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May 12, 2010

Powered Up: Tiger football in the Big Ten

At this point, it seems to be a foregone conclusion Missouri is headed to the Big Ten. You can argue semantics. Is an offer on the table? Is an offer of an offer on the table? Have things been sealed with a wink and a nod? Bottom line, it doesn't really matter. It will be far more surprising if the Tigers aren't a Big Ten program than if they are.

So, with that, let's look at how Missouri might fit in the Big Ten. For the purposes of this discussion, I only care about football and basketball. Why? Well, because, if I'm being honest, I only care about football and basketball, period.

This week, we'll take an in-depth look at football. Next week, we'll tackle men's hoops.

Where would Missouri fit in the major sports? First off, let's take a look at the historic side. I'm not talking about which team is better today. I'm talking over the history of each program, who's been the best?

We'll start with football. Here is the all-time record of each school. I've gotten the numbers from nationalchamps.net, so I'm not going to promise they're correct, but I think they are. I've included Rutgers and Nebraska, because I expect them to be in the Big Ten as well. For now, I've left Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse (the three contenders for two other spots) out of the mix.

Michigan

877-304-38 (.743)
Ten National Titles
42 Conference Championships

Ohio State

819-308-53 (.727)
Five National Titles
35 Conference Championships

Nebraska

837-341-41 (.711)
Five National Titles
46 Conference Championships

Penn State

812-351-43 (.698)
Four National Titles
Three Conference Championships (not in a conference until 1993)

Michigan State

618-429-44 (.590),
Two National Titles
Eight Conference Championships

Minnesota

641-464-44 (.580)
Six National Titles
16 Conference Championships

Wisconsin

614-465-53 (.569)
No National Titles
11 Conference Championships

Missouri

613-514-53 (.544)
No National Titles
15 Conference Championships

Purdue

575-494-48 (.538)
No National Titles
Seven Conference Championships

Iowa

580-512-39 (.531)
One National Title
13 Conference Championships

Illinois

563-523-49 (.518)
Four National Titles
15 Conference Championships

Rutgers

608-594-42 (.506)
No National Titles
32 Conference Championships

Northwestern

476-619-44 (.435)
No National Titles
Eight Conference Championships

Indiana

443-611-44 (.420)
No National Titles
Two Conference Championships

Analysis: By sheer winning percentage, Missouri would be eighth in this new 14-team league. The Tigers would tie for sixth in conference titles (skewed by Rutgers winning a bunch before 1972 and Penn State not being in a league until 1993, but winning the Big Ten in 25% of its seasons in the league). They are one of five teams never to win a national title. Historically, the Tigers rank lower in the Big Ten than they would in the Big XII.

But history is just that. I've made the argument many times your program is as good as your last five years. Let's take a look at these same 14 teams in that time span.

Ohio State

54-10 (.844)
Five Bowl Appearances (2-3)
Five Conference Championships

Penn State

51-13 (.797)
Five Bowl Appearances (4-1)
Two Conference Championships

Wisconsin

48-17 (.738)
Five Bowl Appearances (3-2)
No Conference Championships

Missouri

45-21 (.682)
Five Bowl Appearances (3-2)
No Conference Championships

Rutgers

43-21 (.672)
Five Bowl Appearances (4-1)
No Conference Championships

Nebraska

41-24 (.631)
Four Bowl Appearances (3-1)
No Conference Championships

Iowa

39-24 (.619)
Three Bowl Appearances (2-1)
No Conference Championships

Michigan

35-27 (.565)
Three Bowl Appearances (1-2)
No Conference Championships

Michigan State

31-31 (.500)
Three Bowl Appearances (0-3)
No Conference Championships

Northwestern

30-32 (.484)
Three Bowl Appearances (0-3)
No Conference Championships

Purdue

30-32 (.484)
Two Bowl Appearances (1-1)
No Conference Championships

Minnesota

27-36 (.429)
Four Bowl Appearances (0-4)
No Conference Championships

Indiana

23-37 (.383)
One Bowl Appearance (0-1)
No Conference Championships

Illinois

21-39 (.350)
One Bowl Appearance (0-1)
No Conference Championships

Analysis: The Tigers are one of just five teams in this group to make a bowl game in every season. They have the fourth-best winning percentage over that span. Only Ohio State (three outright, two shared) and Penn State (two shared) have won a conference title in this span. In addition to those two, Iowa and Illinois have played in a BCS bowl game over the last five seasons (though Illinois won just nine games the year it went to the Rose Bowl). By any measure, Missouri is among the top five or six programs (OSU, PSU, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska are the others) in the would-be Big Ten as it sits today. In the Big XII, most would put them between third and fifth, certainly behind Texas and Oklahoma and in the mix with Texas Tech and Nebraska.

Would the move make it easier for Missouri to win that elusive conference title? Maybe not. But it certainly wouldn't make it any harder. The Tigers, both currently and historically, fit in a similar spot in both leagues.

There is no conclusion to be drawn from this. The decision isn't going to be made on how many football games Missouri could win. The change is coming. At this point, it's time to start looking at the ramifications rather than wondering if it's a good idea.

In next week's Powered Up, we will do a similar analysis for Missouri basketball.


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