournament.

By now, you know that we're whittling down the best of the best from the past 15 years of the Big Ten (including Nebraska), and your votes determined the four first-round winners. So we've reached our first semifinal game, where one Ohio State team will be moving on. Here's the matchup:


Who would win this semifinal matchup?


Discuss (Total votes: 3,706)

No. 1 seed 2002 Ohio State vs. No. 4 seed 2006 Ohio State

The '06 Buckeyes won a hotly contested first-round game against the 1998 version of themselves, while our top overall seed has received some tepid support from fans.

Still, one team won the national title, while the other was ranked No. 1 most of the year before a poor performance in the BCS title game. Could Heisman winner Troy Smith engineer an upset over the '02 champs? Or would Maurice Clarett be able to run through the '06 defense, which was shaky in its final two games?

Vote in the poll to send one of these teams to our championship game, and don't forget to drop me a line explaining why you think your pick would win this matchup. We'll cut the voting off at 9 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

No. 4 seed Ohio State moves on

March, 19, 2012
The first round of our Big Ten Champions Tournament is over, and the top four seeds have all advanced. But the No. 4 team had quite a battle on its hands from a familiar-looking foe.

The 2006 Ohio State team edged out 1998 Ohio State with 53 percent of the vote, our closest match yet. Here are a couple of comments from those who voted:
Matt from DC writes: I feel there is some anti-Cooper bias about the 1998 team. This is the best team in my life--I'm 26--even better than the 2002 team. 98 team started 9 NFL guys on defense alone that year. Rolled every game minus MSU. Closest game was a ten point win against Texas A&M and it was never that close. I consider that loss to MSU when they self-collapsed much worse than the loss of the 06 Team. Florida was clearly better than OSU in 06 and MSU was not in 98. Replying that game in my mind OSU wins 99 out of 100 times. I will never be convinced that OSU team would not have beaten Tee Martin and the Vols by two scores that year.

Lee W. from Columbus writes: Brian, the 1998 team was by far the best OSU team since Woody's 68-69 teams. The game against Michigan State was a travesty. Tennessee won the National Championship that year, but Vegas odds showed that of the top 5 teams - Ohio State was the only team that would have been a favorite against the other teams on a neutral field. That defense is what separated them from the 2006 team. While the 2006 defense had great stats, the 1998 defense had a great team.

OK, so our Final Four is now set. Here are the matchups:

No. 1 Ohio State 2002 vs. No. 4 Ohio State 2006

No. 2 Nebraska 1997 vs. No. 3 Michigan 1997

Should be some interesting debates here. The matchups will begin a little later in the blog.

No. 3 seed Michigan moves on

March, 16, 2012
The No. 3 seed in our Big Ten Champions Tournament, 1997 Michigan, got a closer game than I expected. Nevertheless, the Wolverines are moving on to the second round -- and a long, long overdue date with the 1997 Nebraska Cornhuskers -- after defeating 2005 Penn State with 58 percent of the vote.

Here are some comments from those who voted:
Robert R. from New York: 1997 Michigan because that was Carr's best team and Carr's worst team was still able to beat 2005 Penn State.

Mark D. from Saugerties, NY: 2005 PSU were true underdogs that year with low expectations from all "experts" and were 2 seconds away from at least some NC talks (still wouldv'e been SC & UT). Now underdogs in this bracket. Everyone loves the cinderella story!

Adam from Canton, Ill.: 2005 Penn State defense would have murdered Brian Griese. NO QUESTION! The only reason they lost the game against Michigan was that Lloyd Carr got a mysterious 2 seconds added back to the clock.

Joe from Walker, Mich: Michigan would win. Michigan's defense was amazing, even against a dual threat like Robinson. Michigan also has had their way with Penn State prior to the RichRod era. Great stuff...keep it up. Go Blue!

John from Midland, Mich.: I have never seen a defense as fast as this UM defense - including this year's Alabama defense - they were unbelievably fast to the ball. Also, in '05, PSU's loss was to UM, and in your article, you say that the '97 team was Lloyd's best. So if the '05 UM team was better than '05 PSU, how can the '97 team not be better?

Andrew from New York: Honestly, this game would look like almost all of the Michigan - Penn State games that occurred from '97 to '07 (all Michigan wins). Joe Pa would come out with a conservative game plan. Michigan would shut down the run, Michigan's defensive front would overwhelm Penn State's line, have the qb under constant pressure, force a couple of turnovers, and the Michigan offense would do just enough to maintain a healthy cushion. Or maybe it would have played out like it did in '97. 34-0 in Happy Valley until a late consolation TD.

Jack from State College: Clearly this 2005 Penn State team would beat the 1997 Michigan Wolverines. Penn State's defense was loaded as Tamba Hali, Paul Posluszny and Sean Lee are stars in the NFL right now. Dan Conner is doing pretty well in the NFL right now. Alan Zemitas was a very solid NFL cornerback. On offense quarterback Michael Robinson was one of the most dynamic players in the country. Tony Hunt had two 1000 yard seasons and was a third round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles. Our Wide Recievers, Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Justin King are all contributing in the NFL right now. This is not even close. 2005 Penn State would dominate that 97 Michigan team.

We have one more first-round game to go, and it's a pretty close one so far between 2006 Ohio State and 1998 Ohio State. I'll announce the winner of that game Monday morning, and then we'll look forward to the Final Four.
We've reached the final game in the first round of our Big Ten Champions Tournament, pitting eight of the best teams from the league over the past 15 years. Since these two teams are seeded closely, this might be our closest matchup of the first round.

Get ready to cast your votes for ...


Who would win this Round One matchup?


Discuss (Total votes: 3,499)

No. 4 seed 2006 Ohio State vs. No. 5 seed 1998 Ohio State

This is our second all-Buckeyes matchup of the first round, which was hard to avoid since Ohio State has won so many Big Ten titles in the past 15 years. This one ought to be interesting.

The 2006 team was close to becoming an all-time great. It went undefeated in the regular season, beating then-No. 2 Michigan in a classic thriller in the finale, and quarterback Troy Smith won the Heisman Trophy. Alas, the Buckeyes flopped in the BCS title game against Florida, losing 41-14 in an embarrassing blowout. Still, that shouldn't totally take away from a terrific season and a strong roster that included Smith, Antonio Pittman, Chris Wells, Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez on offense and Bronko Nagurski winner James Laurinaitis and Malcolm Jenkins on defense.

The 1998 team finished the season ranked No. 2 in both polls. Those Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 most of the season before getting upset at home by Michigan State on Nov. 7. They went on to beat Texas A&M in the Sugar Bowl. Stars included wideout David Boston and linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer, and the team was led by steady senior quarterback Joe Germaine. That team won every game by double digits except the Michigan State shocker. The 1998 season would prove to be the last real highlight of the John Cooper era.

Vote in our poll for the winner of this matchup. And if you want, drop me a line about why you voted the way you did and break down this game. I'll post the best responses when we announce the victor on Monday.

The Final Four of this tournament will be coming your way next week.

No. 2 seed Nebraska moves on

March, 15, 2012
Game 2 of our Big Ten Champions Tournament is in the books. The No. 2 seed, 1997 Nebraska, has defeated 1999 Wisconsin with 74 percent of the vote.

Here are a few comments from those who voted:
Michael S. from Kearney, Neb., writes: Nebraska is by far the superior team, their rushing attack could not be stopped and their defense was amazing. Tennessee was supposed to have an awesome O-line and of course they had Peyton Manning. The Husker defense put tons of pressure and picked him off multiple times.

Dave M. from Johnston, Iowa writes: I voted for 1997 Nebraska. I see no contest here. I was a season ticket holder for the Cornhuskers that year. I witnessed first hand the dominance of that team. They crushed some very strong, highly ranked conference foes that year. On top of Ahman Green at I Back and a defense ALMOST as good as the 1995 squad, Scott Frost was also a highly underrated QB. In the modern era of dual-threat QBs he would have been a Heisman contender.

Eric from Tennessee writes: Coach Tom Osborne. Nuff said. GBR!

Not only was the 1997 Nebraska team very good, it also has the powerful Big Red voting bloc behind it in this tournament. The Cornhuskers will be a tough out. But we'll see if they can advance into the championship round next week, when they are likely to face a tough opponent in the semifinal.
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.


Who would win this Round One matchup?


Discuss (Total votes: 8,048)

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.

No. 1 seed Ohio State moves on

March, 14, 2012
No. 1 seeds never lose on the first day of the men's basketball tournament, and the top seed in our Big Ten Champions Tournament has safely and easily moved onto the next round.

The 2002 Ohio State Buckeyes — the only undefeated, undisputed national champion in our eight-team field — squashed the 2007 version of the Buckeyes with 84 percent of your votes.

No big surprise here, as that 2002 team always found a way to win. Things will get tougher for those Buckeyes as we move forward in the tournament.
On Monday, I unveiled the start of our own little March Madness: A Big Ten Champions Tournament.

In case you missed it, I selected an eight-team field of champions from the past 15 years. Your votes will determine who wins each matchup. Voting in the first game of our first round is open until 9 a.m. ET Wednesday, though No. 1 seed 2002 Ohio State appears to be running away from No. 8 seed 2007 Ohio State, as expected.


Who would win this Round 1 matchup?


Discuss (Total votes: 8,040)

Now it's time to reveal the second matchup of our first round:

No. 2 seed 1997 Nebraska vs. No. 7 seed 1999 Wisconsin

The 1997 Cornhuskers were one of the best teams in school history, romping through an undefeated season and whipping Tennessee in the Orange Bowl to earn a share of the national title. This team was nearly unstoppable on the ground, rushing for an amazing 72 touchdowns in 13 games. Nebraska had the Outland Trophy winner in Aaron Taylor and the Lombardi Award winner in Grant Wistrom, along with All-Americans Jason Peter and Ahman Green. However, there are those who'll still insist the Huskers should have lost to Missouri in the famous "Flea Kicker" game.

The 1999 Wisconsin team had two losses, including one to Cincinnati. But these Badgers won their final eight games and beat Stanford in their second straight Rose Bowl appearance. They had the Heisman Trophy winner in Ron Dayne and a strong young quarterback in Brooks Bollinger. Barry Alvarez would have a chance to coach against his alma mater in this theoretical matchup. But would Wisconsin have the speed to slow down a high-octane Nebraska rushing attack?

Vote in the poll to determine the winner of this game, and send me your reasons for why you voted the way you did. The best responses will be included in the post announcing who moves onto the semifinals.
We are about to begin the greatest sporting event on earth, the men's NCAA basketball tournament.

But why let the hoops heads have all the fun? Just because major college football doesn't have a tournament — yet — doesn't mean we can't also do our own bracketing this week.

I've devised a fiendish but fun little version of March Madness for Big Ten football that requires some interactive assistance. Introducing: the Big Ten Champions Tournament.

Here's how it works: I've come up with an eight-team field of champions from the past 15 years. Why 15? Well, I wanted to restrict this to teams that were still fairly fresh in everyone's memory, and the 15-year mark just happens to allow us to potentially settle (or just rehash) a certain long-running debate. Sharp readers can infer from that statement that I am including Nebraska in this field even though the Huskers weren't Big Ten members until last season. But we're all about inclusion here on the blog.

My criteria for the eight teams was as follows: to be considered, a team had to win a Big Ten (or in Nebraska's case, a Big 12) title and either win a BCS game or play for the national championship. I'm sure some of you will disagree with my picks for the field, but all selection committees face criticism. Winners will be determined by your votes. I will put each matchup on the blog in the afternoon and cut off voting at 9 a.m. ET two days later.

Without further ado, I present the first of our first-round matchups:

No. 1 seed 2002 Ohio State vs. No. 8 seed 2007 Ohio State

It's an all-Buckeye encounter here, and don't be surprised to see a lot of Scarlet and Gray in our field since Ohio State won so many Big Ten titles in the past 15 years. Why did the 2002 team earn the No. 1 overall seed? Simple. Those Buckeyes are the only team in the tournament to go undefeated and win an undisputed national championship. They did so by beating one of the most talented teams in recent memory, edging the Miami Hurricanes in overtime of an all-time classic BCS title game.

That team did have several close calls, like a five-point win over Wisconsin, a six-point win over Penn State, a four-point win over Purdue and a five-point win over Michigan. It was not exactly an offensive juggernaut but got the job done with Craig Krenzel and Maurice Clarett and a stifling defense. Most of all, that team just found a way to win.

The 2007 Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 at the end of the regular season and played for the BCS title, losing 38-24 to LSU. It was a wild year in college football, and Ohio State made it to the title game despite losing at home to Illinois in their second-to-last regular season contest. Quarterback Todd Boeckman threw 25 touchdown passes but also had 14 interceptions. Chris "Beanie" Wells was the offensive star, rushing for more than 1,600 yards and 15 touchdowns, while the defense allowed fewer than 13 points per game.

OK, now's your chance to vote on this matchup and send the winner to the semifinals. If you want to tell me why your pick would win this theoretical game, send me your breakdown here, and I'll publish the best responses along with the results on Wednesday morning.