Pipeline time: Big Ten and the NFL

You might have noticed that we have a very cool project going on here at ESPN.com this week, as we're taking a look at which college programs boast the best pipelines to the NFL.

We took a look at the NFL drafts between 1979-2009 and awarded points for the following milestones: NFL Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, All-Pro (first or second team) and Pro Bowl appearance.

USC led the way with 177 points, followed by Miami (164) and Pitt (120). Although the Big Ten doesn't appear in the standings until No. 9 with Penn State (75 points), the league placed five teams in the Top 25, the second most among BCS leagues (behind the SEC).

The point system couldn't be the final determination of which program boasts the NFL pipeline, since a closer look at the individual players and groups of stars was necessary. So we ended up seeding the teams (by points total) and matching them up in a 16-team playoff.

Check out the bracket.

As you can tell, three Big Ten teams made the pool of 16:

  • No. 9 seed Penn State

  • No. 11 seed Michigan

  • No. 12 seed Ohio State

The first round took place today, and I argued for the three Big Ten squads to advance. Here are the matchups:

I ended up going 1-2, although I had the underdog in each matchup. Still no excuse. Go ahead and blame me, although I wasn't the one making the final determination. That would be ESPN Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson, a former NFL and college scout who knows his stuff.

Williamson ruled in favor of Georgia (loss for me). He writes: "Georgia advances here by a very narrow margin. As you would expect, the Nittany Lions are strong at linebacker and offensive line. It is two of the linemen, Mike Munchak and Steve Wisniewski, who bring the most NFL accolades to the table on Penn State's behalf. Paced by Champ Bailey, the Bulldogs have a much stronger contingency of star players who are still active. Somewhat surprisingly, neither of these powerhouse programs is loaded with young up-and-comers. In that department, Georgia gets the edge thanks to young Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford. In a tight battle, Georgia gets the edge, but overall, it was an underwhelming collection considering the name-recognition value of these schools."

Williamson ruled in favor of UCLA (loss for me). He writes: "Wow, this is a great Round 1 battle: Tom Brady versus Troy Aikman. Jonathan Ogden versus Steve Hutchinson and a handful of other extremely solid NFL offensive linemen from Michigan. Charles Woodson versus Kenny Easley and Carnell Lake. Those are just brutal decisions to make. But in the end, I can't argue against giving the Bruins the nod here. In the future, however, I might like the Wolverines' chances. While UCLA's Maurice Jones-Drew is formidable, Michigan's Brady might not be done adding to his ring collection. I certainly prefer Michigan's collection of current young talent ready to make its mark on the league. This one was worth the price of admission."

Williamson ruled in favor of Ohio State (win for me ... whoo hoo! ... always fear the 5-12 matchup!). He writes: "The Buckeyes win on sheer volume. Peyton Manning is an extremely formidable opponent, but he can't do it alone. Clearly, Ohio State cannot compare at the quarterback position, but its offensive linemen are extremely impressive. The Buckeyes just bring more to the table on a position-by-position overview. I will contend that Tennessee has a little more NFL upside based on the past handful of draft classes. If these two meet again a few years down the road, the results might be different. For this battle, it is just too difficult to go against Ohio State's volume in favor of what is pretty much a one-man show for the Vols."

So there you have it. Ohio State advances to Round 2, and I'll have more on that matchup Tuesday.