In the past decade, Big Ten teams have run somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 combined plays (a conservative estimate). Most of them have long been forgotten.
This week we’re looking back at some of the very best that we can’t shake from our memories with a countdown of the 25 most iconic plays from a Big Ten team in the past 10 years. For better or worse, fans of the teams involved in these plays aren’t likely to stop talking about them anytime soon. Today, we crack into our top 10.
No. 6: Russell Wilson’s fourth-down completion wins first Big Ten title game, Dec. 4, 2011
The final minutes of the Big Ten's first conference championship game were packed with drama. It started on a fourth down near midfield when Wilson, a graduate transfer at Wisconsin, scrambled for time and lofted a 36-yard pass across the width of the field to Jeff Duckworth. The sophomore receiver had fewer than 15 catches but managed to fend off a Michigan State defensive back and pull in the last-ditch effort on the 7-yard line.
Montee Ball scored on the following play, Wilson completed an equally unlikely two-point conversion and Michigan State ran a punt back to the goal line (negated by a running into the kicker penalty) in the four minutes that followed. Wilson’s fourth down heave stands out, though. It gave the Badgers their second straight Big Ten title and provided some nearly-symmetrical revenge for a Hail Mary loss in East Lansing, Michigan, earlier that season.
No. 7: Roy Roundtree beats the Irish under the lights at the Big House, Sept. 10, 2011
The picture of Roy Roundtree’s most famous catch as a Wolverine still hangs in the Michigan Stadium press box. Michigan scored 28 points in the fourth quarter of the first night game ever held at the Big House to come from behind and beat rival Notre Dame 35-31. The last seven of those points came via a three-play, 80-yard drive that started with 30 seconds remaining on the clock.
After the Irish retook the lead on a dramatic drive of their own, Denard Robinson (446 yards of total offense) found a wide-open Jeremy Gallon to get the team into striking distance. With time for one more play, Robinson floated a pass to the front pylon of the end zone where Roundtree fended off a pass interference penalty and pulled in the winning catch.
No. 8: Denicos Allen denies Braxton Miller to protect Michigan State’s lead in the title game, Dec. 8, 2013
Quarterback Braxton Miller, fresh off of his second Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year award, needed two yards to extend a fourth-quarter Buckeyes drive and No. 2 Ohio State’s national title hopes. With fewer than six minutes remaining in the game, Miller tried to get around the edge of the Spartans' defense on the short side of the field.
Michigan State linebacker Denicos Allen shed one block and slipped underneath another to wrap Miller up in the backfield on the fourth-down attempt. The tackle was Allen’s ninth of the game and ended Ohio State’s best shot to beat the Spartans in the Big Ten championship game. Michigan State scored on the ensuing drive to ice a 34-24 victory and move on to its first Rose Bowl in 25 years.
No. 9: Miller scrambles for Hail Mary to beat the Badgers, Oct. 29, 2011
Miller provided one of his first of many "wow" moments at Ohio State midway through his freshman season. Trailing Wisconsin by three with 30 seconds remaining, he took off under pressure near the 40-yard line. Just as the rookie approached the line of scrimmage he leaped and found a backpedaling Devin Smith behind the defense in the Buckeyes’ end zone.
The throw and comeback win at the Horseshoe provided a moment of catharsis for Ohio State. After a year of being beaten down by a tattoo scandal and the departure of head coach Jim Tressel, the young freshman provided fans with a reason to look forward to the future. For Wisconsin, it was the team’s second Hail Mary loss in as many weeks.
No. 10: Michael Geiger windmills over Ohio State's 23-game winning streak, Nov. 21. 2015
Playing in a driving rain for much of the second half without star quarterback Connor Cook, Michigan State managed to stay stride-for-stride with the undefeated reigning national champs on the road. With the scored tied at 14 and the clock dwindling, the Spartans pounded their way down to the 28-yard line. Geiger hooked his 41-yard attempt through the uprights before he sprinted the length of the field spinning his right arm in celebration.
The most anticipated Big Ten game of the season had been sloppy (the two completed a total of four passes in the second half), but delivered in drama. After the game, Ohio State star Ezekiel Elliott openly criticized his coaches and declared for the NFL draft. Michigan State used the win to propel itself to a Big Ten championship berth and eventually a spot in the College Football Playoff.