clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Big Ten Countdown: 05 - The National Titles of the Big Ten

Well, we can't do a countdown about Nebraska without having a story about the National Titles. We have five of em after all (1970, 1971, 1994, 1995, 1997). Everyone knows this. And when I mean everyone, I mean anyone that pays any attention to college football.


As much fun as it is to reminisce about the titles, I'm actually going to steer away from them and talk about what the other schools in the Big Ten have been able to accomplish and how many titles they claim to have. But before I go into the Big Ten, I'll let you have a few clips from our "5".





1994. Is it wrong to smile when Miami Hurricane players are crying?


1995. That game was a lot of fun and gun.




Division-1/FBS college football National Titles are probably the most subjective "championship" in all of the major sports. People vote for whom they believe is the best. They guess. Some years it's easier to guess a deserving school than other years. Let's be honest. Three of those five titles that Nebraska won could have gone another way. Notre Dame was pissed that they didn't win it in 1970. Penn State was upset about the outcome in 1994, and Michigan thought they deserved the 1997 title outright. If the votes don't come in right, Nebraska has just two championships.

Look at Penn State. They have five undefeated seasons under Joe Paterno, but only two titles. AND, one of those titles came in a year where they lost a game. That means they had four undefeated seasons where the voters felt that another team was better than they were.

If you think there's a bias now, tough, try to imagine 100 years ago. Communication sucked back then. The telegraph and newspapers were about the best you could do. The radio wasn't even invented until 1920. At least in this world, the voters can catch highlights of games and box scores with the results to try to come up with an opinion. 100 years ago, it was just assumed that certain teams were always classified in the top tier and when they went undefeated, they were given the title "champion"

Some of those teams were really good. The 1901 Michigan Squad that was declared National Champions outscored their opponents 555-0. That's amazing. There can't be too much doubt that they were the best team that year. But in 1913, Nebraska was a perfect 8-0, and they weren't declared champions. That honor went to Harvard, Auburn and Chicago. Who knows who truly was the best team that year. I'm guessing that the people making those decisions probably weren't watching the highlights on sportscenter.

Enough of that. We know how things roll and that there will be no playoff in the foreseeable future, so without further ado, here is a list of claimed national titles by Big Ten schools.

Michigan - 11 titles (1901, '02, '03, '04, '18, '23, '32, '33, '47, '48, '97)

Ohio State - 7 titles (1942, '54, '57, '61, '68, '70, 2002)

Michigan State - 6 titles (1951, '52, '55, '57, '65, '66)

Minnesota - 6 titles (1934, '35, '36, '40, '41, '60)

Illinois - 5 titles (1914, '19, '23, '27, '51)

Penn State - 2 titles (1982, '86)

Iowa - 1 title (1958)

Purdue - 1 title (1931)

Wisconsin - 1 title (1942)

Almost every Big Ten team can claim to have won a title. The two exceptions are Indiana and Northwestern. It's important to note, though, that there have only been two titles since 1970. Penn State's came when they were an independent. Because of the lack of titles in the past 40 years, you will hear a lot of Big Ten fans say that the goal of any given season is win the conference and get to the Rose Bowl. If a shot at the NC is in the cards, great.  But that subject is for another day.