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15 Best Big Ten College Football Games of 2016

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While there may be some grumblings from those down South, there’s little doubt in most minds that the Big Ten was the best conference in college football this season. That’s quite evident when you look at all those teams in the top 25 of the College Football Playoff rankings, the fact that the league produced the first-ever non-champion in the final four and the placement of four teams in the New Year’s Six bowl games.

Related: Ranking All 40 College Football Bowls for 2016 From Must-See to Must-Miss

The end result was a banner year for Jim Delany’s league, with numerous classics that will be talked about among Big Ten fans for years to come. Among all those upsets, wild endings and hugely important shakeups, which ones were the best games? It’s hard to narrow things down of course, but here are the best 10 Big Ten games of the 2016 regular season and the five best non-conference contests involving an Big Ten school.

2016's Best Games: Top 25ACC I Big 12 I Big Ten I Pac-12 I SEC

10 Best Big Ten Games of 2016 Regular Season

10. Minnesota 34, Rutgers 32 – Oct. 22

Wait, what is a Rutgers game doing on this list? Well, if you tuned into this one in late October, you know how close the Scarlet Knights came to ending their conference futility against the Gophers. Minnesota had looked like it was going to win at home in a runaway by jumping out to a big lead but Rutgers clawed back in the second half, starting with Damon Hayes’ 55-yard pick-six. The team couldn’t make the extra point to tie the game however and promptly gave up a 94-yard kick return to the Gophers’ Rodney Smith. Two late scores did give Rutgers a fourth quarter lead but Minnesota wound up kicking a 28-yard field goal to win it with six seconds left on the clock.

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9. Penn State 29, Minnesota 26 (OT) – Oct. 1

Given how the rest of the season played out, you could say this game was the spark that sent Penn State on its way to the Big Ten title. The team trailed Minnesota 13-3 and couldn’t get much going offensively until the Nittany Lions finally snapped out of their funk to force overtime. Trace McSorley threw for 408 yards, hit on some big plays late, and Tyler Davis hit a 40-yard field goal with two seconds left to tie the game 23-23.  After a Gophers field goal, Saquon Barkley answered right away with the game-winning 25-yard touchdown run. The most memorable moment might have been the fact that a Minnesota player was ejected for getting into a fight and then later getting called for targeting against Penn State’s kicker.

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8. Nebraska 27, Indiana 22 – Oct. 15

Nebraska stayed perfect on the season in Bloomington but did its best to nearly give one away to a pesky Indiana squad. Two Hoosiers safeties collided with each other to set up a Stanley Morgan Jr. 72-yard touchdown catch. The Cornhuskers also needed some late help from the replay booth to extend a drive and booted a 39-yard field goal with 45 seconds left to escape with a close win. Add in a late interception by the defense and a pick-six as part of a whopping 17-point scoring binge in a 14-second span to start off the game and this had a little bit of everything. Heck, there was even a bobbling catch off a knee and a helmet by a wideout that was flat on his back for good measure.

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7. Iowa 14, Michigan 13 – Nov. 12

On a day when the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 teams in the country all went down, one of the most surprising outcomes was that of the Wolverines falling on the road at unranked Iowa. The Hawkeyes were coming off a pair of losses (as well three straight at home) and had been struggling on both sides of the ball but had just enough to get past Michigan on a bitter cold night at Kinnick Stadium that had many remembering a similar upset when Jim Harbaugh was the quarterback of the maize and blue in 1985. Both defenses made it tough to move the ball but Iowa prevailed thanks to a fourth-down stop, a facemask penalty and a 33-yard field goal as time expired to send the crowd into a frenzy. You probably knew things were going to get weird when the Hawkeyes’ punter played a key role early in the game by drawing penalties, but in the end it was this game that may have cost Michigan a shot at the national title.

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6. Penn State 45, Indiana 31 – Nov. 12

The final score may not indicate it, but Penn State was in trouble most of the afternoon at Indiana in another one of those strange Big Ten games that ended up helping give the Nittany Lions the conference crown. Saquon Barkley was mostly bottled up through three quarters but stepped up in the final one to punch it in twice for a pair of big scores. Indiana wound up losing five — five! — fumbles in the game but had plenty of opportunities to win this one in the second half. All told, there were four second-half lead changes and 31 crazy points in the fourth quarter alone.

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5. Wisconsin 23, Nebraska 17 (OT) – Oct. 29

This game essentially decided the Big Ten West division title and did so in incredibly interesting fashion as Camp Randall was rocking just before Halloween with another top-10 matchup. Nebraska came back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime with a 35-yard field goal that tied things up at 17 in a hard-fought defensive battle. Dare Ogunbowale scored the game-winning touchdown from 11 yards out and the Wisconsin defense stepped up by knocking away the Cornhuskers’ desperation pass to the end zone to secure the victory. It was a bit of a rough night for both Tommy Armstrong and a pair of Badgers quarterbacks trying to pass the ball but that had a lot to do with both defenses making plays on just about every snap. UW kicker Andrew Endicott contributed to a few heart palpitations in the state when he missed a potential game-winner with less than two minutes to go and then shanked an extra point in overtime.

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4. Penn State 24, Ohio State 21 – Oct. 23

This was undoubtedly the signature victory for James Franklin in his tenure at Penn State and shook up the Big Ten and College Football Playoff races in the process. The Buckeyes entered as the No. 2 team in the country and looked to all but certainly be on a collision course with Alabama for the national title but simply couldn’t put away the Nittany Lions in the middle of a Happy Valley whiteout. While OSU mostly dominated the low-scoring affair, the Buckeyes failed to capture the victory after Marcus Allen leaped to block a 45-yard field goal attempt and Grant Haley returned the ball 60 yards for the game-winning touchdown. A pair of sacks from the PSU defense sealed the win and kicked off a wild celebration after an important victory that gave the team a key tiebreaker.

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3. Ohio State 30, Wisconsin 23 (OT) – Oct. 15

Two of the top defenses in the country met up in Madison for a fun Big Ten night game that had all the fun and intensity of a big-time bowl game. Ohio State quarterback J.T Barrett broke Braxton Miller’s school record for touchdowns and helped the Buckeyes’ offense move the ball with his arm and his legs. Corey Clement was the main weapon for Wisconsin and had one of the best games of his career with 164 yards on the ground. The Badgers’ offense too often had to settle for field goals however, despite several creative plays leading to big gains. OSU needed 17 points in the second half to force overtime where Barrett found Noah Brown for an incredible score in the corner of the end zone for the eventual game-winner.