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Ranking the Top 3 B1Ggest Big Ten Football Games of 2019

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Illinois v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

If you read the criteria for what makes a football game TRULY B1G, you’ll know that the mass of humanity pictured in the header image is a perfect crystallization of Big Ten Football’s essence. Iowa’s 19-10 defeat of Illinois is not on this list, because B1G as it was, Nate Stanley committed heresy to the tune of over 300 passing yards. For shame.

#4: Penn State 17, Iowa 12 (25 pts, 2 first place votes)

Clearly the two first place voters forgot about Stanley throwing the ball 43 times for 286 yards, but that aside this game was quite B1G, with a total under 30 and a 5-point deficit. Two quarters each saw the only points come from a lone field goal. There were 12 punts in this game, but perhaps the B1Ggest stat in this box score: 53 rushing attempts by the Nits. NOW THAT’S PUNCHING YOUR OPPONENT IN THE MOUTH! THAT’S STEELER FOOTBALL RIGHT THERE.

#3: Iowa 18, Iowa State 17 (26 pts, 2 fpv)

The yardage is over 700 in this one, and 70 passes were thrown, but there’s plenty of HARD-NOSED qualities about this game. Though it was against Iowa State, this is still a school in the Midwest. It was really Iowa imposing their B1Gness on this game that boosted it so high in the rankings. To wit:

  • Iowa had more rushing attempts than passing attempts
  • The Hawkeye defense held the ‘Clones to a mere 54 offensive snaps
  • Keith Duncan scored 12 of the winning team’s 18 points with four field goals
  • Michael Sleep-Dalton only punted 5 times, but for a 47.2 yard average

Iowa State wanted to play a Big XII game, but Iowa did not allow them to. We are not having fun. We’re here to play football.

The kicker here was of course the decisive play of the game happening on special teams, when an errant Cyclone hit the return man as he caught the ball, causing a fumble that Iowa recovered. Iowa had forced them to play a B1G game and then watched as they undid themselves by failing to execute on special teams. Case closed.

#2: Michigan 10, Iowa 3 (50 pts, 5 fpv)

Opinion was divided on the top spot, and this game is about as fine a specimen as you’ll ever find. Look at that score. That looks like a score from back when Illinois was a national powerhouse.

A game involving Steady-State Iowa and Iowa Deluxe was bound to be damn near B1G enough to call it Western instead, and this one delivered with 527 total yards and a lone touchdown being the difference between the two teams, as well as being the difference between this game and the last tie in college football (Illinois 3, Wisconsin Badgers 3, 1995).

Fifteen punts soared through the skies in this game. It earns huge B1G marks for its completely scoreless second half, complete with a mere 11 possessions. In the second half, Iowa drove 39 yards and threw an interception, and Michigan drove 64 yards and missed a field goal. Those two drives were almost exactly half of the yardage accumulated in the half, as the remaining 9 drives combined for 106 yards.

HOWEVER...this one wasn’t quite the MANBALL contest that was needed to take the top spot.

#1: Arizona State 10, Michigan State 7 (55 pts, 5 fpv)

Shockingly, Iowa did not play in the top game on this list. There was even an interloper!

Any game involving Mark Dantonio’s Spartans is going to involve a lot of smashing the halfback into the line for 1 yard, with a margin of error of +/- 2 yards. Elijah Collins saw 19 carries as Brian Lewerke was forced to go to the air, and though he threw 38 times, he threw no touchdowns and no interceptions so this is still plenty B1G.

Yardage totaled 620, but Michigan State had over 400. They limited Herm Edwards’ Devils to a mere 52 offensive snaps and forced 7 punts. There’s nothing B1Gger than a game that is decided by kicks of some variety. However, it was Matt Coghlin that was the decisive kicker. Already 0 for 2 on the night, he lined up a game-tying 42-yarder and nailed it...only for it to be called back by a 12-men-on-the-field penalty that the officiating crew would later apologize for. He missed the 47-yard retry, and Herm proved quite firm.

This continued a time-honored tradition of losing to Arizona State for a dumb reason involving questionable officiating. Looking back at this in retrospect, however, misses the point of why I believe this game was voted #1.

Arizona State kicked a field goal with 3:40 left in the first half.

Michigan State scored a go-ahead touchdown with 8:37 left to play.

Arizona State’s response came with 50 seconds left on the clock.

Think about that. There was no score for the first 26 minutes and 20 seconds of this game.

It took 51 minutes and 23 seconds for the first touchdown to bring the combined score over 3.

For 26 minutes of game time, a scoreless regulation was not only on the table, but seemed highly plausible.

Then, for a period of 25 minutes of game time that were interrupted by halftime, it looked for all the world like the Spartans would take a 3-0 loss. As seen above, this wouldn’t have made him particularly unhappy. But it sure did seem appropriate that it should end like this.

There you have it. The B1Ggest game of the year. Congratulations, Spartans!