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Monday, February 24, 2014
Top individual performances of '13: No. 2

By Brian Bennett

Our trip down memory lane to revisit the top individual performances of the 2013 season is down to its final two.

The list takes into account the difficulty of opponent and stakes of the game and tries to identify record-breaking, honor-winning, jaw-dropping games from league players. Players are limited to one entry on this list, for variety's sake.

This next performance was good enough to earn a championship ...

Connor Cook, Mark Dantonio
Connor Cook hoisted the MVP trophy after a career performance in the Big Ten title game.
No. 2: Cook carves up Buckeyes

Who and against whom: Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook earned MVP honors at the Big Ten championship game by leading the Spartans to a 34-24 victory over Ohio State.

The numbers: Cook finished 24-of-40 for 304 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception.

A closer look: A casual fan just tuning into the Big Ten title game would never have guessed that Michigan State had a major quarterback controversy going on early in the season.

In the biggest game of the year to that point, Cook was calm and collected under pressure. He exploited Ohio State's shaky pass defense for a pair of second-quarter touchdowns that gave the Spartans a 17-0 lead. When the Buckeyes roared back to take the lead in the second half, he brought his team back and tossed the go-ahead touchdown on a beautiful play to tight end Josiah Price.

When it was over, Cook had turned in the first 300-yard passing day of his career and hoisted the MVP trophy, something hardly anyone could have predicted in September. The sophomore's uncanny self-confidence allowed him to play his best in the biggest moments, as he followed up the Big Ten title win with another 300-yard day at the Rose Bowl (which could have made this list as well, though Cook did throw a pick-six and narrowly avoided some other turnovers in Pasadena).

The rest of the country got to know Cook on the first Saturday of December, and he has a chance to put up some more great performances in the years to come.

More top performances

Christian Kirksey vs. Nebraska

Jared Abbrederis vs. Ohio State

Braxton Miller vs. Penn State

Ryan Shazier vs. Indiana

Shilique Calhoun vs. South Florida

Christian Hackenberg vs. Wisconsin

Devin Gardner vs. Ohio State

Carlos Hyde vs. Illinois