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Big Ten prestige in the BCS era

1/23/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Before putting ESPN's Prestige Rankings to bed, I thought it would be interesting to see how Big Ten teams stacked up during the BCS era (1998-present). The overall Prestige Rankings measured teams from 1936 to now, so programs like Minnesota (No. 33) and Michigan State (No. 26) finished fairly high despite no longer holding powerhouse status. 

Here's the BCS-era top 25, which includes four Big Ten teams:

2. Ohio State (428)
They may be in a bit of a slide recently in "big games", but as a program the Buckeyes are still as big as it gets since '98. Ohio State has more Top-5 finishes in that time than the rest of the Big Ten combined (6-3).

11. Michigan (209)
The Maize and Blue has not been ranked No. 1 in the AP poll since 1997.

14. Wisconsin (168)
The Badgers would've crept into a tie for 13th place here if not for their "shoegate" incident in 2000 that brought NCAA penalties that cost the school 8 Prestige points the next year.

18. Penn State (133)
The Nittany Lions were 23rd on this list before this past season that saw them win the Big Ten for just the second time in the BCS era.

Some interesting stuff here.

Whether you love or hate Ohio State, you must acknowledge the Buckeyes' dominance during the BCS era, particularly during Big Ten play. The Buckeyes are the only Big Ten team to win a national title during the BCS era, and they produced a Heisman Trophy winner in 2006 (Troy Smith). 

Michigan is about where I expected it to be. The Wolverines simply haven't gotten over the hump enough since their last national title, despite boasting some excellent players. 

Wisconsin became a Big Ten power in the late 1990s and continued its success for much of the BCS era. This past season hurt the Badgers a bit, but their ability to consistently reach New Year's Day bowl games certainly helps their prestige. 

Penn State has been a mixed bag: great in 2005 and 2008, solid in 1998, 1999, 2006 and 2007, and lousy from 2000-01 and 2003-04. The Lions are a little higher than I thought they would be. 

I was slightly surprised Iowa didn't crack the top 25. The Hawkeyes were one of the nation's top programs from 2002-04. Then again, they really struggled from 1998-2000 and were average at best from 2005-07. 

For what it's worth, here are my Big Ten Prestige Rankings for the BCS era.

1. Ohio State

2. Michigan

3. Wisconsin

4. Penn State

5. Iowa

6. Purdue

7. Minnesota

8. Northwestern

9. Michigan State

10. Illinois

11. Indiana