Big Ten: Player of the Week

Player of the week: Big Ten

December, 9, 2013
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Connor Cook sure picked out a good time to have a career day.

Michigan State's sophomore quarterback, a preseason backup, went 24-of-40 for a career-high 304 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in a victory over Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game. He remained calm, even in the face of a fourth-quarter deficit, and helped push the Spartans to the Rose Bowl presented by Vizio. It will be the Spartans' first trip to Pasadena, Calif., in 26 years.

[+] EnlargeConnor Cook
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsMichigan State's Connor Cook threw for more than 300 yards for the first time in his career.
It was just the third time this season the Spartans passed more often than they ran. (Games against Iowa and Notre Dame were the others.) And Cook was just the third player to pass for more than 300 yards against the Buckeyes' secondary.

"I learned to never give up, to keep pushing no matter what the circumstances are," Cook told ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg. "Score, situation, whatever stage you're on. I really didn't learn anything about our team, because this is the way we've been all year."

When the running game faltered early, Cook took over. And when Mark Dantonio called upon him in the fourth quarter, he didn't disappoint. He was able to find receivers downfield so often that 216 of his passing yards came on passes thrown 10 yards or longer.

He averaged 12 yards per attempt on those throws -- and 27 yards a completion -- compared to 5.6 yards an attempt. Cook completed 44 percent of those throws; Ohio State's Braxton Miller completed 20 percent.

Cook outplayed the Heisman hopeful when it mattered most for Michigan State. On the opening drive in the final quarter, Cook took his team 90 yards downfield to reclaim a lead it never gave up. He went 4-of-6 on that drive, throwing for 76 yards as his team rushed for just nine. (The remainder came on Ohio State penalties.)

On a critical third-and-8, he found wide-open tight end Josiah Price for a touchdown.

Statistically, it was the best game of Cook's career. He had never before thrown for 300 yards and only once before had thrown for three TDs against an FBS team (Illinois).

Player of the week: Big Ten

December, 2, 2013
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The end-zone routine is almost overkill.

Carlos Hyde's strength already has been on full display well before punching in a touchdown. He's made it look easy to shed defenders or carry them for extra yardage.

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AP Photo/Carlos OsorioCarlos Hyde is averaging 156.1 rushing yards per game in Big Ten play.
The senior running back’s frame is hard to ignore even before that, as the simple sight of the 230-pounder lining up in the Ohio State backfield typically draws plenty of attention.

The overall athleticism is showing snap after snap for an attack that is relying more heavily on his talents with each passing week as the No. 2 Buckeyes feed him a steady load of carries, which Hyde turns into relentless, consistent production.

But even after all that, Hyde still drives the point home once he crosses the goal line, flexing his arms and offering one more reminder that few players in the country are making a stronger impact on the season.

“The way I’m running right now, I’m just running angry,” Hyde told ESPN.com after Saturday’s 42-41 victory over rival Michigan. “I’m just more hungry than I would have been at the beginning of the season if I wouldn’t have been suspended.”

If not for that three-week absence for an off-the-field incident in a Columbus bar in July in which charges were never filed, Hyde might be in the mix for more than Player of the Week or Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors, given his incredible statistics since returning to the Ohio State backfield.

Hyde's 226 yards against the Wolverines improved his season total to 1,290, but that figure is more eye-catching considering almost all of that output has come during eight Big Ten games. Against conference opponents, Hyde has averaged 156.1 yards per game and has 14 rushing touchdowns, leading the conference and helping him build a case that he might even be able to edge teammate Braxton Miller as the Big Ten’s top offensive performer this season.

Part of his success is obviously a product of the dynamic combination he and the Ohio State quarterback form in coach Urban Meyer’s spread offense. But, as Hyde has so frequently reminded people watching every time he scores a touchdown, his rare blend of strength, determination and speed is obviously a pretty significant part of the equation as well.

“The tailback has been pretty dominant,” Meyer said. “He’s playing as good as any tailback I’ve ever watched.”

That’s giving both the Buckeyes and Hyde plenty of reason to flex their muscles heading into the postseason.

Player of the week: Big Ten

November, 25, 2013
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What do you get when you combine 20 tackles, a forced fumble and a school record-tying five tackles for loss?

A very easy decision for Five Star Player of the Week -- Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier.

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Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesRyan Shazier made five tackles for loss against Indiana on Saturday.
The junior standout helped bottle up Indiana's uptempo offense by holding it scoreless through the first three quarters, when it counted most. His tackles came near the line of scrimmage, toward the opposite sideline, in the backfield -- everywhere -- as he amassed more tackles than the Hoosiers' starting linebackers combined.

It was a performance that helped punch Shazier's ticket as one of the best linebackers in the country. On Monday, two days after piling up a school record-tying 16 solo stops, he became one of five finalists for the Butkus Award.

"He's playing at a very high level," Urban Meyer said after Saturday's 42-14 victory. "A very emotional guy, he has the heart the -- his heart is everything."

Shazier finished with a mark in nearly every statistical category on Saturday. He ended up with a forced fumble, a pass breakup, a sack and, as one reporter joked after the game, a partridge in a pear tree.

He finished with twice as many tackles as the game's No. 2 player in that category, Bradley Roby (10), and he single-handedly finished with more than twice as many stops in the backfield (5) than Indiana's entire defense (2).

It was the first time a Buckeye finished with 20 tackles since A.J. Hawk in 2004. And it was the first time since Tom Cousineau in 1978 that an Ohio State player wound up with 16 solo stops.

But it wasn't just on the stat sheet where Shazier made his presence felt. He's been this defense's leader, and he certainly led by example -- making sure that an opponent that averages more than five touchdowns a game (36.8 ppg) didn't score at all for 54 minutes.

It was one of the most dominant performances of Shazier's dominant career.

Player of the week: Big Ten

November, 18, 2013
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Typically the repeated battering from his stout frame and bullish running style takes a toll on a defense, making it look like Carlos Hyde is gaining strength as a game wears on.

Now it looks like the Ohio State running back is picking up speed in the fourth quarter as well.

Illinois had enough problems containing Hyde in the early going while he was setting the table for a big finish, as the senior left little doubt that he was headed for another productive outing with a pair of first-half touchdowns that gave the No. 3 Buckeyes a comfortable lead in the locker room at intermission. But it was a two-carry stretch at the end of the fourth quarter that highlighted perhaps his most significant improvement as a rusher, with Hyde finally getting a chance to show off some breakaway speed with consecutive scoring runs of at least 51 yards to bury the Illini and polish off the best performance of his career in a 60-35 victory on Saturday.

"We came out scoring points, but we hit a wall later with a few three-and-outs," Hyde said. "Late in the game we started clicking, but we can't hit that wall."

When they do, perhaps the easiest solution is to just let Hyde crash right through it.

Ohio State's lead did get a bit closer than expected on the road against the Illini, and the offense did hit a few lulls that contributed to that shrinking margin as much as a banged-up defense that had some issues at times getting off the field. But with a chance to reassert themselves down the stretch, the Buckeyes simply gave the ball to the most prolific rusher in conference games in the Big Ten to pull away and wrap up another blowout.

The back-t0-back carries for scores accounted for 106 of his career-best 246 rushing yards, the third-highest total in school history, and gave him five total touchdowns as the Buckeyes stayed unbeaten and in the thick of the national title chase.

That closing flourish also put him within 53 yards of 1,000 for the season, despite missing the first three games of the season due to suspension and then playing sparingly in his first outing of the year against Florida A&M. But since taking over the full-time responsibilities in the backfield again to open conference play against Wisconsin with 85 yards on 17 carries, Hyde hasn't rushed for less than 111 yards.

"Carlos loves running against any type of defense," quarterback Braxton Miller said. "He just wants to improve himself and play like he has a chip on his shoulder."

That improvement even seems to happen within a game. And as the season hits the fourth quarter, he's only adding to his reputation as the ultimate closer at running back.

Player of the week: Big Ten

November, 11, 2013
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Last week, Cody Latimer told our Brian Bennett that he believes his season could be better. He then went out and had his best day yet in Indiana's 52-35 win over Illinois to stem a three-game losing streak.

Latimer had career-highs with 11 catches and 189 yards while tying his career-best mark of three touchdowns.

Two of his scores came in the second quarter, as he caught passes of 41 and 50 yards, respectively, from Nate Sudfeld to tie the game and then take the lead.

Latimer is now tied with Michigan's Jeremy Gallon for second in the Big Ten in receptions per game, at 6.1, and he is up to third in the conference in receiving yards per game, at 98.2, after his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season. He has eight scores on the season and 16 for his career, now fifth all-time among Hoosiers.

His six 100-yard games for his career are tied for fifth in team history, too.

He surpassed his previous single-gamee career-highs of nine catches and 139 yards.

All three of Sudfeld's touchdown passes were to Latimer, who was responsible for the bulk of Sudfeld's 267 passing yards.

“We kept building him up on the sideline, telling him not to get down and keep throwing it to us, throw us the ball,” Latimer told reporters, according to the Indianapolis Star. “And that’s what we did.”

Indiana improved to 4-5 but still faces an uphill climb toward a potential bowl berth, as it finishes its season at Wisconsin and at Ohio State before hosting rival Purdue. Still, Latimer's career day helped extend the Fighting Illini's Big Ten losing streak to 19 games, and it gave the Hoosiers some much-needed momentum as they head into a tough stretch to close out the month.

Player of the week: Big Ten

November, 4, 2013
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On Saturday evening, after a dominating win, Michigan State linebacker Denicos Allen had the perfect reply to Michigan's Fitzgerald Toussaint, who referenced the Spartans as "little brother" during game week.

"You can call us what you want, call us little brother, big brother," Allen told reporters. "But when it’s on the field, we show who’s the big brother and who’s the little brother.”

That's called bragging rights, and Allen helped lead the defensive onslaught during Michigan State's 29-6 win over the Wolverines. He was named the Walter Camp national defensive player of the week after registering nine tackles, including 3.5 for loss and two sacks. And he's our Big Ten player of the week.

Allen has been starting at strongside linebacker since 2011, when he recorded 18.5 tackles for loss as a sophomore. Like most of the Spartans' defense, his big-play statistics went down a bit last season as he finished with 10 stops behind the line of scrimmage.

He is back at it this year as a senior, tied for the Big Ten lead with 11 tackles for loss in nine games to go along five sacks. At only 5-foot-11 and 218 pounds, Allen may not look intimidating. But he's deadly on the blitz, and his speed helps the Spartans contain plays on the perimeter.

He was the brightest of several stars for the Michigan State defense on Saturday. And he's got bragging rights to show for it.

Player of the week: Big Ten

October, 28, 2013
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Beneath a backdrop of scarlet shirts Saturday night, Braxton Miller led the way in one of the most dominant performances in Ohio State history.

It was the first time the Buckeyes' dual-threat quarterback ran for multiple touchdowns and passed for multiple touchdowns in a game. It was the first time he threw for more than 250 yards. And it was the most points (63) surrendered by Penn State since 1899, back when Walter Camp first published his All-American football team.

[+] EnlargeBraxton Miller
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteBraxton Miller threw for three touchdowns and ran for two against Penn State.
"I just love where Braxton's at right now," Urban Meyer said. "I love the fact he's acting like a quarterback. I'm not disrespecting Braxton. You guys know I love that guy. But I felt like he was an athlete playing quarterback a year ago. Feel like he's a quarterback that's a really good athlete now."

Penn State coach Bill O'Brien offered the quarterback high praise in the days leading up to the game, calling him "one of the top five players in the country." And the Ohio native certainly seemed to live up to that billing in front of a national TV audience Saturday.

He played about two-and-a-half quarters and still came away with 252 passing yards, 68 rushing yards and five total touchdowns. He left Penn State defenders shaking their heads and Penn State fans at a loss. Overall, it was the Buckeyes' third-highest yardage total (686) in school history -- and highest in Big Ten play. It was the most yards ever surrendered by the Nittany Lions.

Miller walked into the news conference after the game with a red cap and shoulder pads, despite taking about the last hour off. There was no sweat, barely a smile, and -- just like on the field -- no hesitation.

Was that the most confident, comfortable you felt in your career?

"Yes," Miller said.

Miller led Ohio State to six touchdowns on his team's first seven drives. He avoided pressure, was sacked just once and ended up making up for it with a 22-yard pass on third-and-12. And, with 55 seconds left in the first half, he guided the Buckeyes downfield on an 84-yard touchdown drive that demoralized the Penn State defense.

Miller has played in 28 career games now, and this was his best. It was Ohio State's best-ever performance against Penn State. It was an exclamation for voters to consider bumping Ohio State up a bit on their ballots.

And that's why it's an easy decision this time: Miller is the player of the week.

Player of the week: Big Ten

October, 21, 2013
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In a game that featured more than 1,300 yards of total offense, to be talking about a single player would have to mean that he had a pretty outstanding game.

Enter Jeremy Gallon.

The senior accounted for two touchdowns and 369 receiving yards, a new Big Ten single game record, in the Wolverines’ 63-47 win over Indiana on Saturday. That major yardage came on just 14 receptions, three of which were 50 yards or more.

The 5-foot-8 receiver has become quarterback Devin Gardner’s favorite target this season and it’s no surprise why. Gallon seems to catch everything thrown in his direction. A Gallon drop (though one did happen Saturday) is about as rare as a Michigan football player calling Ohio State, Ohio State instead of “Ohio.”

His chemistry with Gardner is a big reason why he has been able to accumulate 831 yards on 45 receptions this season. And the recent emergence of Devin Funchess has certainly helped Gallon find his open lanes, but he has also created a lot of opportunities for himself.

“He’s such a great competitor -- runs good routes, finds the open spaces, [is] sure-handed,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. “Jeremy, to me, he’s a tough guy who really is a little slippery at times. … He’s a total wide receiver.”

Coaches and players have long talked about Gallon’s potential. He has had his big moments with Gardner at QB -- 184 yards and three touchdowns against Notre Dame earlier this season, 145 yards and two touchdowns against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl last season.

But did he ever think he’d rack up numbers like that?

“To be honest with you, no,” Gallon said. “But it’s nice to know. That’s what we play for as receivers. That’s what you dream of -- just going out there and giving your all for your teammates and making the best of your ability. Taking advantage of every opportunity that’s coming your way. That’s what I did tonight.”

Player of the week: Big Ten

October, 14, 2013
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Michigan State might not be at the point that it’s ready to say “Le’Veon Bell who?” but junior tailback Jeremy Langford took the Spartans one step closer Saturday in Michigan State’s 42-28 win over Indiana.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Langford
Mike Carter/USA TODAY SportsMichigan State's Jeremy Langford scored four touchdowns against Indiana.
Langford rushed the ball 23 times for 109 yards and three touchdowns. Then he added an 11-yard touchdown reception for good measure. It was the first time since 2010 that a Spartan had a four-touchdown game and it was Langford’s first 100-yard rushing game.

“We just talked about playing hard, getting the yards, breaking tackles and making someone miss,” Langford said. “That’s what we were missing; that’s what we’ve been doing in practice and that’s what we did today.”

Langford’s breakout week helped to spark fire for a growing Spartans offense. He was assisted on the carries by MSU freshmen Delton Williams (12 carries, 92 yards) and R.J. Shelton (two carries, 40 yards, one touchdown), and their production on the ground opened up the passing game for quarterback Connor Cook (22-of-31, 235 yards, two touchdowns).

While a 100-yard game for a running back isn’t necessarily uncommon, it does show a huge sign of life for a Michigan State offense that many thought wouldn’t be able to produce.

“Everybody is getting comfortable,” Langford said. “As a team, we’re getting more comfortable.”

Player of the Week: Big Ten

October, 7, 2013
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Ameer Abdullah would prefer to go unnoticed.

That's not happening now, though.

The junior I-back from Nebraska is the Five Star Player of the Week for his 225-yard rushing performance Saturday against Illinois in the Cornhuskers’ 39-19 victory.

Abdullah literally carried the load as November-like weather blew into Lincoln and slowed the passing game.

“I thought Ameer played great,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “I thought he would, and he did. The game plan and the running game was good. I thought it set up well for Ameer. On top of that, he made a lot of guys miss.”

Adbullah, who is averaging 136 rushing yards per game this season, established a single-game career-best mark, remaining on pace to exceed the 1,137 yards he gained last season.

The 5-foot-9, 180-pound back did his dirty work a year ago as a replacement for Rex Burkhead, who missed six games with injury. This fall, Abdullah is the full-time workhorse.

The role suits him well. He has topped 100 yards in four of five games, bringing his career total within 23 yards of joining 28 Huskers who have rushed for 2,000 yards. His output on Saturday marked the highest total by a Husker since Roy Helu ran for a school-record 307 yards against Missouri in 2010.

And still, Abdullah deflected praise in the aftermath, offering tributes for his offensive linemen, fullbacks and receivers. He talked for all of two minutes at the post-game press conference before disappearing into the cold afternoon -- just as he would prefer.

Player of the Week: Big Ten

September, 30, 2013
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Wisconsin wideout Jared Abbrederis is no secret.

Ohio State knew he was the Badgers' main receiving threat. Heck, he's basically their only receiving threat. So OSU lined up All-American cornerback Bradley Roby against him and hoped for the best.

[+] EnlargeJared Abbrederis
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsJared Abbrederis finds room to maneuver on Saturday against Ohio State.
What they got instead was the best performance by a Wisconsin receiver in nearly a decade.

The redshirt senior finished with 10 receptions for a career-high 207 yards and a touchdown, while the rest of his team combined for just eight catches and 88 yards. It was the first time a Wisconsin receiver wound up with 200 yards since Lee Evans had 258 against Michigan State on Nov. 15, 2003.

The Badgers didn't come away with a win. But a national television audience -- and even OSU coach Urban Meyer -- gained an appreciation of Abbrederis' talent.

"No. 4 for them, he's got my vote for All-Big Ten," Meyer said.

Abbrederis struck early and often in the Saturday night game. He made four catches for 118 yards in just the first quarter, and Roby was often forced to hold or tug on Abbrederis' jersey to slow him down. Roby was called for holding in the second half.

For as frustrating as it was for Ohio State's All-American, it might have just ended up as the career highlight for Abbrederis. The matchup made the Wisconsin receiver's performance all the more impressive.

He reeled in a few receptions that are sure to make Mel Kiper's highlight film come the NFL draft, and he seemed to catch everything thrown his way. On an underthrown ball late in the second quarter, Abbrederis slowed down to make a leaping, 33-yard grab as Roby knocked his legs out from under him. Despite the hit, the 6-foot-2 receiver held on.

And in the first quarter, on a 36-yard touchdown grab, Abbrederis made an over-the-shoulder catch and out-muscled Roby -- as the cornerback fell to the turf and the Wisconsin receiver sprinted another 10 yards into the end zone.

When you know what's coming and you still can't stop it? That obviously says something about the type of game Abbrederis had.

The Wisconsin wideout now leads the conference in receptions (33) and receiving yards (572). And he's also moving up the school-record lists. He's third in career touchdown receptions and third in career receiving yardage.

Saturday's game was the best for one of Wisconsin's best-ever wideouts. And that's why he's the Five-Star Player of the Week.

Player of the Week: Big Ten

September, 23, 2013
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Starting quarterback Philip Nelson was still out. So was starting tailback Donnell Kirkwood.

Minnesota backup quarterback Mitch Leidner certainly picked up the slack.

The redshirt freshman took on the roles of passer and runner in Jerry Kill's read-option offense and executed them to perfection against a good San Jose State squad. He threw for just 71 yards, but rumbled for a game-high 151 yards on the ground and tied the school record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with four.

[+] EnlargeLeidner
Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY SportsRedshirt freshman Mitch Leidner broke a Minnesota school record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in his first career start.
That's not a bad way to finish out a first career start.

"Mitch is a tough kid. He'll be a little sore tomorrow," Kill said Saturday. "It is good that we have the depth that we have. I appreciate the kid's efforts."

The Golden Gophers came into the contest as a slight favorite, likely because they were missing two key starters, but Leidner couldn't be stopped as he led his team to a 43-24 victory and the 4-0 start. It was the third time this season Minnesota scored at least 40 points, so the offense didn't appear to miss a beat.

Leidner made a statement on the game's second drive when he took the wheel and led the offense on a 10-play, 83-yard drive to give Minnesota the 7-0 lead. Leidner rushed four times for 58 yards just on that drive, and punched it in for another score two drives later.

The 6-foot-4 quarterback dragged defenders like a fullback at times and carried the ball 24 times in all, the most carries by a Minnesota quarterback since MarQueis Gray had 27 in 2011. Statistically, it was the Gophers' best individual rushing performance all season.

Nelson remains the starting quarterback, at least for now, but Leidner certainly has the fans talking. Kill now has two quarterbacks able to run his offense, and the Gophers showed they'll be just fine if Nelson needs some time to heal up in the future. Regardless of what's in store for Leidner down the road, it was a memorable weekend for the Lakeville, Minn., native.

Leidner earned Big Ten freshman of the week honors for his performance. Kill couldn't have asked for much more from Leidner. And that's why he's the Five-Star Player of the Week.

Player of the Week: Big Ten

September, 16, 2013
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The questions keep popping up, and Jordan Hall keeps shooting them down with emphatic answers.

Could the senior handle a full load and be an everydown back a year after being forced to redshirt due to a couple of injuries? Is he capable of finishing in the red zone? Is he even still a running back for Ohio State?

The Buckeyes handed him the football 30 times on the road against Cal, and he looked as fresh at the end of the game as he did at the start and added a few more explosive plays to a highlight reel that is well stocked through three weeks. Hall might not be the prototypical short-yardage back given his relatively small statute, but he punched in three more touchdowns in the easy win on Saturday evening. And at this point, it's pretty clear the Buckeyes are sold on Hall's ability in the backfield and can continue to feature him there as long as they'd like, though there's another question looming soon with projected starter Carlos Hyde returning from suspension.

But with Hall running as aggressively as he ever has in his career and coming off one of the best performances of his career in the 52-34 win over Cal, he hasn't given the Buckeyes much reason to shuffle their personnel in a deep, talented stable of rushers.

Another expected backup to Hyde in the preseason already returned from his own early suspension, and Rod Smith has barely been able to chip away at Hall's workload. In fact, with all those carries over the weekend and five more touches as a receiver, Hall's influence actually expanded as he accounted for 188 yards of total offense and those three scores. And now with 402 yards with two more games still to play in September, it's Hall who is ahead of the pace to finally give coach Urban Meyer the first 1,000-yard running back of his career.

Much of the attention thus far has focused on the quarterbacks, and with Braxton Miller injured with a knee sprain, Kenny Guiton deserved the limelight after breaking out with a record-setting effort leading the spread offense as a starter. But the Buckeyes proved late in the season a year ago that the attack needed more than one threat to truly become dangerous, and back then it was Hyde taking the pressure off and thriving as the top option at running back.

But the first three weeks have belonged to Hall, and after his latest eye-catching outing, there might be no need for the Buckeyes to take the ball out of his hands.

Player of the week: Big Ten

September, 9, 2013
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Already this season, we’ve seen players and coaches make the most out of their limited rosters or individual talent. We’ve seen a few unlikely performances and plays. But in week two, no one did more with what they had than Michigan wide receiver Jeremy Gallon, who is our Big Ten player of the week.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Gallon
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsJeremy Gallon had three touchdowns to equal Mario Manningham's effort against the Irish in 2006.
The 5-foot-8 Gallon tore apart Notre Dame’s defense in a 40-31 win at Michigan Stadium. Here’s a guide to what he did on Saturday night under the lights:

  • He set career bests in touchdowns (three) and yards (184). His three touchdowns bring his season total to four TD receptions in just two games, matching his entire 2012 total.

  • His three touchdown catches were the most by a Michigan player since Mario Manningham did the same against Notre Dame on Sept. 16, 2006. The then11th-ranked Wolverines won that game 47-21 over No. 2 Notre Dame.

  • Gallon's 18 points were more than 11 teams had against Notre Dame last season. Only Alabama (42) and Pittsburgh (26) scored more against the Irish in 2012.

  • Gallon was named the Big Ten’s offensive player of the week. He sits third in the Big Ten in receptions (12) and yards per game (115.5). In both categories, Penn State’s Allen Robinson and Northwestern’s Tony Jones have the advantage. However, Gallon’s average of 19.2 yards per catch is the best in the conference (for those with 10 or more receptions).

Despite his size, Gallon has shown he’s a tough cover. But what makes him even more crucial to Michigan’s success, and what the Wolverine wide receivers take great pride in, is his blocking ability. And on Saturday night after Gallon’s career day, that’s what Michigan coach Brady Hoke chose to compliment.

“I would say first off he's a very, very tough kid,” Hoke said. “As well as he catches the ball, finds those seams and creases, he blocks. When he blocks he gets on people and that’s ... you know, catching the ball is an important thing for him, probably, but he loves to block.”

Player of the Week: Big Ten

December, 3, 2012
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Melvin Gordon recorded a 57-yard touchdown reception on Wisconsin's fourth play from scrimmage Nov. 24 at Penn State. And then he disappeared. Badgers fans saw a lot more of Gordon in the Big Ten championship Saturday night against Nebraska, and it paid off in a big way. That's why Gordon, the Wisconsin freshman running back, is the Player of the Week in the Big Ten.

Nine carries, 216 yards. Nine! Let that sink in for a minute. Gordon's stat line in the Big Ten title game is one we might not see again for a while in this league. Just like the Penn State game, he scored on Wisconsin's fourth play, scooting into the end zone on a 56-yard run. His next carry went for 24 yards. After a pedestrian 12-yard run, Gordon broke free for 60 late in the first half to set up a James White touchdown pass. He added a 46-yard run in the fourth quarter.

Wisconsin had three running backs eclipse 100 rush yards -- Gordon, Montee Ball (202) and White (109) -- for the first time in team history, and had two 200-yard rushers (Gordon and Ball) for the first time as well. There are several reasons why Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema has pointed to the 2013 season as one where he might have his best team in BadgerLand. Gordon might be the biggest.

"All practice, all week," Gordon said, "I told myself, 'Go hard, go hard, go hard. Something good is going to come out of it. This is a big stage. Make something happen.'"

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