The top 50 moments from the Big Ten football season
It’s been a Big Ten football season unlike any other.
There were opt-outs, cancelations and rule changes. There were record-setting performances, unbelievable upsets and an ending fit for a movie.
It wasn’t perfect, but it sure was enjoyable. Here are the top 50 moments from the 2020 season:
50. Little-used true freshman to the rescue
Cam Porter had 8 carries in Northwestern’s first 6 games, but he came off the bench to rack up 142 yards and 2 TDs on 24 carries against Illinois, solidifying him as the starting RB for a struggling run game. Northwestern ran for a B1G season-high of 411 yards.
49. Tyler Goodson’s long TD run vs. nation’s No. 6 run D
Wisconsin has allowed 1 rushing TD this season, and this was it.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) December 12, 2020
48. Wisconsin sprints to 28-point lead against Michigan
Most expected the Badgers to be sluggish after they were the B1G’s first team to deal with a COVID outbreak, but they exploded for 28 points in the first 20 minutes, embarrassing Michigan in the Big House. It was one of those “Wow!” moments, especially since it was in primetime on ABC.
47. The Illini run wild
Illinois went nuts in running for 338 yards in its win over Rutgers, then followed it up with 285 rushing yards in a victory over Nebraska.
46. Michigan hype train takes off …
The way Michigan dominated No. 21 Minnesota in the opening week on ABC during primetime had many, including yours truly, thinking it was headed for a huge season. Michigan’s 8.5 yards per play in that game ranked second-highest in the B1G this season.
(Scroll down to No. 8 to see how this worked out)
45. Penn State erupts for 42 first-half points
After being held under 30 points in 6 of 8 games, Penn State scored 42 in the first half against Illinois in the season finale. Jahan Dotson had 2 TDs of 70 yards or more, the only Power 5 player to do so this season.
44. Fields carries short-handed Ohio State
With over 20 players out due to COVID against Michigan State, including 3 starting offensive lineman, Fields overcome numerous poor snaps to still throw for 199 yards and 2 TDs, plus 104 rushing yards and 2 more TDs.
43. Northwestern overcomes 17-point deficit
This was when you knew the Wildcats were legit, as they rallied from a 17-0 deficit in the first quarter to beat Iowa 21-20 — something they never would’ve been able to do in 2019.
42. Rutgers rallies from double-digit second-half deficit
With how much Rutgers has struggled since joining the B1G, seeing the Scarlett Knights rally from 10 down in the second half and win in regulation — like they did at Purdue — was very surprising. And impressive.
41. Nebraska goes into offseason on a high note
Nebraska needs to improve a lot this offseason, but scoring the final 14 points to beat Rutgers in the finale will get some of that bad taste out of the Hukers’ mouths.
40. Indiana’s backup QB wins at Wisconsin
Many thought Indiana’s season was over after Michael Penix Jr. suffered a torn ACL, but backup Jack Tuttle threw 2 TDs to lead the Hoosiers to an upset win at No. 16 Wisconsin.
39. Wisconsin’s backup QB wins Paul Bunyan’s Axe game
Chase Wolf came off the bench for an injured Graham Mertz to lead Wisconsin to a 20-17 OT win over Minnesota.
38. Keith Duncan torments Nebraska again
The Iowa kicker made 4 field goals, including 2 in the fourth quarter, to beat rival Nebraska 26-20 — one year after blowing a kiss to the Nebraska sideline after the game-winner.
37. B1G ballhawks
Of the top 7 nationally in interceptions per game, 4 are B1G players: Indiana’s Jaylin Williams and Jamar Johnson, Michigan State’s Shakur Brown and Northwestern’s Brandon Joseph.
36. B1G changes rule to get Ohio State into title game
There was some controversy in this because it’s Ohio State, but the Big Ten did the right thing in scrapping the rule it made up a few months before in mandating teams play a minimum number of games to qualify for the Big Ten Championship Game. Ohio State, after beating Indiana and going undefeated, deserved to play for the conference title.
35. An unlikely 3-TD game
The most unlikely scoring binge came from Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman, who entered Northwestern’s first-place showdown with Purdue with 1 TD in 28 career games before scoring 3 times in helping the Wildcats take control of the B1G West.
It took just two and half quarters for Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman to grab three TDs 😲 pic.twitter.com/v8bMZlSzL5
— Stadium (@Stadium) November 15, 2020
34. Rakim Jarrett runs all over Penn State
The true freshman showed why he was a 5-star recruit, snaring passes on crossing routes and racing for 42-yard and 62-yard TDs in the first quarter of Maryland’s surprising win over Penn State.
33. Graham Mertz’s spectacular debut
With last year’s QB Jack Coan sidelined, redshirt Graham Mertz delivered a jaw-dropping performance in his first career start: 20-of-21 passing for 248 yards, 5 TDs and no INTs in the opener against Illinois.
32. Big-man TD part I
Iowa defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon has been one of the country’s breakout performers, and his interception return for a TD was his most iconic moment. He’ll be on some All-America lists.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 21, 2020
31. Big-man TD part II
Haskell Garrett got shot in the face when breaking up a fight this offseason, and it was unknown whether he would live, much less play this season, but the Ohio State DT had a terrific season, highlighted by this interception vs. Michigan State.
Haskell Garrett BIG MAN TD
— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 5, 2020
30. Ty Fryfogle goes crazy against Ohio State
Fryfogle went from not even being the best WR on his own team to being one of the best in the Big Ten, highlighted by a 218-yard, 3-TD performance against Ohio State.
29. Justin Fields’ first 3 games
The Ohio State QB’s numbers through 3 weeks were certifiably insane, as he completed 86.7 percent of his passes, averaged 10.9 yards per attempt and tallied 11 passing TDs with no interceptions.
28. B1G stars opt back in
While we missed out on seeing guys like Micah Parsons and Journey Brown, we did get stars like Rondale Moore and Rashod Bateman to opt back in once the B1G reversed its decision to postpone.
27. Bret Bielema is coming back to the B1G, where he belongs
Illinois hired former Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema away from the New York Giants.
26. Rutgers rallies in final minute, beats Maryland in OT
Valentino Ambrosio kicked a 42-yard field goal with 32 seconds left, then kicked the game-winner in OT. It capped an emotional week in which 3 Rutgers players lost loved ones, including 2 to COVID-19.
25. James McCourt’s game-winning field goal
McCourt drilled a 47-yarder with 3 seconds left to give Illinois a 23-20 win at Rutgers.
REDEMPTION FOR JAMES MCCOURT! 🙌
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 14, 2020
24. Taulia Tagovailoa’s coming-out party
The OT win over Minnesota was the game that determined that Taulia no longer was known as “Tua’s younger brother,” as he threw for nearly 400 yards and accounted for 5 TDs.
23. Ohio State signs No. 2 recruiting class
This is still ongoing, but Ohio State has put itself in great position to contend with Alabama and Clemson for years to come with its 2021 incoming class.
22. Ryan Day’s leaked postgame speech about CFP
The NSFW speech has to have Buckeyes fans feeling good going into the Clemson game.
21. Jahan Dotson’s one-handed catch over Shaun Wade
This was one of the best plays of the year.
Shaun Wade’s coverage: good
Jahan Dotson’s play: SLIIIIIIIIIGHTLY better pic.twitter.com/ira66P3seT
— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) November 1, 2020
20. Cade McNamara comes off the bench to rally Michigan
Michigan trailed Rutgers 17-0 late in the first half, but Cade McNamara led a comeback, throwing 4 TDs and running for another in the OT win — saving the Wolverines from endless amounts of ridicule.
19. Indiana picks off Justin Fields 3 times
Coming into the B1G East showdown, Fields had thrown just 3 interceptions in 29 career games, but the Hoosiers intercepted him 3 times on 30 pass attempts, showing why they lead the country with 2.43 interceptions per game.
18. Michigan State essentially ends Northwestern’s CFP hopes
Northwestern was climbing in the CFP rankings at 5-0 until Michigan State pulled a 29-20 upset.
17. Ibrahim’s monster performance
The B1G’s leading rusher never went below 100 yards all season. His best outing was a 224-yard, 4-TD game against Illinois in which he averaged 7.5 yards per carry. It was his second-straight 4-TD day.
16. David Bell catches game-winner to cap 3-TD day
The Purdue wideout had 13 catches for 121 yards and 3 TDs, the last of which came with 2:15 left to give the Boilermakers a 24-20 win over Iowa.
15. Trick Play U
Rutgers pulled off 3 trick plays against Ohio State, 2 of which went for TDs.
This Rutgers trick play TD was WILD 😳
— Bleacher Report CFB (@BR_CFB) November 8, 2020
14. Rutgers finally gets a B1G win
Rutgers hadn’t won a B1G game since 2017, but it shocked everyone in forcing 7 turnovers during the season-opening victory at Michigan State. The Scarlet Knights are no longer the punching bag of the B1G.
13. Ihmir Smith-Marsette’s front flip into the end zone
Yeah, he hurt his ankle, but it’s incredible that a guy could have the energy to pull off a front flip like that after scoring a 53-yard TD. Tyreek Hill hasn’t even mastered it.
PETRAS TO IHMIR SMITH-MARSETTE 6 FOR 6 AGAIN pic.twitter.com/maA2Z1ikHp
— Heavens! (@HeavensFX) December 12, 2020
12. Iowa’s turnaround gets Ferentz emotional
Iowa was left for dead by many after an 0-2 start, but the Hawkeyes rebounded to win their next 6 games, capped off by a convincing win over Wisconsin. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz cried in the locker room afterward.
— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) December 13, 2020
11. Minnesota’s controversial win prompts sports books to refund bettors
After a phantom offensive pass interference call on Purdue’s Payne Durham wiped out a game-winning TD against Minnesota, betting sites like FanDuel issued a rare refund if you had Purdue covering or winning straight up.
10. Shaun Wade’s pick 6 all but seals B1G East for Ohio State
Indiana made a nice comeback, but Shaun Wade returning this interception for 35 yards was the difference.
SHAUN WADE PICK-6️⃣ #DBU
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 21, 2020
9. Brandon Joseph’s ridiculous INT in B1G title game
This interception from Northwestern’s true freshman safety may have been the best individual play in the Big Ten this season. Simply incredible.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) December 19, 2020
8. … Michigan hype train crashes
Michigan State, a 25.5-point underdog, shocked its rival and submarined Michigan’s 2020 hopes. It was the biggest stunner of the 2020 season.
7. Northwestern goes worst to first
Chicago’s Big Ten team was just 1-8 in B1G play in 2019, only to turn the tables and win the West for the second time in 3 years.
6. Indiana’s streak-busting season
Indiana entered this season having lost 39 of 40 to Michigan (including 24 straight), 22 of 23 to Penn State (including 6 straight) and 10 straight to Wisconsin. All of those streaks are over.
5. Ohio State makes the CFP
It wasn’t unexpected, and it may have been controversial, but the Buckeyes making the CFP after playing just 6 games speaks to the way they took care of business, with just 1 single-digit win.
4. Tom Allen’s emotional postgame
There were plenty of Tom Allen highlights to choose from, but this one was arguably the best because it was an organic moment where his players just couldn’t help but share how great their coach is. It came after Indiana’s backup QB beat No. 16 Wisconsin on the road.
This video perfectly epitomizes Tom Allen and Indiana football this season. pic.twitter.com/BdxQr17BbS
— Ben Stevens (@BenScottStevens) December 5, 2020
3. Fighting Rece Davises
Joey Galloway’s assertion that Northwestern had a bunch of Rece Davises running around sparked this viral moment from Pat Fitzgerald after the then-unbeaten Wildcats beat No. 10 Wisconsin.
Pat Fitzgerald refers to his team as the "Fighting Rece Davises" after the win over Wisconsin, in response to ESPN's Joey Galloway saying earlier in the week that Northwestern "has a bunch of Rece Davises running around." pic.twitter.com/P7CLfYHkdd
— Matt Clapp (@Matt2Clapp) November 22, 2020
2. Trey Sermon’s title game eruption
The Oklahoma transfer came off the bench to explode for an Ohio State single-game record of 331 rushing yards and 2 TDs on 29 carries, rallying the Buckeyes against Northwestern.
1. Michael Penix Jr.’s stretch caps wild comeback
This is the top moment of the B1G season for 3 reasons:
1) It was the type of ending you only see in movies. Penix, fully extended, reached for the pylon on the 2-point conversion in overtime. No one knew whether the play would actually count for several minutes as officials reviewed it.
— Jeff Rabjohns (@JeffRabjohns) October 24, 2020
2) Indiana had a 0.1 percent chance of winning when it turned the ball over on downs with 1:47 left in regulation trailing 21-20. Penn State could’ve run out the clock, but Devyn Ford inexplicably scored to give Indiana the ball back down 8. Penix led the game-tying drive to force OT.
3) The ripple effects of this play were enormous. Penn State, the preseason No. 8 team, sputtered to an 0-5 start. Indiana climbed all the way up to No. 7, its highest ranking since 1967.