Continuing our countdown from last week of the ten best Big Ten football games, here’s part 2!
This late-season matchup has dictated the winner of the Big Ten West for most of its existence, and considering the way the rest of the season played out, the winner of this game would have won the division. Despite a heroic effort from Keith Duncan, the Badgers pulled away behind 250 yards by Jonathan Taylor and two touchdown passes from Jack Coan. Wisconsin carried a 21-6 lead into the fourth quarter, but after a Nate Stanley touchdown to Tyrone Tracy, Coan was picked off by Matt Hankins on the third play of the next drive.
A stalemate ensued as the teams traded field goals, and with the ball at their own 25 with three minutes to go, Iowa was positioned to make a long Iowa-type drive to tie the game.
Then Stanley found Tracy so wide open that he scored on the first play of the drive.
A 15-point fourth quarter deficit is quite an obstacle in an Iowa-Wisconsin game considering the pace of play, but Iowa nevertheless had the offense out for the game-tying two point conversion. Ultimately, their attempt to B1G their way into the end zone was turned away, and the Badgers held on for the rest of the game.
This game earns high marks for high B1Gness and late-game drama in a ranked matchup of divisional importance.
#5: Illinois 37, Michigan State 34 (82 pts, 2 first place votes)
As you can see from the jump in voting points, there was a very clearly defined top 5 games of the year. This game came in at #5, which was the same rank it garnered in Dicktrip of the Year voting.
The reason it’s #5 on both of these lists is because a big part of its dicktrip appeal is the in-game meltdown factor. Any time a team makes its biggest comeback in school history, it’s going to be a fun watch, especially when 21 of the 25-point deficit is closed in the fourth quarter alone. At first, it seemed the story of this game would be the sudden emergence of a Brian Lewerke - Elijah Collins option rushing tandem. Very early in the game, Milo Eifler of Illinois provided a top-10 Fall’s Tarts moment of the year by committing a conspicuous buttpunch.
As the game evolved, the story turned into a complete lack of quit on the part of the Illini, a heroic performance by the defense led by Dele Harding and Stanley Green but aided by Sparty’s inability to stop shooting themselves in the foot, and Brandon Peters making some spectacular plays with the help of Josh Imatorbhebhe. This game, of course, got the Illini to their first bowl in five years. It also led to the appearance of Spicy Brandon Peters, who threw up some L’s to some Spartans fans that had been heckling him behind the sidelines all game.
I was one of the first place votes.
#4: Iowa 23, Minnesota 19 (91 pts, 3 FPV)
Coming a week after Minnesota’s triumphant defeat of Penn State, this game pitted the #8 Gophers against the #20 Hawkeyes. Though Iowa had a hilariously remote chance of winning the division at this point, they could still affect the race. The Hawks found an uncharacteristically fast start and Ihmir Smith-Marsette’s touchdown gave them a 20-3 lead in the second quarter.
Brock Walker’s status as the lone scorer for Minnesota finally ended when Tanner Morgan found Tyler Johnson. His refusal to give up on a play and throw the ball away paid off for now, and the Gopher defense held Iowa within their own half of the field. However, Morgan would be sacked by AJ Epenesa after leading the Gophers deep into Iowa territory, meaning an 11-yard play on 3rd down only set up a 4th and 4 at the Iowa 14. Trailing by 7 and needing a touchdown, the Gopher offense went for it and failed when Johnson dropped the ball.
Iowa’s Dane Belton proceeded to knock Johnson down after the play, drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct. PJ Fleck sprinted out to Johnson’s aid, drawing a 15-yard flag of his own (NOTE: this did NOT prevent the Gophers from keeping the ball. They were not offsetting penalties).
With emotions running high, the Gophers held the Hawks to a field goal, and this time Rodney Smith was able to complete their touchdown drive, but Walker missed the extra point. They’d force a 3 and out to give Morgan one more chance with two minutes left. Epenesa flattened him on second down, however, which took him out of the game. It was the sixth sack he took. Riley Moss would intercept a Cole Kramer Hail Mary to seal the game.
Floyd of Rosedale would not return to Minnesota, and the Gophers’ position had become much less secure in the Big Ten West. This was ultimately an even game, and really it was very B1G in its own right with only nine drives for each team. The interception was the only turnover, and it might as well have not been. This was a battle punctuated by dramatic moments and an incomplete comeback with everything and a pig on the line. For that reason, it came in at #4.