Recognizing the best and the brightest around the Big Ten in Week 13. Big day for the linebackers.
Michigan State QB Connor Cook and RB Jeremy Langford: As strong as the Spartans defense has been, Cook and Langford are arguably the two biggest reasons why Michigan State is headed back to the Big Ten championship game. Both have been brilliant in Big Ten play and continued to impress on Saturday. Cook had a career-high 293 passing yards and two touchdowns, while Langford had 147 rushing yards and two scores in eclipsing 1,000 yards for the season.
Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier: The likely frontrunner for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year strengthened his case =as Ohio State kept Indiana off of the scoreboard for 54 minutes. Shazier turned in another monster performance, recording a career-high 20 tackles, including five for loss. If it turns out to be his final game at Ohio Stadium, he went out with a bang.
Wisconsin LB Chris Borland: If Shazier doesn't win DPOY, the award should go to Borland, who triggered a tremendous defensive performance against Minnesota. He finally tied the Big Ten forced fumbles record with the 14th of his career, recovered two fumbles and led the Badgers with 12 tackles in a 20-7 victory.
Illinois WR Steve Hull: Hull has suddenly become one of the Big Ten's top big-play receivers, eclipsing 100 yards in each of his last three games and four of the past five. He had 10 receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns as the Illini snapped their Big Ten losing streak against Purdue. It's a great ending for a player who spent most of his career at safety and whose career nearly ended because of injury.
Iowa LB Anthony Hitchens: The linebackers have sparked Iowa's improved defense all season, and Saturday proved to be no exception. Hitchens led the way with eight tackles, including three for loss, to go along with two quarterback hurries and the biggest play of the day, when he forced a fumble from Michigan's Devin Gardner and recovered with 2:12 to play. Iowa went on to run out the clock.
Nebraska K Pat Smith: Smith hit all three of his field goal tries, including the 42-yard game-winner in overtime, as Nebraska pulled out a 23-20 win at Penn State. Hat tips also go out to Ameer Abdullah, who was great again with 147 yards and what should have been the game-winning touchdown run, and quarterback Ron Kellogg III, who subbed in nicely for Tommy Armstrong Jr.