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Penn State 10: Week 13 rankings

11/25/2012
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

This is Week 13 of NittanyNation's power rankings, a top-10 list of Penn State players who surpassed expectations and proved most valuable in a given week.

After an overtime win against Wisconsin, several new players were added to the rankings. Some defensive contributors moved up slightly, 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. DT Jordan Hill

His final game might have been his best one. He put up numbers even a linebacker would envy: 12 tackles, two sacks, three tackles for loss. Hill clogged up the middle, frustrated Montee Ball in the second half and took over the game late. In the final quarter and overtime, Hill had eight stops and two tackles in the backfield. Nobody was more emotional than Hill, but no one had a game quite like him either.

2. RB Zach Zwinak

When the passing game sputtered early, Bill O'Brien turned almost exclusively to Zwinak. The reliable bruiser didn't disappoint. He was never tackled behind the line of scrimmage and set career highs in carries (36) and rushing yards (179). He didn't fumble, helped set up the passing game in the second half and really set the tone for this offense. Without him, Penn State doesn't come away with a win.

3. K Sam Ficken

Give credit where it's due. He nailed the game-winning 37-yard field goal and converted all three of his attempts on the day. If he lost the Virginia game, then he won this one. This is the highest Ficken has finished on these rankings all season -- but for good reason. Not only did he impress in the kicking game, but he even made a touchdown-saving tackle on a kickoff return. Penn State couldn't have asked for much more out of Ficken on Saturday.

4. TE Jesse James

No Kyle Carter? No problem. The 6-foot-7 freshman ran like a wideout and finished with three catches for a game-high 90 yards and a touchdown. On one of the game's key plays, on a fourth-and-6, James got a ball on a cross route and rumbled 41 yards for the TD. He also helped set up another score when he caught a 37-yard pass that led to a field goal. This was also James' best game of the season, and he even outshined Allen Robinson.

5. LB Glenn Carson

The middle linebacker led the team with 13 tackles and a pass breakup, and he helped shore up a run defense that was weaker without its star linebacker in Michael Mauti. He was a big reason Wisconsin led by just seven at halftime. On Wisconsin's first drive in the second quarter, he had four tackles -- all of which came within two yards of the line of scrimmage. Carson's performance should definitely help put fans' minds at ease about next season.

6. C Matt Stankiewitch

Zwinak had no problem rushing, and Stankiewitch was a big reason for that. Pass-protection was an issue at times for this offensive line -- but not for this fifth-year senior. Wisconsin's defensive tackles managed to combine for just four solo tackles and one tackle for loss. Between Zwinak and Mike Zordich, who carried the ball a combined 41 times, there was not one tackle in the backfield. That's a testament to Stankiewitch, who anchored the offensive line all season.

7. QB Matt McGloin

He didn't get a lot of help from his receivers, but he still rebounded from a subpar second half to help lead Penn State to a comeback win. He threw for 153 yards after halftime and again finished without any turnovers. He wasn't the MVP of this offense, but he remained the leader. He made critical passes in critical situations and added balance to the game plan.

8. DE Sean Stanley

He was relatively quiet Saturday, but he came up big when Penn State needed him most. In overtime, he sacked Curt Phillips and forced a fumble. Penn State didn't recover, but the sack pushed Wisconsin back and helped lead to that missed field goal.

9. S Jake Fagnano

He wasn't perfect Saturday, but he played well in the fourth quarter. He broke up a third-and-5 pass on one drive and grabbed an interception on another. If it wasn't for those plays, the game could've been tied well before Wisconsin's last drive. The secondary wasn't an overall strength Saturday, but Fagnano definitely deserves a spot on this list.

10. LB Mike Hull/LB Gerald Hodges

They both picked up the slack with Mauti's absence. Hodges wore No. 42 to honor his friend, and Hull -- who usually defends the pass -- filled in as the starter. It was difficult to pinpoint who played better; Hodges was asked to do more, but Hull seemed to have fewer mistakes. Regardless, the two helped stop Wisconsin's run game and combined for 12 tackles.