Penn State Records and Best Games Versus Big Ten Opponents

Scott MoskovitzContributor IMarch 24, 2011

Penn State Records and Best Games Versus Big Ten Opponents

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    Here is an in-depth look at how Penn State has fared against the rest of the Big Ten teams since starting conference play in 1993.

    Take a look at the Nittany Lions' current winning and losing streaks against conference foes, as well as ranking the best games in the series over the past 18 seasons.

Illinois (PSU Leads 11-3, Illinois 1-Game Win Streak)

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    While the overall record between the two schools leans heavily in favor of the Nittany Lions, the Illini took it to Penn State last fall, beating up the Nits, 33-13 in Beaver Stadium.

    Best Game - 1994 (Penn State 35 Illinois 31)

    There haven't been too many close contests in the series, but the 1994 battle in Champaign, Ill. was an all-time classic. Trailing 21-0 in the first half, an undefeated Penn State squad led by Kerry Collins was staring down at its first loss of the season.

    However, after closing the gap to 28-14 at halftime, fullback Brian Milne scored a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to give the Lions an improbable 35-31 win and secured a spot in the Rose Bowl against Oregon.

Indiana (PSU Leads 14-0, PSU 14-Game Win Streak)

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    The most lopsided of all of the series amonst Big Ten members, Penn State has controled the constests against the Hoosiers. In its 14-game win streak, Penn State has outscored Indiana by an average of 39-22.

    Best Game - 2004 (Penn State 22 Indiana 18)

    After starting an unfamiliar 2-7 to the 2004 season, a win at Indiana has been quitely credited as the catalyst for the turnaround in Happy Valley.

    A goal-line stand for the Penn State defense was a pivotal series of plays that helped restore confidence in the team. Indiana had four cracks starting from the Penn State one-yard line, but could not find the end zone, as linebacker Paul Posluszny stuffed Chris Taylor on fourth and goal.

Iowa (Iowa Leads 10-4, Iowa 3-Game Win Streak)

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    A three-game win streak might sound mild, however, if you look further than Penn State's 2007 victory over Iowa, then the Hawkeyes have won eight of the last nine tilts.

    Iowa seems to have Penn State's number and has delivered some crushing defeats over the Lions, including two overtime victories in 2000 and 2002.

    Best Game - 2008 (Iowa 24 Penn State 23)

    Penn State had everything going its way heading into the game with Iowa and was closing in on its first trip to a BCS national championship game, when the Hawkeyes delivered the biggest upset of the season.

    The Nittany Lions held a 23-14 fourth quarter lead, but painfully let the game slip through its fingers. Running back Shonn Greene scored a touchdown with 9:20 remaining, and following a Daryll Clark interception, the Hawkeyes got the ball back.

    Behind Ricky Stanzi's direction, Iowa moved the ball to the Penn State 14-yard line, setting up a 31-yard field goal by Daniel Murray and deflating any hopes for a title.

Michigan (Michigan Leads 10-6, PSU 3-Game Win Streak)

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    The series between the Lions and Wolverines has been marred by streaks. Sandwiched between a pair of three-game win streaks by Penn State, Michigan held a remarkable nine-game streak from 1997-2007.

    The momentum in the series swung when Rich Rodriguez took over the helm in Ann Arbor following the retirement of Lloyd Carr. Joe Paterno went 3-0 against Rodriguez's spread offense and the Lions averaged 41 points per game in those meetings.

    Best Game - 2005 (Michigan 27 Penn State 25)

    Similar to the defeat by Iowa, the loss in 2005 in Michigan derailed an undefeated season.

    A back and forth contest came down to the final seconds, as Chad Henne delivered a strike to Mario Manningham as time expired and the Big House exploded.

    The drive by Michigan overshadowed a terrific drive by Michael Robinson, capped by a three-yard sneak from Robinson with :53 remaining.

Michigan State (PSU Leads 12-6, MSU 1-Game Win Streak)

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    This matchup was created to establish an annual season-ending rivalry and even includes the Land Grant Trophy.

    The two teams have seen its share of wacky and wild games that have typically had high scoring affairs, including Penn State's 61-7 smackdown in Beaver Stadium back in 2002.

    The 2002 game was one for the history books, as Penn State running back Larry Johnson went over the 2,000-yard mark for the season with a 279-yard and four touchdown performance–in the first half.

    Best Game - 1993 (Penn State 38 Michigan State 37)

    You have to go back to the first meeting as conference foes for the best battle in this series.

    Michigan State jumped out to a 37-17 lead late in the third quarter, when Penn State made one of its most remarkable comebacks in school history. Kerry Collins threw a 52-yard bomb to wide receiver Bobby Engram to complete a furious five-minute stretch where the Lions scored three touchdowns.

Minnesota (PSU Leads 8-4, PSU 4-Game Win Streak)

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    An underrated series, Penn State and Minnesota have played some close contests, with three games decided by less than a touchdown.

    Penn State owns two sets of four-game win streaks (including a current one) and Minnesota has won a four-game stretch as well from 1999-2004.

    The Nittany Lions won a thrilling 28-27 overtime contest on the road in 2006, but it couldn't move another nail bitter in the series.

    Which leads us to...

    Best Game - 1999 (Minnesota 24 Penn State 23)

    The name Dan Nystrom still makes Penn State fans regurgitate their lunches.

    Behind the dynamic defensive duo of LaVar Arrington and Courtney Brown, Penn State had climbed to a No. 2 ranking and was on the path to a chance to play for a national title.

    It was a game that Penn State seemed to have control of the entire way but couldn't pull away. It suddenly became epic when the Golden Gophers got one last possession down two points.

    A Hail Mary that landed in the fingertips of Arland Bruce amazingly allowed Nystrom a chance to deliver possibly the most crushing defeat against Penn State in Beaver Stadium history. The freshman drilled a 32-yard field goal, shocking the Penn State fans and players.

Nebraska (Tied 1-1, Nebraska 1-Game Win Streak)

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    Technically the Cornhuskers and Lions haven't faced one another has Big Ten opponents, but the two have met each other twice since Penn State joined the conference.

    The teams split a home and home series back in 2002-03, which energized the long rivalry between the two storied programs.

    Despite being in separate divisions in the Big Ten, Penn State and Nebraska will have a yearly battle in its crossover matchup.

    Best Game - 2002 (Penn State 40 Nebraska 7)

    While the score of the 2003 game, an 18-10 Nebraska victory, was much closer than the one in Happy Valley, the significance of the 2002 contest catapults itself to the front.

    With critics calling for a revamping of the Penn State program following two consecutive down years, a waxing of Nebraska in front of a national audience energized not only the team, but also the fanbase.

    Richard Gardner's sideline interception for a touchdown from a Jamaal Lord pass practically shook the stadium in Penn State's rout.

Northwestern (PSU Leads 11-3, PSU 4-Game Win Streak)

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    Penn State owns a 6-1 advantage over Northwestern at Beaver Stadium with its lone loss coming in 2004.

    The Nittany Lions best home win, however, came last season when Joe Paterno picked up his 400th career victory in a mammoth comeback.

    Trailing 21-0, former walk-on Matt McGloin completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Brett Brackett with :03 left in the first half. That touchdown sparked a rally and a near flawless second half performance.

    Penn State scored three third quarter touchdowns as the Lions prevailed in a historic 35-21 win for Paterno's milestone victory.

    Best Game - 2005 (Penn State 34 Northwestern 29)

    In an extremely difficult call, the 2005 game barely gets the nod over the 2010 comeback.

    The 2005 classic gets the edge due to the dramatics of the game. Penn State headed into the season with high hopes behind Michael Robinson, Deon Butler and Derrick Williams, but the season could have taken a turn for the worse with a loss at Northwestern.

    Staring at a fourth-and-15 at its own 15-yard line, Robinson fired a laser to tight end Isaac Smolko to move the chains. Moments later, Robinson absorbed a crushing hit and lofted a 36-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Williams, who ducked through a tackle for the score with less than a minute to play.

Ohio State (OSU Leads 12-6, OSU 2-Game Win Streak)

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    There's no love lost between these two.

    The Buckeyes and Lions have battled on the football field and on the recruiting front ever since Penn State's arrival in the Big Ten. Terrelle Pryor's decision to attend Ohio State over Penn State added fuel to the fire when the Pennsylvania native spurned the Lions.

    Adding to the tension is the fact that four of the meetings have been decided by four points or less.

    Best Game - 2005 (Penn State 17 Ohio State 10)

    Widely considered the loudest crowd in Beaver Stadium history, Penn State won a thrilling decision due in large part to the crowd, with Ohio State struggling with calls at the line of scrimmage.

    Penn State's defense smothered Troy Smith and the Buckeyes all night, including a culminating sack by Tamba Hali that resulted in a Scott Paxson fumble recovery in the final moments.

Purdue (PSU Leads 10-2, PSU 4-Game Win Streak)

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    Much like Iowa seems to have Penn State's number, the Lions have a way of ending up on the right side of the score against the Boilermakers.

    The last three meetings, however, have been about defense, as Penn State has held Purdue to just 25 points in those games.

    Best Game - 2000 (Penn State 22 Purdue 20)

    Despite being a down year for Paterno's squad, Penn State found a way to defeat Drew Brees and the Boilermakers.

    A couple of blocked punts by Penn State's Cameron Wake set up a field goal and touchdown to help the Lions upset Purdue.

Wisconsin (Tied 6-6, PSU 2-Game Win Streak)

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    The closest of all the matchups with Big Ten opponents, Wisconsin has provided a mirror image for Penn State.

    Both teams are physical and want to set the tone early, which has led to several tight games and many memorable moments.

    Fittingly, the Lions and Badgers will meet on an annual basis after being placed in the same division in the Big Ten's new alignment.

    Best Game - 1996 (Penn State 23 Wisconsin 20)

    Brett Conway hit a 25-yard field goal with 1:23 left to help Penn State get its first ever victory over Wisconsin.

    The Badgers responded with a drive that set up a game-tying 58-yard field goal attempt from John Hall, but the kick barely missed, as Penn State escaped from Madison with a win.