Big Ten: b1g best individual 14

At long last, we have reached the summit in our list of the top individual performances of the 2013 season.

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.

A drum roll, please ...

[+] EnlargeJeremy Gallon
AP Photo/Lon HorwedelJeremy Gallon had a career day against Indiana.
No. 1: Receiving records by the Gallon

Who and against whom: Michigan wide receiver Jeremy Gallon set the Big Ten single-game record for receiving yards in a 63-47 victory over Indiana on Oct. 19.

The numbers: Gallon had 14 catches for 369 yards and two touchdowns.

A closer look: Was it a big game? No. Was Indiana's defense any good? No.

Still, Gallon's performance in that wild shootout in the Big House was one for the ages. He had the second-most receiving yards in FBS history, trailing only Louisiana Tech's Troy Edwards, who had 405 yards receiving against Nebraska in 1988. Gallon shattered the previous Big Ten record of 301 yards, set by Purdue's Chris Daniels in 1999.

In fact, Gallon had the Big Ten record before the third quarter was even over, as he put up 343 yards before the fourth quarter began. His day included a 70-yard catch and a 50-yard touchdown strike from Devin Gardner, who had a monster day himself against the Hoosiers' hapless defense. Consider that both Edwards and Daniels had 21 catches each in their record-breaking days; Gallon managed all those yards on just 14 receptions, averaging 26.4 yards per catch.

His 369 yards were, at the time, more than the leading receivers at six Big Ten schools for the season. Simply put, Gallon had crazy numbers on a crazy day, and his Big Ten record should stand for a while. At least until the next great individual performance.

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

Connor Cook vs. Ohio State
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 ...

[+] EnlargeConnor Cook, Mark Dantonio
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesConnor 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
Our nostalgic trip through the top individual performances of the 2013 Big Ten season is close to wrapping up.

We're down to the last three in our list, which 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 guy turned in several possibilities for this list, but we could only pick one ...

[+] EnlargeOhio State Touchdown
Bradley Leeb/USA TODAY SportsBuckeyes tailback Carlos Hyde ran wild vs. Illinois in 2013.
No. 3: Illinois has no answer for Carlos danger

Who and against whom: Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde steamrolled the Illini defense in a 60-35 win in Champaign on Nov. 16

The numbers: Hyde carried 24 times for 246 yards and four touchdowns, while also catching a touchdown pass.

A closer look: OK, let's get this out of the way at the start. Yes, Illinois' run defense was flat-out awful last season. Still, Hyde did some incredible work in a game that was a little too close for comfort for the Buckeyes on a windy November Saturday.

Hyde's 246 yards were his career high, and that number tied Archie Griffin for the third-highest single game rushing total in Ohio State history. That's a pretty good history, in case you didn't know.

Hyde didn't start the game because of an academic issue but came in on the third play and was basically unstoppable after that. What he did at the end of the game was the most impressive.

Illinois cut the lead to 47-35 midway through the fourth quarter to make things interesting. But Hyde erased any thoughts of an upset by breaking off a 51-yard touchdown followed by a 55-yard score in the final 4:03.

Hyde had many great performances during his 1,521-yard season in 2013. But he was never more dominant than this.

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
Take a walk down memory lane with us as we relive the 2013 season by highlighting the best individual performances by Big Ten players.

We've reached the final four of our list, which 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 grew in hindsight with some rather surprising news ...

[+] EnlargeDevin Garnder
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsDevin Gardner played hurt and played well against Ohio State. He threw four touchdown passes.
No. 4: Gardner guts it out vs. Ohio State

Who and against whom: Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner put up huge numbers in a 42-41 loss to Ohio State on Nov. 30. It was later reported that Gardner broke his left foot early in the second half.

The numbers: Gardner completed 32-of-45 passes for 451 yards and four touchdowns and also ran for a score.

A closer look: The Ohio State game wasn't Gardner's biggest statistical day of the season. That came against Indiana, when he nearly broke the Big Ten total offense record with 503 passing yards and 81 rushing yards.

But playing the Hoosiers is not quite the same as playing in The Game, and Gardner turned in a valiant effort against the heavily favored Buckeyes. The 451 passing yards were the most ever by a Wolverine against Ohio State and just the second 400-yard passing day by a Michigan quarterback.

Gardner wasn't perfect. He lost a fumble in the third quarter and, of course, his two-point conversion attempt with 32 seconds left was intercepted by Tyvis Powell. That meant Gardner's offseason prediction that Michigan would beat Ohio State proved incorrect. But CBSSports.com reported that Gardner broke bones in his left foot on the second drive of the third quarter; the fact that he continued to play through it and threw three fourth-quarter touchdown passes makes this performance worthy of a noteworthy spot on our list.

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
We've been enjoying the nostalgia of the 2013 season by highlighting the best individual performances by Big Ten players, and now we've reached the top five.

Our 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.

Our next entrant saved his best for last ...

No. 5: Hack attack at Camp Randall

[+] EnlargeChristian Hackenberg
Dan Sanger/Icon SMIChristian Hackenberg finished his freshman season with a spectacular performance at Wisconsin.
Who and against whom: Penn State freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg led the way in a shocking 31-24 road upset of Wisconsin in the regular-season finale on Nov. 30.

The numbers: Hackenberg completed 21 of 30 passes for 339 yards and a career-high four touchdowns.

A closer look: Hackenberg showed off his talent throughout his freshman season, including a solid opener against Syracuse and his comeback overtime victory against Michigan. But he was never better than he was against the Badgers, who entered the game as a BCS at-large hopeful and a 24-point home favorite.

Wisconsin's defense had been one of the Big Ten's best all year and had done a great job limiting big plays. Hackenberg chewed that defense up with a 68-yard touchdown pass to Adam Breneman less than two minutes into the game. He threw for 221 yards in the first half and connected on a 59-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to Geno Lewis.

Hackenberg's 339 yards were one shy of his previous season high, and he put up by far his best passer rating of the year vs. Wisconsin while avoiding any turnovers. He cemented his Big Ten freshman-of-the-year trophy with his final 2013 performance and gave Nittany Lions fans plenty of reasons for optimism for 2014 and beyond.

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
We've been reliving some of the highlights from the 2013 season by singling out the best individual performances by Big Ten players.

Our 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 one happened early in the season but left quite an impression ...

[+] EnlargeShilique Calhoun
AP Photo/Al GoldisShilique Calhoun returned this fumble four yards for a TD and also added a pick-six against South Florida.
No. 6: Calhoun is the "Bane" of Bulls' existence

Who and against whom: Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun turned two turnovers into touchdowns in the Spartans' 21-6 win over South Florida on Sept. 7.

The numbers: Calhoun had two tackles for loss, a sack and a quarterback hurry while also returning a fumble four yards for a touchdown and bringing back an interception 56 yards for another score.

A closer look: Calhoun, who likes to take on the persona of Batman villain Bane when on the field, didn't take long in announcing himself as one of the Spartans' new defensive heroes last season.

The redshirt sophomore scooped up a fumble and returned it 16 yards for a touchdown in the season opener against Western Michigan. In Week 2, he found the end zone two more times. By doing so, he was named national defensive player of the week by the Walter Camp Foundation, the Football Writers Association and the College Football Performance Awards.

After two weeks of the season, Calhoun had scored more touchdowns than Michigan State's entire offense. And the Spartans needed their defense to carry them early in the season until they figured things out on the other side of the ball. Calhoun did not score again the rest of the season after his incredible early pace, but the Big Ten defensive lineman of the year made a resonating statement in September.

More top performances

Christian Kirksey vs. Nebraska

Jared Abbrederis vs. Ohio State

Braxton Miller vs. Penn State

Ryan Shazier vs. Indiana
We're filling our football void by reliving the 2013 season and its best individual performances.

[+] EnlargeRyan Shazier
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteNFL draft prospect Ryan Shazier has earned the reputation for being a steady playmaker.
Our list of the 10 best performances by a player 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.

We head back to the defensive side of the ball for this next entry:

No. 7: Shazier gives IU nightmares

Who and against whom: Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier was all over the field as the Buckeyes' defense shut down Indiana's high-scoring offense in a 42-14 win on Nov. 23.

The numbers: Shazier had 20 tackles, including 16 solo stops, plus five tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a sack and a pass breakup.

A closer look: Shazier won Big Ten player-of-the-week honors for his game against Illinois on Nov. 16, when he collected 16 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. A week later, he would top himself.

Let's not forget that Indiana's offense was very, very good in 2013 -- one of the best in the country, in fact. And Ohio State's defense, as we saw down the stretch, was downright shaky. But Shazier nearly single-handedly bottled up the Hoosiers with his ferocious, swarming play. He tied the school record for total tackles and tackles for loss. He became the first Buckeye to record 20 tackles since A.J. Hawk in 2004 and the first to have 16 solo tackles since Tom Cousineau in 1978.

I thought Shazier should have been the Big Ten defensive player of the year. On this November day in Columbus, at least, there was no one better.

More top performances:

Christian Kirksey vs. Nebraska

Jared Abbrederis vs. Ohio State

Braxton Miller vs. Penn State

Top individual performances of '13: No. 8

February, 13, 2014
Feb 13
1:00
PM ET
Sure, the 2013 season is but a memory now. But we can still have fun walking down memory lane. In that spirit, we're reliving some of the top individual performances by Big Ten players in the year that was.

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.

There have been lots of big-time performances by this next guy …

[+] EnlargeBraxton Miller
AP Photo/Paul VernonBraxton Miller had plenty of big games with Ohio State, but his performance against Penn State stands out.
No. 8: Miller time drowns Penn State

Who and against whom: Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller turned in a brutally efficient performance in a 63-14 laugher over Penn State on Oct. 26.

The numbers: Miller completed 18 of 24 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 68 yards and two scores.

A closer look: When you're a two-time Big Ten offensive player of the year, you're going to have a lot of highlights. We could have chosen several Miller performances for this spot, including his four-touchdown day against Wisconsin in his first game back from a knee injury or his 19-of-23, four-touchdown passing show vs. Purdue.

But this one stands out for its pure buzz-saw quality. Penn State's defense was truly awful that night in Columbus, but the Buckeyes quarterback had a lot to do with it. Consider that Miller reached his career high in passing yards and was on the bench before the third quarter ended. He threw only three six passes in the second half, in fact, and got all of his rushing yards in the first two quarters. Imagine the numbers Miller would have put up if Urban Meyer really wanted to keep his foot on the gas, or if the Nittany Lions' offense had made this a real shootout.

Miller has had many outstanding performances during his three years at Ohio State. This might have been his best overall game.

More top performances:

Christian Kirksey vs. Nebraska

Jared Abbrederis vs. Ohio State
We miss football already. So let's get a little nostalgic. We're counting down the top 10 individual performances of 2013 season.

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.

Up next is a big-time performance in a losing cause ...

No. 9: Abby burns Roby

[+] EnlargeJared Abbrederis
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsOhio State struggled to stay with Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis, who finished with 10 catches for 204 yards and a TD.
Who and against whom: Wisconsin senior wide receiver Jared Abbrederis put on a show against Ohio State All-America cornerback Bradley Roby, though it wasn't enough as the Badgers lost 31-24 in Columbus.

The numbers: Abbrederis had 10 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown, including a 64-yard grab.

A closer look: Ohio State figured it could load up to stop the Wisconsin running game and use Roby in single coverage against the Badgers' lone deep receiving threat. The Buckeyes were half right. Wisconsin rushed for a season-low 104 yards as a team and had to go to the air at the Horseshoe, but Abbrederis showed a national TV audience just how good he is by continually beating Roby and getting open.

For a long while, Abbrederis was the Badgers offense. But he couldn't do it all, and the Buckeyes managed to slow him down when it counted to hold on for the key Leaders Division victory. Still, Abbrederis made many fans that night, including Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.

"He’s got my vote for All-Big Ten,” Meyer said after the game. “He did an incredible job.”

More top performances:

Christian Kirksey vs. Nebraska
We recently took a look at the top 10 games from the Big Ten in the 2013 season, and now it's time to review the top individual performances of the season that was.

This was a much tougher assignment than anticipated. My original list swelled to about 20 contenders, and it was difficult to pare down. Some players turned in more than one outstanding performance, but for variety's sake, we are limiting each player to just one entry here. We're also taking into account the difficulty of opponent and stakes of the game. But mostly, we're rewarding the most record-breaking, honor-winning, jaw-dropping individual showings from 2013 in the Big Ten.

Let's get started ...

[+] EnlargeRon Kellog
AP Photo/Nati HarnikIowa linebacker Christian Kirksey made life difficult all game long for Nebraska in the Big Ten finale, including this sack of Ron Kellogg III.
No. 10: Christian's lionhearted Big Ten finale

Who and against whom: Iowa senior linebacker Christian Kirksey led the defensive stampede as the Hawkeyes beat Nebraska 38-17 in Lincoln on Black Friday.

The numbers: Kirskey had 11 tackles, including three for loss, plus a sack and a forced fumble.

A closer look: The Heroes Game hadn't really developed into a rivalry after Nebraska won the first two installments, but Iowa's dominating performance at Memorial Stadium might have just upped the ante. The Hawkeyes were led all season by their standout trio of senior linebackers, but Kirksey received a little bit less attention than the senatorial James Morris or tackling machine Anthony Hitchens.

Against the Huskers, Kirksey was everywhere on the field, helping Iowa force three turnovers and hold Nebraska to just 89 rushing yards. His biggest moment came in the third quarter, with Iowa holding on to a seven-point lead and the Huskers faking a punt from their own 32-yard line. If you've followed Hawkeyes football even casually in recent years, you know fake punts have often led to disaster for Kirk Ferentz's team. But not this time, as Kirksey sniffed it out and shed a block to tackle Sam Foltz for an 8-yard loss. The Hawkeyes scored on the following play.

Morris and Hitchens had great games as well, but Kirksey won Walter Camp national defensive player of the week honors for his role in the victory. Given that it came in a rivalry game on enemy soil and helped Iowa get to eight wins and an Outback Bowl berth, Kirksey's performance deserves inclusion in the top 10.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

BIG TEN SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12