|John Simon tied a Buckeye-record with four sacks in his final game for Ohio State. (US Presswire)|
1. DE John Simon led the Buckeye defense with four sacks as Ohio State defeated Wisconsin 24-21 on Nov. 17
Simon, a DE who was voted by coaches as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, was a terror to the Badgers' offensive line that Saturday in Madison. He thrived in the physical nature of the ever-growing rivalry, and his four sacks tied an Ohio State program record. Simon injured his knee in the performance and had to sit out the Buckeyes' last game against Michigan. The Buckeye captain has meant so much to the defense -- ranked 14th against the run -- that coach Urban Meyer even joked about naming his next son after Simon.
2. Penn State LB Michael Mauti caused three turnovers in the Big Ten season-opener against Illinois on Sept. 29
Mauti released a ton of pent-up offseason frustration on the Fighting Illini in this early season matchup. He forced a fumble on special teams on Illinois' opening series and then had two interceptions later in the game to help solidify the victory and kick-start Penn State's conference season. Facing a fourth-and-goal from the 7-yard line late in the first half, Mauti intercepted a pass and returned it 99 yards before being dragged down on the 1-yard line. It was Mauti's signature play of the season.
3. LB Ryan Shazier led the Buckeyes in tackles and returned a pick-6 in Ohio State's victory over Penn State on Oct. 27
The sophomore LB played arguably his best game of the season against the Nittany Lions with division title implications hanging in the balance. Not to mention it was in front of a whiteout crowd at Beaver Stadium at night. Shazier (115 tackles on the season) broke a 7-7 tie when he swooped in front of Matt McGloin's pass early in the third quarter and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown. He also had two sacks and a forced fumble to go along with a team-high eight tackles. The win snapped Penn State's five-game winning streak and propelled the Buckeyes to the Leaders Division title.
Carter helped limit the Boilermakers to just 198 passing yards in the 44-28 win and tied a program-record with six pass breakups. Purdue's Caleb TerBush was one of three quarterbacks used in the game, and he completed just 5 of 18 passes, including the 43-yard pick-6 to Carter to give the Gophers a 41-7 lead. Carter, along with sophomore DB Derrick Wells, allowed just 178 passing yards per game as part of the 11th-ranked pass defense in the country.
5. Purdue DT Kawann Short had a huge all-around performance in a win over Marshall on Sept. 29
If you saw what Short did against Marshall in Purdue's final non-conference matchup, it's easy to see the NFL potential in the 6-3 senior. Short had three tackles for loss -- one of which was a sack -- and forced a fumble and also blocked a 34-yard field goal in the Boilermakers' 51-41 win. Short finished the regular season among the Big Ten leaders in tackles for loss (13) and sacks (5), and he had four blocked field goals throughout the year. In total, he blocked six field goals in his career, a new Purdue record.
Michigan State's defense held Wisconsin to 19 total rushing yards in its 16-13 win in Madison on Oct. 27
The Spartans, which boast the 10th-lowest scoring defense in the country, limited Wisconsin to just 190 total yards and held Big Ten touchdown leader Montee Ball to just 2.1 yards per carry. The Badgers managed just 10 first downs, in part due to LB Max Bullough, who finished with nine tackles and two sacks.
Ohio State's defense limited Spartans RB Le'Veon Bell to just 46 yards rushing in the 17-16 win on Sept. 29
Urban Meyer cited this game as a turning point for Ohio State's season as the Buckeye defense held Bell to just 2.6 yards per carry. Ohio State allowed just 4 of 15 third-down conversions to the Spartans in its first road victory of the season.
Wisconsin's defense bottled up Braxton Miller for 145 total yards in a loss to Ohio State on Nov. 17
The Badgers' game-plan was to make Miller a non-factor and they executed it to perfection. Miller set season-lows of 97 yards passing and 2.1 yards per rushing attempt but in focusing on Miller, Wisconsin allowed Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde to rush for 87 yards and two crucial touchdowns.
For more Big Ten coverage, follow Mike Singer and Dave Carey @CBSSportsBigTen