Throughout the course of a season, there are certain games that make you go, “Huh?” Then we learn a little bit more about teams and they make sense.

These are the top 10 games involving Big Ten teams from the 2021 season that still are confusing in retrospect:

10. Michigan 20, Rutgers 13 (Sept. 25)

Michigan never trailed in this one and led 20-3 at halftime. But Rutgers refused to go away, and Michigan never could put this one away. Rutgers had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead. Considering Michigan is 1 of 4 teams alive for a national title and Rutgers didn’t even make a bowl game, this one sticks out in hindsight. At the time, I thought Rutgers was a vastly improved team that just had a good game. Now, it’s very odd that Michigan had so much trouble putting the Scarlet Knights away.

9. No. 9 Ohio State 41, Tulsa 20 (Sept. 18)

Don’t let the score of this one fool you. Ohio State was in an absolute battle against a Tulsa squad that wound up finishing 6-6. The Buckeyes led just 13-6 at halftime and were in a 1-possession game for 9 minutes in the fourth quarter before finally putting the game away with 3 minutes left. Considering how dominant Ohio State wound up being against quality B1G opponents like Michigan State and Purdue, it is still mind-boggling that this game was so close for so long. Heisman finalist CJ Stroud threw for only 185 yards and 1 TD, numbers that he often beat in a quarter or half later in the season.

8. No. 19 Iowa 17, Northwestern 12 (Nov. 6)

Northwestern, which finished last in the West, lost 8 B1G games, and all but one were by 17 points or more. The exception? West champion Iowa eked out a 5-point win. Maybe this says more about Iowa than anything, but how is it that every other team can win easily against Northwestern? Even Nebraska, which notoriously always plays to the level of its opponent, won by 49. Iowa did have to make a QB change in this one, but that was probably the reason it won, so it’s no excuse. Iowa just wasn’t playing great football during the second half of the season.

Sports Betting in Big Ten Country

There is big news coming to the upcoming 2022-23 Big Ten football season (and NFL season). Ohio online sports betting and Maryland sports betting are on the way.

21+ and present in OH. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER.

7. Maryland 40, Rutgers 16 (Nov. 27)

I thought this was going to be a back-and-forth affair, and I genuinely didn’t know who to pick. Both teams entered the season finale at 5-6, so bowl eligibility was on the line. I gave Rutgers a slight edge since it was at home, but I could’ve seen Maryland winning a close one because of its advantage at QB. Instead, Maryland dominated. It went up 13-0 midway through the first quarter, and Rutgers never cut the lead to single digits again. Even more surprising was the score; Maryland had scored more than 21 points just once in its 8 B1G games. This was a very disappointing end to 2021 for Rutgers, which came into this season with a ton of momentum.

6. No. 10 Michigan State 20, Indiana 15 (Oct. 16)

All the talk leading into this game was getting Michigan State undefeated into its matchup with Michigan, and the Spartans almost blew it. Kenneth Walker III was held to 84 yards and a long of 13, Payton Thorne threw 2 interceptions and if not for a pick-6, Michigan State probably loses. Indiana only had 2 games decided by fewer than 21 points, and this was 1 of them. Since Michigan State went out and beat a very good Michigan team 2 weeks later, this one stands out as a head-scratcher.

5. No. 19 Penn State 16, No. 12 Wisconsin 10 (Sept. 4)

The result on its own isn’t the part that baffles me, because these are both pretty decent programs that had decent (albeit underwhelming) seasons. But the fact that a team had the ball for 43 minutes and lost is just amazing. Wisconsin controlled the game, racking up 29 first downs to just 11 for Penn State while also having 37 fewer penalty yards. But the Badgers also had 3 turnovers, all of which were committed in Penn State territory. They also missed a 25-yard field goal. This was an incredible escape by Penn State.

4. No. 8 Cincinnati 38, Indiana 24 (Sept. 18)

As Cincinnati plays on New Year’s Eve in the College Football Playoff, it’s a little comical to look back at this one. The worst team in the Big Ten actually led one of the CFP teams in the fourth quarter. The Hoosiers were up 24-23 for a few minutes in the final quarter, and then after giving up a TD had a chance to retake the lead, but they fumbled on first-and-goal from the 2. Michael Penix threw his third and final interception to set the final margin in a game that was much closer than the final score indicated.

For the people who believe that a Group of 5 program should not be in the CFP, this is the game they’ll point to. How could Cincinnati barely beat a team that didn’t win a Big Ten game?

3. No. 12 Oregon 35, No. 3 Ohio State 28 (Sept. 11)

I’m not saying any Ohio State loss is surprising, because I understand how Michigan beat the Buckeyes. But Oregon? At the Shoe? Without Oregon’s 2 best players? Looking back, this a stunner. Just 3 weeks later, Oregon lost to a Stanford team that finished 3-9. The Ducks later lost to Utah twice, by 31 and 28. Ohio State finished the regular season with the No. 1 offense in the country and the No. 2 point differential in the country, behind only Georgia. For the Buckeyes to never lead against a clearly inferior opponent, at home no less, is baffling — even if it was the second week of the season when Ohio State was still establishing its identity and breaking in a young QB.

2. Illinois 20, No. 7 Penn State 18 in 9 OTs (Oct. 23)

This was an unforgettable game, and for Penn State, that’s because it was for all the wrong reasons. This was our first real exposure to the new overtime rules where a single 2-point conversion decides the game after the second overtime. Illinois and Penn State mirrored each other for 6 straight overtimes, with neither scoring in overtimes 3-7.

Even though Penn State finished 7-5, it was still in the mix for the Big Ten East and for a trip to the College Football Playoff at the time. The Nittany Lions were coming off a heartbreaking loss at Iowa in which it probably would’ve won if not for Sean Clifford’s injury. To follow that up with a home loss to an Illinois program with a first-year head coach that it beat by 35 in 2020 was shocking.

1. Bowling Green State 14, Minnesota 10 (Sept. 25)

This game won’t ever make sense to me. Bowling Green was a 31-point underdog, making this one of the biggest upsets in modern college football history. The Falcons wound up tying for 10th place in the MAC, going just 2-6 in conference play. Minnesota nearly won the B1G West, going 6-3 in conference play and beating Wisconsin and Purdue. Tanner Morgan, who just a few years ago was one of the top QBs in the country, bottomed out with only 5 completions and 2 interceptions on 13 pass attempts. On paper, Minnesota should win this game 99 out of 100 times, and I guess this was just that one instance that Bowling Green came out on top.