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Monday, December 22, 2008
Filling out the Top 10 Big Ten games of 2008

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The response has been excellent for my list of the top five Big Ten games this season, so I've decided to extend the rundown to 10. Many of you made compelling arguments for games that should have been included in the top five, but I'm comfortable with my list.

I do think some other memorable contests should be recognized, so here's the full rundown.

Recapping the top five (actually six):

1. Penn State at Iowa, Nov. 8, Kinnick Stadium (Iowa wins 24-23)
2. Penn State at Ohio State, Oct. 25, Ohio Stadium (Penn State wins 13-6)
3. Northwestern at Minnesota, Nov. 1, Metrodome (Northwestern wins 24-17)
4. Ohio State at Wisconsin, Oct. 4, Camp Randall Stadium (Ohio State wins 20-17)
T-5. Wisconsin at Michigan, Sept. 27, Michigan Stadium (Michigan wins 27-25)
T-5. Minnesota at Wisconsin, Nov. 15, Camp Randall Stadium (Wisconsin wins 35-32)

And here are games 6-10.

6. Wisconsin at Michigan State, Nov. 1, Spartan Stadium

I came very close to including this among the top five, but the fact that Michigan State played pretty poorly for the first 50 minutes or so kept it out. Still, the Spartans' comeback and the Badgers' collapse, which included a rare penalty on a head coach (Bret Bielema), made the game pretty memorable. Wisconsin dominated most of the game and was a holding penalty away from closing it out, but Michigan State capitalized on its final chance, driving 56 yards for the game-winning field goal with no timeouts remaining. Spartans kicker Brett Swenson went 4-for-4 on field goals, including a 50-yarder and the decisive 44-yarder in the fourth quarter as Michigan State prevailed 25-24.

7. Michigan at Purdue, Nov. 1, Ross-Ade Stadium

In a league dominated by defense and running backs, Michigan and Purdue produced a game that would make the Big 12 proud. The teams combined for 90 points and 822 total yards. Michigan scored three touchdowns of 45 or longer (one rush, one pass, one punt return), and Purdue backup quarterback Justin Siller sizzled in his first career start. The game also produced arguably the Big Ten's Play of the Year, as Purdue executed a hook-and-lateral from Siller to Greg Orton to Desmond Tardy, who scored with 26 seconds left to give the Boilers a 48-42 win.

8. Iowa at Illinois, Nov. 1, Memorial Stadium

It was a pretty sloppy game on both sides, but the final 21 minutes featured several edge-of-your seat moments. Illinois took control with a 50-yard touchdown pass to Fred Sykes and a seven-yard fumble return to the end zone by cornerback Dere Hicks. But Iowa struck back to tie the score at 24-24 on a Shonn Greene run with 2:46 left. It set the stage for Illinois to drive 54 yards in 12 plays, setting up a 46-yard field goal by freshman Matt Eller that secured a 27-24 win.

9. Illinois at Penn State, Sept. 27, Beaver Stadium

If you liked big plays and tremendous athleticism, this was the game for you. The teams combined for four touchdowns of 21 yards or longer, and Penn State wide receiver/return man Derrick Williams stole the show with 241 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns (one rush, one pass, one return). Illinois stayed close for most of the way behind quarterback Juice Williams and wide receiver Arrelious Benn, but Penn State's Williams proved to be too much on a "Whiteout" night in Happy Valley.

10. Minnesota at Illinois, Oct. 11, Memorial Stadium

The Golden Gophers completed their turnaround from 1-11 to bowl eligible with a tremendous defensive performance against Illinois. Minnesota senior defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg had arguably the league's best individual defensive effort of the season, recording three sacks, a forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown and a pass deflection that led to an interception in the fourth quarter. Minnesota held off Illinois' big-play passing attack to win its first Big Ten road game since 2006.