Best B1G games of 2013: No. 2

We're continuing our countdown of the top-10 games from the Big Ten in 2013. Remember that we're taking into account the stakes in the game, the excitement level, the quality of the performances and the atmosphere.

No. 2: Michigan State 24, Stanford 20, Jan. 1

How it went down: We expected a hard-hitting, close game between physical teams at the Rose Bowl. And that's what we got.

Stanford dominated the first quarter, grabbing an early 10-0 lead and moving the ball well on Michigan State's intimidating defense. The Spartans finally got on the board with a Jeremy Langford touchdown run, but the Cardinal answered with a 40-yard interception return for a score by Kevin Anderson with just 2:07 left in the half.

But Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio showed faith in quarterback Connor Cook after that interception by not playing conservatively to close out the half. Cook needed just seven plays to drive the team down for an important touchdown to make it 17-14 at intermission. The second half would belong to the Spartans' defense, which allowed just one field goal the rest of the way. On Stanford's final possession, linebacker Kyler Elsworth made a leaping stop on fullback Ryan Hewitt on fourth-and-1 near midfield. Elsworth started in place of the suspended Max Bullough and showed what a true team effort the Spartans put together by winning defensive MVP honors.

The confetti rained down, Michigan State had its first Rose Bowl title in 26 years, and the Spartans completed one of the best seasons in school history.

Player of the game: Cook had the pick-6 and narrowly avoided a couple of other interceptions. But he also passed for a career-best 332 yards and two touchdowns in a game where offense was hard to come by.

Stat of the game: Michigan State allowed just 159 yards in the final three quarters.

They said it: "I told our guys, 'This is your legacy right here,'" Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said. "I think we'll go down as the greatest team ever to play Michigan State football."

More best games

  • No. 10: Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 24

  • No. 9: Michigan 41, Notre Dame 30

  • No. 8: Arizona State 32, Wisconsin 30

  • No. 7: Ohio State 40, Northwestern 30

  • No. 6: Penn State 43, Michigan 40, 4 OT

  • No. 5: Michigan State 34, Ohio State 24

  • No. 4: Nebraska 27, Northwestern 24

  • No. 3: Clemson 40, Ohio State 35