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
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.
Most important player tonight for #MSU: Denicos Allen. Emotion. Talent. Desire. Drive. Motivation. It's all there. Has to make a difference— Tom Leyden (@TomLeyden) December 7, 2013
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
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.
MSU sophomore Shilique Calhoun is one of 6 finalists for the Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award. Only Big Ten player on the list.— Chris Solari (@chrissolari) December 5, 2013
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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