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The Big Ten's Best College Football Games of 2018

The Big Ten's Best College Football Games of 2018

The Big Ten's Best College Football Games of 2018

Northwestern and Purdue went to the wire on Thursday, Michigan State rallied on Friday to beat a Utah State bunch that earned a final Top 25 ranking, and Penn State combined with Appalachian State for an overtime thriller that was one of the Big Ten's best games of 2018.

And that was just Week 1.

The first week of the 2018 season set the tone for an exciting season, which ended in fitting fashion. Ohio State's Rose Bowl victory gave the Big Ten bragging rights in the biggest bowl game of them all. From that enthralling first week to the season finale, the 2018 campaign had no shortage of memorable moments for the Big Ten.

10 Best Big Ten Games of 2018

10 (tie). Iowa 27, Mississippi State 22 – Jan. 1, 2019

Much was made all season of Mississippi State's outstanding defense, but the Bulldogs had little answer for Iowa wide receiver Nick Easley. Easley caught eight passes for 104 yards with two touchdowns, including the go-ahead score late in the third quarter, to give the Hawkeyes nine wins for just the second time in the 2010s.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Mississippi State
College Football Rankings: Iowa Football

The win also marked Iowa's first bowl victory against an SEC opponent since routing South Carolina in the Outback Bowl a decade earlier.

10 (tie). Ohio State 28, Washington 23 – Jan. 1, 2019

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Washington
College Football Top 25 Rankings: Ohio State

The 2017 and '18 editions of the Rose Bowl Game approached the magic of the 2006 Rose Bowl — the greatest college football game played in modern times. So, when the 2019 installment came down to an onside kick in the final seconds, it still didn't live up to its two predecessors.

Blame (or credit) Ohio State building a 25-point lead in the third quarter and appearing headed for a massive blowout. Washington rolled off three straight touchdowns in the fourth quarter to force the finale, but it almost never felt in doubt. Either way, Dwayne Haskins throwing for three touchdown passes provided an ideal ending to Ohio State's season; the Buckeyes accomplished their mission of sending head coach Urban Meyer out with a win; and the victory marked the Big Ten's first in the Granddaddy of 'Em All in five years.

9. Northwestern 31, Utah 20 – Dec. 31

Utah appeared headed to an easy 16th win in its last 17 bowl appearances when it jumped ahead of Northwestern, 20-3, at the Holiday Bowl. Then came the third quarter.

NCAAF Top 25 Rankings: Utah
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Northwestern generated six turnovers, including four in a raucous third quarter that saw the Wildcats score 28 points — a mark matching Barry Sanders and the 1988 Oklahoma State Cowboys for most in a Holiday Bowl period. The win marked Northwestern's third straight in the postseason.

8. Purdue 38, Iowa 36 – Nov. 3

Jumping out to a two-score lead in the second quarter, Purdue held Iowa at arm's length for much of this Big Ten West Division showdown. Every Hawkeyes score preceded a Boilermakers answer, usually a David Blough touchdown pass (he had four on the afternoon).

College Football Rankings: Iowa Football
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But after failing to cut the deficit any closer than four or five points in the second and third quarters, a pair of drive-capping, goal-line touchdown runs from Mekhi Sargent gave Iowa a one-point lead in the early fourth quarter. The Hawkeyes' defense forced a punt, but could not capitalize on the ensuing possession. That set up Purdue for one of the most brilliantly executed final drives of the season.

The Boilermakers squeezed 11 plays and more than four minutes of possession out of a drive that began at the 50, moving deep into Iowa territory and setting up for Spencer Evans' game-winning field goal as time expired.

7. Penn State 45, Appalachian State 38 – Sept. 1

Eleven years to the day that Appalachian State stunned Michigan in the Big House, the Mountaineers threatened to claim another Big Ten upset to its impressive legacy. Trace McSorley wasn't ready to let that happen.

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College Football Top 25 Rankings: Penn State

McSorley passed for the game-tying touchdown with just 15 seconds remaining, adding to the two rushing scores he notched earlier in the game. Penn State survived in Week 1 what turned out to be a Top 25-caliber matchup per season-ending rankings.

6. Michigan State 21, Penn State 17 – Oct. 13

Michigan State dominated almost every offensive category in its visit to Penn State: 34:12 possession to 25:48; 25 first downs to 14; and a slight yardage edge of 418 to 397. And yet, the Spartans led for all of 19 seconds.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Penn State
College Football Top 25 Rankings: Michigan State