Thursday, May 26, 2011

By The Numbers: Big Ten Records Since 1995

The invaluable Northwestern blog Lake The Posts (the good kind of invaluable, like peace or love) has a post on the records of the Big Ten football teams over the past 15 years, along with a few other interesting tidbits like the bowl records during that time. Because they're just excel screenshots I am going to shamelessly misappropriate the graphics from over there:

He has the total record figures as well, but I find those less interesting because quality in schedules tends to vary quite a bit. That's true of conference schedules as well (two teams got a chance to miss Ohio State every year) but with the revolving schedule that tended to even out a bit better.

A few things that jump out to me:
  • The Big Ten is not, nor has ever been, the Big Three of Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State: There was a lot of talk during the last offseason about the Big Ten Great Chain of Being, partly because of the need to split the divisions and partly because Michigan's fall from grace left a hole at the top of the standings. While Penn State has been a quality program over the past 15 years, Wisconsin deserves just as much, if not more, credit as a top-class Big Ten football program. Since 2000, the conference has been split between five quality programs (Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Penn State) and six mediocre or bad programs, with a clear break between Penn State and Purdue/MSU. But Iowa and Wisconsin tend to get left out of the "top program" talk, for whatever reason.
  • Northwestern hasn't been "Northwestern" since before high schoolers were conceived: Those 1995 and 1996 seasons are doing a lot of the work in the 15 year breakdown, but look at the 10 year breakdown and you'll see a program that 1.) averaged 3.5 wins a season, 2.) is just behind Michigan State and Purdue, and 3.) has put clear distance between Minnesota, Illinois, and Indiana.
  • Indiana has been consistent, and awful: From 1995-99, the Hoosiers won 9 games. Indiana won 8 games the next five years, and 9 games in the past five years. They managed to cram enough of those wins into 2007 to make a bowl game, but through Mallory, Randle-El, Hoeppner, and Lynch, it has been Indiana's manifest destiny to go 2-6 most years with a few awful seasons thrown in for good measure. I know this isn't breaking news, but the steadiness of the suck is peculiar.
  • There has been a clear upper, middle, and lower class over the past five seasons: Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Penn State have separated themselves from the pack (good thing all three were put into the same division), while only one win per season separates Iowa and Michigan State at 4th from Illinois and Purdue at 8th. The aggregate numbers obscure some things--Northwestern and Purdue have been steady as she goes while Illinois and Michigan have flopped from wild success to incompetence, but in total there isn't much separating those six programs recently.