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Ranking Mark Dantonio’s 100 wins: 2015 Big Ten title game thriller vs. Iowa ranks No. 3

It started with a fumble. It ended with a LJ Scott touchdown.

Big Ten Championship Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Looking back on this night still brings the chills.

Everything was on the line for MSU on this December night, and a top five-ranked Iowa team was the only thing in MSU’s way from completing its lofty goals.

If you missed any of the other 97 games, we’ve got all of them right here.

Win No. 3

Dec. 5, 2015: No. 5 MSU 16, No. 4 Iowa 13

Indianapolis. No. 4-ranked Iowa. Trip to the College Football Playoff on the line.

Let’s do this.

Big Ten Championship Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

How They Won

As low-scoring as it was — we like to call that VINTAGE BIG TEN FOOTBALL — there was a lot that happened. Specifically the last 9:04 of the game, but we’ll get there later.

Let’s do another top X list before the preseason ends. Let’s do a Top 10 Plays From Iowa vs. MSU 2015, shall we?

1. Riley Bullough jarring the ball loose on Iowa’s opening drive to have Arjen Colquhoun recover it. MSU struck first with a Michael Geiger field goal from 23 yards out to turn Iowa’s opening possession into MSU points.

2. Holding Iowa out of the end zone after a Connor Cook interception put Iowa on MSU’s 20 yard line. Iowa got down to the six yard line, but that’s all they would get before booting a tying field goal.

3. With Iowa up 6-3, it looked like the first touchdown of the game was coming as they were knocking on the end zone’s door at MSU’s five yard line. Instead, Demetrious Cox plucked a loose ball off of Riley Bullough’s back to keep it a three point Iowa lead.

4. With the game tied at 6-6 MSU looked to have a drive stalling out with 3rd-and-18 on Iowa’s 42 yard line. Cook connected with Aaron Burbridge for a 14 yard pass, putting Geiger in range to make it a 9-6 game with his 47-yarder.

The Drive

The rest of the top ten plays happened in this drive. Before we go through plays 5-10, let’s talk about some notable numbers from this drive.

22 plays. 82 yards. Five third down conversions. One fourth down conversion. Seven points.

Back to the plays.

5. A beautiful tunnel screen play call to Josiah Price on the first third down conversion took MSU to its own 37 yard line to prevent a 3-and-out.

6. Cook fitting the ball in a shoebox-sized window and Aaron Burbridge voluntarily signing up for a car accident to convert on 3rd-and-8 and put the Spartans on Iowa’s 34 yard line.

7. LJ Scott inching over the first down marker on 3rd-and-1 to the 13 yard line with 2:48 left to go. NOW things are getting really serious.

8. Cook keeping the ball and going right on the first down marker on 4th-and-2. Luckily enough, Cook kept the ball in his left arm – the arm that was on the fortunate side of the first down marker.


10. Shilique Calhoun strip sacks CJ Beathard on Iowa’s first play on its hopeful desperation drive. No timeouts remained for Iowa, forcing them to down the ball with five seconds left and 74 yards from the end zone. Basically, it ended the game.

What This Game Meant

Only nine programs in the nation have reached the College Football Playoff, and only two Big Ten teams have done so. For MSU to be part of that list just furthers cements that the program Mark Dantonio has built is among the nation’s best.

Big Ten Championship Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

This season was absolutely bananas between the Oregon game, the Jalen Watts-Jackson game and the Michael Geiger windmill game. Having an insane finish to this game to win Dantonio’s third Big Ten title and punch their ticket to the CFP was only appropriate.

The fact MSU topped a top five team, won a third conference title in six years and reached the historic CFP stage all in one night makes this game a no-brainer to be top three.


Is ranking this game No. 3 too high, too low or just right?

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  • 8%
    Ranked too high
    (28 votes)
  • 10%
    Ranked too low
    (36 votes)
  • 80%
    Ranked just right
    (265 votes)
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