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Looking back on Big Ten's past top-10 October clashes

Everything went right for the No. 7 Badgers in their 2011 win over No. 8 Nebraska. Mary Langenfeld-US PRESSWIRE

Big Ten matchups like No. 8 Wisconsin-No. 4 Michigan don’t happen very often -- especially this early in the season.

Over the last 18 years, only five other conference contests in October have featured two AP top-10 teams going at it. The 3:30 p.m. ET game Saturday in Ann Arbor will make it six.

We decided to look back at those last five games to see how they unfolded. Did the home team always come away with the win? Did a victory here essentially guarantee a shot at the Big Ten title? Take a look back on some B1G history:

Oct. 1, 2011: No. 8 Nebraska at No. 7 Wisconsin

Result: No. 7 Wisconsin, 48-17

What happened: Everything went right for the Badgers. Russell Wilson finished with a near-perfect QBR of 97.9, and Montee Ball rushed 30 times for 151 yards and four scores. On defense, the Badgers were just as dominant. Nebraska led in the second quarter, 14-13, but it couldn’t recover from three interceptions -- two of which led to two second-quarter TDs.

Quotable: Huskers coach Bo Pelini: “I’m embarrassed. I apologize to the fans of Nebraska.”

Epilogue: Wisconsin won the Big Ten championship over Michigan State 42-39 before dropping the Rose Bowl to No. 6 Oregon. Nebraska finished 9-4.

Oct. 25, 2008: No. 3 Penn State at No. 9 Ohio State

Result: No. 3 Penn State, 13-6

What happened: It was a defensive struggle, but the Nittany Lions found life early in the fourth quarter. Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor fumbled on third down, and Penn State responded by marching 38 yards for what would be the game-winning touchdown. Pryor then threw an interception on the Buckeyes’ final drive to seal the game.

Quotable: Buckeyes QB Pryor: “I feel the loss is on me.”

Epilogue: Penn State shared the Big Ten championship with Ohio State that season, but it could’ve won the title outright if not for a last-second loss later in the year to Iowa. PSU lost to USC in the Rose Bowl. Ohio State fell to No. 3 Texas in the Fiesta Bowl, 24-21.

Oct. 16, 2004: No. 10 Wisconsin at No. 5 Purdue

Result: No. 10 Wisconsin, 20-17

What happened: Purdue led 17-14 with less than three minutes left in the game when tragedy struck the Boilermakers. Quarterback Kyle Orton fumbled as he dove for a first down and Scott Starks picked up the ball and sprinted 40 yards for the defensive touchdown. (The PAT was blocked.) Orton drove the Boilermakers to the Wisconsin 25 on the next drive, but kicker Ben Jones missed the game-tying 42-yard field goal with only seconds left.

Quotable: Badgers coach Barry Alvarez: “I’ve been in this racket for a long time. And I’ve never been part of a game like this.”

Epilogue: The Badgers were dominated in their final two Big Ten games and, despite a 9-0 start, played -- and lost -- in the Outback Bowl. They finished 9-3. Purdue dropped three straight after the loss to Wisconsin and played in the Sun Bowl. It went 7-5.

Oct. 18, 2003: No. 9 Iowa at No. 8 Ohio State

Result: No. 8 Ohio State, 19-10

What happened: Ohio State’s offense was virtually non-existent, as it finished with 185 total yards. But the defense and special teams stepped up in a big way. Michael Jenkins returned one punt for a 54-yard touchdown, and Donte Whitner added a special teams TD when he recovered a blocked punt in the end zone. Iowa had a chance to tie it late in the fourth quarter, but the center snapped the ball over Nathan Chandler’s head for a safety.

Quotable: Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz: “The story of the game is we didn’t get the job done on special teams, and that’s a tough one to live with.”

Epilogue: The Buckeyes missed out on a Big Ten title after a loss to No. 4 Michigan, but they still played -- and won -- against No. 10 Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl 35-28. Iowa finished 10-3 after beating No. 17 Florida in the Outback Bowl 37-17.

Oct. 3, 1998: No. 7 Penn State at No. 1 Ohio State

Result: No. 1 Ohio State, 28-9

What happened: Penn State seized a 3-0 lead in the second quarter, but quarterback Kevin Thompson coughed up the ball on a sack -- and Ohio State recovered for the touchdown. With a struggling PSU offense, it was essentially a cakewalk for the Buckeyes after that. Ohio State’s defense finished with 12 tackles for loss and limited Penn State’s offense to 181 total yards.

Quotable: Penn State LB LaVar Arrington: “We can learn from this, or let it take us down like we did last year.”

Epilogue: Ohio State shared the Big Ten title with Wisconsin and Michigan, but it was the BCS representative and beat No. 8 Texas A&M 24-14 in the Sugar Bowl. Penn State dropped two more conference games to ranked Big Ten teams and finished 9-3 after a win in the Outback Bowl.