Dienhart: My top 10 2013 Big Ten football games

Pretty soon, it will be time to usher in 2014. Before we officially say good-bye to 2013, though, I looked back and considered the best 2013 Big Ten football games. See my complete top 10 list in this post. Did I miss one? Send me your nomination in the form at the bottom of the post.

[ MORE: View our end-of-the-year top 10 lists | Help decide BTN's top 10 marathon! ]

10. Iowa 17, Northwestern 10 OT, Oct. 26. The season looked to be slipping away for Iowa, which lost to Michigan State and Ohio State in the previous two games to fall to 4-3. A visit from Northwestern would be telling. The Hawkeye defense was the star, registering six sacks, recovering two fumbles and 12 TFLs. Iowa blew a 10-0 halftime lead—the Hawkeyes had squandered halftime leads in their three defeats–watching NU forge a 10-10 tie to force overtime. That’s when Hawkeye tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Jake Rudock. The Iowa defense sealed the victory by sacking Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter on the final play. This win helped propel Iowa to a strong finish, as it won four of its last five games en route to an Outback Bowl bid.

9. Michigan 63, Indiana 47, Oct. 19. Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner enjoyed a game of a lifetime, setting school records with 503 yards passing, 584 total yards and five touchdown passes, as Michigan set a school record with 751 yards. But the real star was Michigan receiver Jeremy Gallon, who caught 14 passes for a Big Ten single-game record 369 yards. It also was the second most ever receiving yards in a FBS game. After the game, Indiana coach Kevin Wilson summed up Gallon’s performance thusly: “Ridiculous.”

[ MORE: Watch every one of Jeremy Gallon's receptions ]

8. Northwestern 34, Mississippi State 20, Jan. 1. The ugly postseason monkey finally was peeled off of Northwestern’s back with this victory over Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl. On the third play of the game, Quentin Williams returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown. In the fourth quarter, Nick VanHoose picked off a pass to set up another touchdown in the fourth. In between, the Wildcats limited MSU to 292 yards and dominated offensively behind quarterbacks Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian. That allowed the Wildcats to end a nine-bowl losing streak that was tied for the longest in NCAA history with Notre Dame. The last time NU won a bowl? It was vs. Cal in the Rose Bowl after the 1948 season.

[ MORE: A look at the world when Northwestern last won a bowl game ]

7. Michigan State 29, Michigan 6, Nov. 2. No game better epitomized the Spartans’ defensive prowess than this beat-down of the Wolverines. Michigan State entered the game No. 1 in the nation in total defense and played like it. The Spartans notched seven sacks and held Michigan to minus-48 yards rushing—the worst output in Wolverine annals. This was Michigan State’s most lopsided triumph in the rivalry and also was fifth time in six years the Spartans had beaten Michigan.

6. Ohio State 40, Northwestern 30, Oct. 5. ESPN GameDay set up shop in Evanston for this clash of Big Ten unbeatens that some felt could be a preview of the Big Ten title game. This rainy night turned into the Carlos Hyde Show. Northwestern led 20-13 at halftime. But that’s when the bruising Buckeyes running back took over en route to running 26 times for a career-high 168 yards and three touchdowns (all in the second half) after Hyde had missed the first three games of the season serving a suspension. And Hyde’s effort was needed on a night when Braxton Miller was off his game, with two fumbles and an interception, and nearly was benched coming off a knee injury that caused him to miss almost three games.

5. Penn State 43, Michigan 40, 4 OTs, Oct. 12. Trailing the Wolverines 34-24 with just over 10 minutes left in the game, Penn State rallied to force a tie with Christian Hackenberg hitting two big passes and then running in from one yard out for a touchdown with 27 seconds left to tie the game. Bill Belton then scored from two yards in the fourth overtime after Michigan had kicked a field goal. Moments earlier, Belton converted a 4th-and-one to keep the game-winning drive alive. Some feel this was the biggest game of the Bill O’Brien era.

4. Michigan 41, Notre Dame 30, Sept. 7. This was the Big Ten’s hallmark non-conference performance. Wearing No. 98 in honor of Wolverine icon Tom Harmon, Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner looked like a Heisman contender en route to completing 21-of-33 passes for 294 yards and four touchdowns and running 13 times for 82 yards and a score. This was the last scheduled meeting between these historic programs in the Big House, as Notre Dame is opting out—or, in Brady Hoke’s words “chickening out”–of the series after the schools play in South Bend in 2014.

3. Nebraska 27, Northwestern 24, Nov. 2. After kicker Jeff Budzien drilled a 21-yard field goal to give Northwestern a 24-21 lead with 1:20 left, Nebraska looked doomed. After the subsequent kickoff, the Cornhuskers took over at their 17-yard line with no timeouts. What happened next will forever be a part of Husker lore. Nebraska had one last shot with four seconds hanging on the clock. The first key play on the iconic drive: Ameer Abdullah caught a pass to keep the do-or-die drive alive by converting a 4th-and-15. Then, third-string quarterback Ron Kellogg III dropped back and heaved the ball toward the end zone from the Northwestern 49-yard line. The ball hung in the air, was tipped and grabbed by Jordan Westerkamp for a touchdown to keep Nebraska in control of its destiny in the Legends. Memorial Stadium exploded.

[ MORE: Did that really happen?! Relive Hail Mary reaction ]

2. Michigan State 34, Ohio State 24, Dec. 7. The third annual Big Ten title game was a classic that featured ebbs and flows. MSU jumped to a 17-0 lead; Ohio State scored the next 24 points; Michigan State responded with the last 17.  Spartans quarterback Connor Cook had a crowing performance in a breakout season, hitting 24-of-40 passes for 304 yards with three touchdowns in earning game MVP honors. Most importantly: The Spartans punched their ticket to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1987 season.

[ MORE: Gallery: See all the best photos from B1G title game | Watch Spartans celebrate ]

1. Ohio State 42, Michigan 41, Nov. 30. The Buckeyes brought a 23-game winning streak and BCS national title game aspirations to Ann Arbor. Michigan was relegated to playing for pride—and ruining the Buckeyes’ season. In a wild game that saw Michigan notch 603 yards and Ohio State tally 526 and featured a second quarter fight along with the ejection of three players, it all came down to the final moments. After Michigan tight end Devin Funchess caught a 2-yard touchdown pass to cut Ohio State’s lead to 42-41 with 32 seconds remaining, Wolverines coach Brady Hoke opted to go for two points and the win. But Devin Gardner’s pass to Drew Dileo was picked off, sealing victory for 16.5-point favorite Ohio State.

“We felt like we could win the game right there,” Gardner said.

Afterward, Urban Meyer summed out the electric Saturday afternoon perfectly: “That’s an instant classic.”

[ MORE: Gallery: See all the best photos from Ohio State-Michigan ]

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Show Comments (2 Comments)
2 Post Your Comment
Doug Kaufman on 12/16/2013 @ 1:28pm EDT Said:

Tom – nice list but I would definitely submit one if not two Gopher games: For certain the 10/26/13 34-23 Gopher victory over Nebraska. There has not been a bigger Gopher victory in years, ending the long, long streak of losses to Nebraska. Fans rush the field, Kill speaking to the team at halftime, on and on….huge win for Minnesota.

Also, the 10/19/13 victory over Northwestern is worth noting. While in retrospect it looks like the Gophers are the better team this season, the story of Jerry Kill being driven to the game (7 hours) by his wife. Surprising the team by addressing them at halftime. A real heartwarming story………..nationwide!

dave on 12/18/2013 @ 1:07pm EDT Said:

PSU/WIS?

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