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Ranking the B1Ggest Games of 2019 Big Ten football season: Part 1

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What games just screamed “BIG B1G ENERGY”?

NCAA Football: Michigan Spring Game Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

BEE. ONE. GEE.

It’s our conference. It’s our glorious empire. There’s a very specific image that comes to mind when you think “Big Ten Football:” big, physical, three yards and a cloud of dust, hard-nosed defensive tussles, fullbacks, 4-3 under. You get the picture. Old school.

Let me put it this way.

There we go.

Some games represent B1Gness more than others, but we created this list to see what the ultimate expression of B1G football that could be found in 2019 was.

#8: Stanford 17, Northwestern 7 (2 pts)

You knew going into this one that it was going to be B1G as all hell, with the B1Ggest coach outside of the conference squaring off against one of the three points of the Big Ten Triad Of Stupid Games.

Fun fact: although this was not a stated rule, it just so happens that every single game on this list involves Northwestern, Iowa, Michigan State, or some combination thereof.

Anyway, a yardage disparity dampens the B1Gness of this one, but total yards around 550 is pretty on-brand. Where this is most B1G is in the box score, where you’ll see that nobody scored in the first AND third quarter. Half the game with no scoring? That’s B1G. This game lost some points perhaps unfairly, as it was setting up to be a 10-7 final until a last-play fumble recovery touchdown by Stanford provided the final margin. Nevertheless, each team had more rushing attempts than passing attempts.

Look what a short highlight video this is!

#7: Wisconsin 24, Northwestern 15 (3 points)

Outside of the fact that eventually Wisconsin established a grotesque 21-point lead, this game was beautifully B1G. Both teams were within 10 yards of 250 for the game, totaling less than 500. Wisconsin ran 60 plays, and though Northwestern ran 81 this was in large part due to falling behind late in the game and throwing. But this is the Big Ten. You don’t just throw your way out of a hole. This is evidenced by the 18/41 performance and 3.9 yards per pass attempt.

This had the aesthetic of a Big Ten game, and though the kickers only totaled 9 points (thanks largely to Pat Fitzgerald’s very un-B1G decision to take it out of his kicker’s hands...feet...whatever), the fact that the longest touchdown was scored on defense adds to the 19 combined punts for over 750 yards elevate this to top-tier B1Gness.

#6: Iowa 20, Northwestern 0 (11 points)

A shutout is always B1G, and any game involving these two has a strong chance of B1Gness. The teams combined for 505 offensive yards and 25 first downs. Iowa spread out its four scores across each of the four quarters. If a field goal is a kick, then a touchdown is a clap. Iowa clapped on 1 and 3, scoring field goals in quarters 2 and 4.

Though the 12 combined punts represent a surprisingly small number, Northwestern went to their backup punter, which is EXTREMELY B1G. Both teams ran more times than they passed and neither passed for 200. Nate Stanley, an all-time B1G type quarterback, had a perfectly Nate Stanley line of 12/26 for 179 yards and a touchdown, though he couldn’t manage to throw a pick.

#5: Nebraska 13, Northwestern 10

You know what’s amazing? None of the top 4 involve Northwestern.

Nevertheless, this was a game with a B1G score and a 3-point margin that was decided in an extremely B1G way: a game winning field goal to get to 13 points. Both teams ran more than they passed, with Northwestern getting B1G enough to run for more yardage than they passed for as well. Though the teams were a bit vainglorious in combining for over 600 yards, neither was over 300 by much.

Wanna know how B1G this was? The quick-pace, hurry-up, fast-tempo offense that is Nebraska ran only 65 plays. This game earns high B1Gness marks by having nineteen combined punts for nearly 750 yards and having the outcome decided by Lane McCallum’s 42-yard field goal.

Postscript

  • Stay tuned for part 2 where we’ll do the top 4!
  • What components would make up a “B1Gness Index” for football games?
  • Yes, all four of these are Northwestern losses. But isn’t “a frustrating win over Northwestern where we couldn’t score and just had to run out the clock” one of the most Big Ten things you can imagine?