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Big Ten Football: Ohio State Has Ruled East Round Robin vs. Penn State, Michigan, MSU

by on January 08, 2015 11:25 PM

Now that James Franklin and Jim Harbaugh have joined the Big Ten’s East Division, every year figures to be a four-team race:

Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State.

Here’s a look at the Buckeyes’ dominance -- while noting that The Big Four have not played each other in round-robin fashion all 22 seasons since Penn State joined the conference in 1993.

SINCE 1993, when Penn State joined the Big Ten, Ohio State has been 41-20 (.683) in conference play against the other three schools. OSU is followed by Michigan (31-31, .500), Penn State (27-32, .457) and Michigan State (21-37, .362).

SINCE 2000, Ohio State has increased that pace, largely under the direction of former coach Jim Tressel and current boss Meyer. Since the turn of the century, the Buckeyes have been 29-11 (.725) against the other three Big Ten schools. For the past 15 seasons, they’re followed by Michigan (20-20, .500), Penn State (16-21, .432) and Michigan State (12-25, .324). Penn State’s results are largely out of whack due to Michigan coach Lloyd Carr’s 9-0 mastery over Joe Paterno from 1997-2007.

SINCE 2012, when Meyer came into the league at Ohio State (8-1), Penn State (1-5) has had two different coaches and has been suffering through the challenges of NCAA sanctions. During that time, Michigan (2-6) suffered through the challenges of the recently-fired Brady Hoke. Michigan State, No. 3 in the nation in 2013 under coach Mark Dantonio, was 4-3 against the other three in the last three years.


The Big Four will play each other each and every season from here on out. We also know this much moving forward:

While there are three other schools in the Big Ten East – newcomers Rutgers and Maryland, plus poor Indiana – the race for the division crown is among the four, more powerful Big Ten members. And that crown will lead to the Big Ten title game against a likely lesser West team and, quite possibly a spot in the College Football Playoff. Especially when (not if) the CFP goes to eight schools.

The stage is definitely set for a round-robin tournament of sorts among The Big Four, which has supplanted the long-gone glory days of the Big Two: Bo vs. Woody, Michigan vs. Ohio State. Now, when those two schools meet, it’s all about being a Khaki Man at U-M and three quarterbacks and leave ’em in a cloud of dust at OSU.

To make it to the conference championship game, it’s fair to assume a Big Four team must go at least 2-1 vs. the other three schools. And 3-0 is even better. Ohio State’s track in that regard is simply amazing. Fifteen times since 1993 the Buckeyes have played all three schools -- five times they’ve gone 3-0 and eight times they’ve gone 2-1. Overall, that 13 of 15 record is impossible to beat.

In that time, Penn State has faced all three foes in a single season 17 times – going 3-0 twice (1994, 2008), while winning 2 of 3 five times. In 13 seasons of facing all three opponents, Michigan also has gone 3-0 twice (1997, 2000) and 2-1 seven times. That’s a 9-7 lead against Penn State for two- and three-win seasons. Since 1993, Michigan State has been 3-0 just once (1999) and 2 of 3 just once (2014). However, in four of the past five seasons, Sparty has been 8-1 overall in nine games against the other Big Four teams. (The fifth? 2012, when they were 0-2.)


Franklin will have something to say about that streak, for sure. And he did on Thursday while appearing on ESPN, where he was asked about competing against teams coached by Harbaugh and Meyer.

“I love it,” Franklin said. “To me, I’m a competitor, our staff is competitors, our team is. To me, that’s why you get in the game. You want to go out and compete against the best, and it’s year-round. I’m excited about the challenge. It’s going to be great for the conference.”

Penn State begins round-robin play in 2015 coming off a challenging – but very hopeful -- series result in 2014, as the Nittany Lions nearly won two of the three, despite being outmanned. Penn State lost to Michigan (18-13), Ohio State (31-27 in overtime) and Michigan State (34-10). It was only the second time PSU went 0-3 against those teams in 22 seasons (the other was in 2007). Penn State was tied with Michigan after three quarters and trailed Michigan State only 13-3 at the half. Penn State’s performance against Ohio State was a remarkable turnaround from 2013, when PSU lost at OSU, 63-14.

In 2015, Penn State plays Ohio State on Oct. 17 at The Horseshoe; Michigan on Nov. 21 at Beaver Stadium; and Michigan State on Nov. 28 in the regular-season finale at Spartan Stadium. That’s a deal-making (or -breaking) three of their final six games, with a bye week thrown in there on Nov. 14.


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Here is PENN STATE’s conference record vs. the other three schools over the past 22 years:

Michigan State 13-6 since 1993; 8-3 since 2000; and 0-1 since 2012.

Ohio State – 7-15 since 1993; 4-11 since 2000; and 0-3 since 2012.

Michigan -- 7-11 since 1993; 4-7 since 2000; and 1-1 since 2012.

Overall Big Three – 27-32 since 1993; 16-21 since 2000; and 1-5 since 2012.


Here is OHIO STATE’s conference record vs. the other three schools over the past 22 years:

Penn State – 15-7 since 1993; 11-4 since 2000; and 3-0 since 2012.

Michigan State – 12-5 since 1993; 9-2 since 2000; and 2-1 since 2012.

Michigan 14-8 since 1993; 9-5 since 2000; and 3-0 since 2012.

Overall Big Three – 41-20 since 1993; 29-11 since 2000; and 8-1 since 2012.

Here is MICHIGAN’s conference record vs. the other three schools over the past 22 years:

Penn State – 11-7 since 1993; 7-4 since 2000; and 1-1 since 2012.

Michigan State – 12-10 since 1993; 8-7 since 2000; 1-2 since 2012.

Ohio State – 8-14 since 1993; 5-9 since 2000; and 0-3 since 2012.

Overall Big Three – 31-31 since 1993; 20-20 since 2000; and 2-6 since 2012.


Here is MICHIGAN STATE’s conference record vs. the other three schools over the past 22 years:

Penn State 6-13 since 1993; 3-8 since 2000; and 1-0 since 2012.

Michigan – 10-12 since 1993; 7-8 since 2000; and 2-1 since 2012.

Ohio State – 5-12 since 1993; 2-9 since 2000; and 1-2 since 2012.

Overall Big Three – 21-37 since 1993; 12-25 since 2000; and 4-3 since 2012.


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Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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