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Penn State 10: Week 5 power rankings

9/30/2012
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Welcome to Week 5 of NittanyNation's power rankings, a top-10 list of Penn State players who are surpassing expectations, and who to keep an eye on.

After its best week yet, Penn State seems poised to make an impact on the Leaders Division. Some new players stepped up, some leaders played solidly and a few made big leaps on the list.

Whose performance left the biggest impression, and whose contributions were the most surprising? This week's top 10:

1. LB Michael Mauti

He might have cemented his status as Big Ten player of the week by halftime. The senior ballhawk sprinted sideline-to-sideline and finished with two interceptions, one forced fumble and half a sack. He came up with plays at critical times, such as assisting with a stop on a 4th-and-1 quarterback sneak, and he showed -- yet again -- that he was the best player on the field. Actually, according to the Walter Camp Football Foundation, he was the best defensive player in the nation Saturday.

2. C Matt Stankiewitch

The offensive line played strong as a whole, but Stankiewitch was especially impressive against defensive tackle Akeem Spence. The Illinois lineman made just one tackle in the backfield -- and that was just for a one-yard loss. Penn State routinely ran up the middle and racked up 173 rushing yards Saturday. Stankiewitch was a big reason why.

3. TE Matt Lehman

This was easily the best game of his career. Allen Robinson was relatively quiet Saturday, and Lehman stepped up to lead the team with five catches for 70 yards and a touchdown. He flashed his toughness by popping right up after a fierce helmet-to-helmet hit on his touchdown grab.

4. RB Zach Zwinak

Formerly a third-string fullback, Zwinak outshined Penn State's top tailback Saturday by rushing for 100 yards on 19 carries. He finished with two touchdowns and always seemed to rumble for an extra 2-3 yards after contact. He was tough to bring down and helped set the tone early for PSU's offense.

5. LB Glenn Carson

He led Penn State with nine tackles and complemented a strong performance by the linebackers Saturday. He had one tackle-for-loss and also broke up a pass. He looked quick against Illinois and was never too far behind Illinois' ball-carriers.

6. OG Miles Dieffenbach/OG John Urschel

It's difficult to pick which offensive guard played better than the other, so we're taking them as a package deal this week. Dieffenbach and Urschel controlled the middle most of the time and helped establish the PSU's best run game of the season. They had a lot of success against a strong Illinois defensive line.

7. QB Matt McGloin

The fifth-year senior had to spread the ball around this week because of the coverage on Robinson, and he fared pretty well. He finished 18-of-30 for 211 yards and a touchdown -- and also rushed for another pair of scores. He didn't turn the ball over, and his five targets all had between three and five catches. He didn't go long too often, but he was consistent.

8. LB Michael Yancich

Usually just a special teams player, Yancich made the most out of his limited time on the field by amassing seven tackles. All of which came in the fourth quarter. The game wasn't in doubt at that point, but Yancich really provided a spark coming off the bench.

9. DE Sean Stanley

He missed last week with an injury but came back strong against Illinois. He had a team-leading 1.5 tackles-for-loss and contributed to half a sack. He helped keep the Illini's rushing game in check during the first half and helped make sure Nathan Scheelhaase never felt comfortable in the pocket.

10. P Alex Butterworth

The inconsistent junior finally put it all together Saturday and punted three times for an average of 43.3 yards. He usually struggles to punt one ball longer than 38 yards, so his performance was a nice surprise for Penn State's special teams.