Ohio State vs. Michigan State: Under-the-Radar Impact Players to Watch

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent IDecember 7, 2013

EAST LANSING, MI - NOVEMBER 30:  Shilique Calhoun #89 of the Michigan State Spartans looks on prior to the start of the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Spartan Stadium on November 30, 2013 in East Lansing, Michigan. The Spartans defeated the Golden Gophers 14-3.  (Photo by Mark A. Cunningham/Getty Images)
Mark A. Cunningham/Getty Images

No. 2 Ohio State and No. 10 Michigan State are set to square off in Indianapolis this weekend in a pivotal Big Ten title clash that will determine whether the Buckeyes advance to the BCS National Championship Game next month.

While star performers like Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde and Jeremy Langford headline Saturday's high-stakes showdown, there are plenty of lesser-known talents ready to deliver game-changing efforts of their own.

Below we'll examine a trio of impact players going undetected across the nation ahead of Saturday night's Big Ten Championship.


Denicos Allen, LB, Michigan State

Nov 2, 2013; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans linebacker Denicos Allen (28) reacts to a play during the 2nd half of a game against the Michigan Wolverines at Spartan Stadium. MSU won 29-6. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Spartans defensive stud Denicos Allen hasn't been receiving much love until now. Like Michigan State, the senior linebacker has been flying under the radar for the better part of 2013.

But if there's a player sure to shine on the defensive side of the ball on Saturday night, it's the 5'11", 218-pound linebacker, who leads the Spartans with 83 total tackles and 15 tackles for a loss this season.

Although he's a bit undersized, Allen is one of the best linebackers in the country when it comes to stuffing ball-carriers in the backfield. He's also got 5.5 sacks this season. 

Watch Allen closely on Saturday as he gets set to take on Ohio State blindside protector Jack Mewhort.


Jeff Heuerman, TE, Ohio State

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - NOVEMBER 2: Jeff Heuerman #86 of the Ohio State Buckeyes makes a 34-yard reception to set up a touchdown in the first half of the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium on November 2, 2013 in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Although Ohio State's potent offensive attack is powered by Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde, tight end Jeff Heuerman has emerged as one of the Buckeyes most dangerous weapons this season.

At 6'6", 250 pounds, the junior pass-catcher is a can't-miss target for Miller downfield, reeling in 24 passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns in 2013. However, two of Heuerman's touchdown receptions have come over Ohio State's past four games, including a 22-yard touchdown catch in last week's dramatic win over Michigan. 

What's more, Heuerman is a big-play threat for Ohio State, averaging 15.5 yards per catch. Only the Buckeyes' leading receiver Devin Smith boasts a higher mark. 


Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State

Another immensely talented Spartans defender you'll want to watch for on Saturday is sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun. 

The 6'4", 250-pound edge-rusher is powerful at the point of attack, and his numbers this season back it up. Calhoun leads Michigan State's defense with seven sacks and has been the anchor for the Spartans' No. 1-ranked run-stopping unit.

Calhoun's athleticism has been on display all year long as well. He's returned two fumbles for touchdowns this season and even recorded a pick-six against South Florida back in September.

Even if he's unable to get to Miller in the pocket, look for Calhoun to hold up in run defense on Saturday night.


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