Nebraska vs Big Ten History (Fun Stat Nerd Tidbit: Nebraska)

Because we're not legally allowed to reference the 1971 Nebraska team without showing this...

Today's Fun Stat Nerd Tidbit will focus on history and legacy. Both the conference and the school claim deep, rich histories, but they have existed on mostly parallel planes to date. But let's mash them together and see what we find. Below we'll look at both Nebraska's place in history next to the best Big Ten teams and where Nebraska would have recently fit in with the rest of the conference.

Best Teams

Using the criteria for last summer's Top 100 countdown, here are the Top 20 Big Ten/Nebraska teams of all-time. The overall rankings don't include 2010 teams, but that's alright because not too many 2010 teams would have fit in at the top of the all-time list, and certainly none from the Big Ten.

1. 1971 Nebraska (13-0, No. 12 overall)
2. 1940 Michigan (7-1, No. 27)
3. 1948 Michigan (9-0, No. 32)
4. 2002 Ohio State (14-0, No. 43)
5. 1995 Nebraska (12-0, No. 47)
6. 1933 Michigan (7-0-1, No. 51)
7. 1925 Michigan (7-1, No. 58)
8. 1997 Michigan (12-0, No. 60)
9. 1921 Chicago (6-1, No. 64)
10. 1926 Michigan (7-1, No. 69)
11. 1973 Ohio State (10-0-1, No. 73)
12. 1965 Michigan State (10-1, No. 76)
13. 1947 Michigan (10-0, No. 84)
14. 1972 Nebraska (9-2-1, No. 90)
15. 1996 Ohio State (11-1, No. 94)
16. 1940 Minnesota (8-0, No. 98)
17. 1932 Michigan (8-0, No. 100)
18. 1941 Minnesota (8-0, No. 104)
19. 1994 Nebraska (13-0, No. 106)
20. 1973 Michigan (10-0-1, No. 114)

So Nebraska fits four teams on the list, just ahead of Ohio State (3) and well behind mighty Michigan (9).

(This list points out one of the funnier tidbits from last summer's countdown: 2002 Ohio State finishing higher than 1995 Nebraska. The '95 Cornhuskers were one of the best teams I've ever seen -- potentially the best -- but were dinged by a pretty weak strength of schedule. The Big 8 that year was not at all impressive; Oklahoma had slipped, and while Colorado, Kansas and Kansas State all won 10 games, they did so against relatively weak schedules themselves, so it didn't boost Nebraska's resume all that much.)

Last Ten Years

We know Nebraska's history is pretty good, but where would they have fit in recently? Here are the per-year Big Ten rankings according to Est. S&P+ (for years before 2005) and F/+ (2005-10).

2001

1. Nebraska (11-2)
2. Illinois (10-2)
3. Michigan (8-4)
4. Iowa (7-5)
5. Ohio State (7-5)
6. Michigan State (7-5)
7. Penn State (5-6)
8. Indiana (5-6)
9. Purdue (6-6)
10. Wisconsin (5-7)
11. Northwestern (4-7)
12. Minnesota (4-7)

2002

1. Ohio State (14-0)
2. Iowa (11-2)
3. Michigan (10-3)
4. Penn State (9-4)
5. Minnesota (8-5)
6. Wisconsin (8-6)
7. Purdue (7-6)
8. Nebraska (7-7)
9. Illinois (5-7)
10. Northwestern (3-9)
11. Indiana (3-9)
12. Michigan State (4-8)

2003

1. Ohio State (11-2)
2. Michigan (10-3)
3. Iowa (10-3)
4. Nebraska (10-3)
5. Minnesota (10-3)
6. Purdue (9-4)
7. Michigan State (8-5)
8. Wisconsin (7-6)
9. Penn State (3-9)
10. Northwestern (6-7)
11. Illinois (1-11)
12. Indiana (2-10)

2004

1. Iowa (10-2)
2. Michigan (9-3)
3. Wisconsin (9-3)
4. Ohio State (8-4)
5. Purdue (7-5)
6. Minnesota (7-5)
7. Northwestern (6-6)
8. Penn State (4-7)
9. Nebraska (5-6)
10. Michigan State (5-7)
11. Indiana (3-8)
12. Illinois (3-8)

2005

1. Ohio State (10-2)
2. Penn State (11-1)
3. Michigan (7-5)
4. Iowa (7-5)
5. Minnesota (7-5)
6. Wisconsin (10-3)
7. Northwestern (7-5)
8. Nebraska (8-4)
9. Michigan State (5-6)
10. Purdue (5-6)
11. Indiana (4-7)
12. Illinois (2-9)

2006

1. Ohio State (12-1)
2. Michigan (11-2)
3. Wisconsin (12-1)
4. Nebraska (9-5)
5. Penn State (9-4)
6. Minnesota (6-7)
7. Iowa (6-7)
8. Purdue (8-6)
9. Michigan State (4-8)
10. Illinois (2-10)
11. Northwestern (4-8)
12. Indiana (5-7)

2007

1. Ohio State (11-2)
2. Michigan (9-4)
3. Illinois (9-4)
4. Penn State (9-4)
5. Michigan State (7-6)
6. Wisconsin (9-4)
7. Purdue (8-5)
8. Nebraska (5-7)
9. Iowa (6-6)
10. Indiana (7-6)
11. Northwestern (6-6)
12. Minnesota (1-11)

2008

1. Penn State (11-2)
2. Ohio State (10-3)
3. Iowa (9-4)
4. Michigan State (9-4)
5. Illinois (5-7)
6. Nebraska (9-4)
7. Wisconsin (7-6)
8. Northwestern (9-4)
9. Purdue (4-8)
10. Michigan (3-9)
11. Minnesota (7-6)
12. Indiana (3-9)

2009

1. Ohio State (11-2)
2. Penn State (11-2)
3. Iowa (11-2)
4. Nebraska (10-4)
5. Wisconsin (10-3)
6. Michigan State (6-7)
7. Purdue (5-7)
8. Michigan (5-7)
9. Minnesota (6-7)
10. Northwestern (8-5)
11. Indiana (4-8)
12. Illinois (3-9)

2010

1. Ohio State (12-1)
2. Wisconsin (11-2)
3. Nebraska (9-4)
4. Iowa (8-5)
5. Michigan State (11-2)
6. Illinois (7-6)
7. Michigan (7-6)
8. Penn State (7-6)
9. Northwestern (7-6)
10. Minnesota (3-9)
11. Purdue (4-8)
12. Indiana (5-7)

So basically, Nebraska would have placed in the top half of the conference in five of the last ten years and atop the Legends Division twice (and yes, I just had to look up which division they were in for 1,934th time). They'll do just fine, though picking them to immediately run the show would be a bit foolish.

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