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Wisconsin football: top ten games of the 2010s

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

NCAA FOOTBALL: SEP 03 Lambeau Field College Classic - LSU at Wisconsin Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Author’s note: Let me get this out of the way. The decade technically runs Jan. 1, 2011, to Dec. 31, 2020. However, very few people view it that way, so we will define the decade as 2010 to 2019.

It’s been a fascinating decade for Wisconsin football. It has seen three different head coaches. The athletic director has stepped in to serve as acting coach for not one, but two bowl games. After three straight Rose Bowls and B1G championships to open the decade, it has been a bridesmaid the rest of the decade.

There have been some incredible and memorable moments this decade that deserve some reflection. As I gathered these games, I was reminded of the joy that this team has delivered in the past ten years. I was also reminded at how close this team has been to moving up a tier in the college football world.

Hardest losses of the decade

In selecting the ten best wins, I cannot ignore the pain that has accompanied the top wins. That said, let’s not dwell on it too much. Acknowledge the past and move on.

Worse football losses of 2010s

Rank Date Year Opponent Score
Rank Date Year Opponent Score
1 Dec. 2 2017 No. 8 OSU 27-21
2 Oct. 22 2011 No. 15 MSU 37-31
3 Oct. 29 2011 OSU 33-29
4 Dec. 3 2016 No. 8 PSU 38-31
5 Oct. 19 2019 Illinois 24-23
6 Jan. 1 2011 No. 3 TCU 21-19
7 Sept. 14 2013 ASU 32-30
8 Aug. 30 2014 No. 13 LSU 28-24
9 Sept. 15 2018 BYU 24-21
10 Dec. 7 2019 No. 1 OSU 34-21

Best games of the 2010s

No. 10: 34-31 OT win over No. 19 Auburn

Outback Bowl—January 1, 2015

Outback Bowl Wisconsin v Auburn Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

After a demoralizing 59-0 loss to Ohio State in Gary Andersen’s last game coaching Wisconsin, the Badgers faced Auburn with Barry Alvarez at the helm.

Melvin Gordon ran all over Auburn, and the Badgers clawed back late to force overtime thanks to a Rafael Gaglianone field goal. Wisconsin’s defense held in overtime to force a long Auburn field goal.

Auburn missed the field goal, and Alvarez won his final* games as head coach.

No. 9: 48-17 win vs. No. 8 Nebraska

October 1, 2011

In Nebraska’s first B1G game, Russell Wilson and company shredded the Cornhuskers. With ESPN’s College Gameday visiting, the sky was the limit for the 2011 Badgers after this huge win.

No. 8: 30-6 win at No. 8 MSU

September 24, 2016

Michigan State turned out to not be all that great, but Wisconsin went on the road to take its second top-10 win in one month.

No. 7: 16-14 win vs. No. 5 LSU

Carmex Lambeau Field College Classic—September 3, 2016

Like the previous game, LSU turned out to have a difficult season, which kept this game lower on the rankings. However, the win at Lambeau was a perfect way to start a season.

No. 6: 35-14 win vs. No. 11 Michigan

September 21, 2019

Wisconsin started the 2019 season with three straight dominant shutout victories. While it did not shut out Michigan, the Badgers thoroughly dominated the Wolverines to begin a run to the Rose Bowl.

No. 5: 59-24 win vs. No. 11 Nebraska

November 15, 2014

408.

No. 4: 31-30 win at No. 13 Iowa

October 23, 2010

A week after beating No. 1 Ohio State, the Badgers went on the road and won a slugfest against Iowa that propelled Wisconsin’s B1G championship season.

No. 3: 42-39 win vs. No. 11 Michigan State

B1G Championship Game—December 3, 2011

Wilson to Duckworth.

No. 2: 70-31 win vs. No. 12 Nebraska

B1G Championship Game—December 1, 2012

Wisconsin had absolutely no business winning the B1G in 2012. However, Gordon, Montee Ball and James White set the standard that Nebraska would never stop a Wisconsin running back ever again.

No. 1: 31-18 win vs. No. 1 Ohio State

October 16, 2010

We have come a long way since this big win over Ohio State. While this is clearly the best game of the decade, it is bittersweet to know that Wisconsin has not crossed the Ohio State threshold since this iconic victory.

Honorable mention

Final question

What is in store in the 2020s? It all starts on Wednesday with the Rose Bowl against Oregon. I can’t wait to enjoy the coming decade with you all — all of the joy and heartbreak it is sure to bring.