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Ranking The Top 10 Best Big Ten Football Games of 2019: #10 through #7

NCAA Football: Indiana at Purdue Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s relive the best games from a season of Big Ten football where everything not involving Ohio State was pretty fun!

Also Receiving Votes: Purdue Boilermakers 24, Northwestern Wildcats 22; Nebraska Cornhuskers 42, Illinois Fighting Illini 38

10: Purdue 31, Nebraska 27

The Husker’Due game has unexpectedly emerged into a routinely fun, competitive, unpredictable matchup. This year was no exception, as two teams with their backs against the wall at 4-4 and 2-5 went at each other. Nebraska owned the first quarter 10-0, but Purdue outscored them 14-0 in the second period. Nebraska scored a field goal in the third, but were too gun-shy to try a 48-yarder and turned it over on downs later, setting up a Purdue field goal drive that brought the fourth quarter around with a 17-13 Purdue lead.

The fourth quarter was a work of art, as the teams traded long touchdown drives. First, Adrian Martinez capped off an 11-play drive to take the lead. Jack Plummer led the Boilers down the field, but was knocked out of the game deep in Husker territory. That set the stage for Aidan O’Connell, whose handoff to King Doerue finished up a 13-play drive with a TD. Martinez responded, finding JD Spielman for a 42-yard gain before taking it in himself to end a 9-play drive. Third-string quarterback O’Connell rallied back, hitting Brycen Hopkins three times on this drive. With 1:14 remaining, the teams traded timeouts only for Purdue to emerge with the play: freshman phenom David Bell for a touchdown. Nebraska couldn’t respond and the Boilers kept their bowl hopes alive.

9: Indiana Hoosiers 38, Nebraska 31

Indiana entered this game 5-2 compared to Nebraska’s 4-3, but this was still Lincoln, Nebraska and Michael Penix Jr. was unavailable for the Hoosiers. Adrian Martinez, however, did not suit up for the Huskers, so backups did battle with Noah Vedral getting off to a hot start with two first quarter rushing touchdowns. Peyton Ramsey battled back, running for one score and hitting Ty Fryfogle for another. Luke McCaffrey would get in the game for Nebraska and throw a touchdown to gain a 21-16 halftime lead.

Another back-and-forth ensued, but Indiana took what would prove to be an insurmountable lead on Stevie Scott’s 9-yard scamper in the fourth. Though Nebraska would immediately respond with a Wan’dale Robinson touchdown, the score held at 38-31 as both defenses decided to rise up for the first time. Ultimately, Nebraska came up short, but this game featured over 450 yards by each offense. Ramsey went 27/40 for 351 yards, securing a bowl game for Indiana in October.

8: Michigan State Spartans 40, Indiana 31

The 4-1 Spartans, ranked #25 at the time, hosted Indiana and pretended to be a functional offense for a whole game. The two defense-oriented head coaches racked up 35 total points in the first half, with Brian Lewerke throwing two first half touchdowns to Darrell Stewart, Jr. Indiana finally took the lead early in the fourth quarter on Donovan Hale’s touchdown reception, but Haydon Whitehead couldn’t punt them out of the hole Jake Hartbarger put them on the ensuing drive. Lewerke soon threw his third score of the day.

After another punt, Michigan State returned to being Michigan State, eating up over six minutes on a 13 play drive that somehow only set up a 44 yard Matt Coghlin field goal. This left the Hoosiers with little time to respond. Whop Philyor, however, found the end zone for the second time with two minutes remaining. This tied the game, which meant Dantonio could win it the way he dreams of winning every game: a field goal as time expires. He couldn’t quite get time to expire, but all this meant was that the backdoor cover was in play. A Michael Dowell fumble recovery as time ran out provided the final margin.

Philyor would finish with 14 catches for 142 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Penix would go 33 for 42. Each team topped 350 yards of offense, and there were no turnovers. It was an unlikely situation for these teams to find themselves in, and in hindsight it still doesn’t make sense.

7: Iowa Hawkeyes 27, Nebraska 24

So apparently, Nebraska losing games was a lot of fun to watch this year because this is their third appearance on this list already. Hey, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that Nebraska is fun to watch. The 5-6 Huskers hosted Iowa on Black Friday, but quickly found themselves trailing 17-3, looking dead and buried.

Then, in the second quarter, Cam Taylor-Britt returned a Nate Stanley pick for a touchdown. Ihmir Smith-Marsette silenced the crowd by returning the ensuing kickoff for a score, and the game went to half 24-10 Iowa.

This was enough for Kirk Ferentz, who seemingly decided he could pack it up and pack it in. Luke McCaffrey came in for an erratic Martinez and found JD Spielman on a deep touchdown pass. Having lost one yard on their first drive of the second half, Iowa took their second drive for a loss of seven before punting. Dedrick Mills powered the Huskers on a touchdown drive that tied up the game entering the fourth quarter. Now it was a shootout!

Three and out

Three and out

Three and out

Three and out

SIX and out

Three and out

Iowa fumble.

So now after whatever that was, Nebraska has the ball at their own 30 with 2:32 to play. Things....don’t quite go right, however, and they end up with 2nd and 20. Adrian Martinez is in, and for some reason he runs out of bounds even though Nebraska seems to be trying to play for overtime. Iowa is delighted by being gifted an extra timeout that allows them to go down and kick a game-winning field goal.

A wasted rally by Nebraska kept them out of a bowl and also allowed Iowa fans to pretend they were never worried for even a fraction of a second.

Check back for #6 through #4 next Tuesday!