Top 5 Big Ten teams of BCS era

The '02 Ohio State Buckeyes lead list of best Big Ten teams since 1998

Originally Published: August 8, 2014
By Brian Fremeau | ESPN Insider

Ohio State Buckeyes Tom Pidgeon/Getty ImagesThe 2002 Buckeyes were headlined by one of the best college defenses in recent years.

As a final farewell to the BCS era, I used my opponent-adjusted FEI ratings to identify the five best individual team seasons in each of the Power Five conferences. The ratings reward dominant victories combined with strong competition, which are key elements that we expect the College Football Playoff committee to take into account, as well.

(Note: Due to the lack of available play-by-play and drive data, FEI ratings have been calculated only since 2003. For the 1998 to 2002 seasons, we produced an alternate set of ratings based on opponent-adjusted final scores. The alternate ratings have a 0.95 correlation with FEI).

Here are the five best Big Ten teams from the BCS era:


1. 2002 Ohio State Buckeyes (14-0)


The Buckeyes played in three national championship games in the BCS era, but this appearance makes our top five. Ohio State didn't steamroll every opponent on the schedule, and in fact had a number of close calls down the stretch -- six of their last seven games were decided by a touchdown or less. The national championship game against Miami was won in double overtime. But the Ohio State defense was extraordinary.

After surrendering 21 points to Texas Tech in their opener, the Buckeyes didn't allow another opponent to score more than 19 points in regulation the rest of the season, and six opponents failed to reach double digits. According to end-of-year FEI ratings, Ohio State faced three top-15 opponents in the regular season -- Washington State, Penn State and Michigan -- and those teams scored a total of only 23 points.


Brian Fremeau

ESPN Insider
• Has been a contributor to ESPN Insider and ESPN The Magazine since 2009
• Creator of the Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI), a measure of college football team efficiency
• Contributor to Football Outsiders and his own site, bcftoys.com