Big Ten postseason player rankings: No. 23

Fear not, the player rankings pick right back up today and will continue on each weekday until we reach No. 1. As a reminder, these rankings are based solely on performance from the 2013 season.

Up next is one of the bigger surprises in the Big Ten this past season.

No. 23: Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State

Previous ranking: Not ranked

Making the case for Langford: No one had Langford on any preseason list, and that wasn't a surprise back in August. Michigan State was expected to use a running-back-by-committee approach without LeVeon Bell, and Langford was the player whom the Spartans shifted from tailback to corner to receiver -- and then back to tailback.

In other words, Langford wasn't exactly primed for a breakout season. But it didn't take long for the former special teams contributor to become the centerpiece of the Spartans' offense.

He rushed for 94 yards in the opener against Western Michigan and, over the next four weeks, split carries with Nick Hill and Riley Bullough. He didn't finish with more than 20 carries in any of those contests. But he took off in Week 7 against Indiana -- and never looked back.

From there on out, he surpassed 100 yards in eight straight games, scored 15 touchdowns in his last nine games and averaged a hard-earned 4.9 yards a carry. Heading into the Rose Bowl, Langford had gained 54 percent (725 of 1,338) of his yards after contact -- the second-most yards, percentage-wise, in the BCS.

He was a closer of sorts for the Spartans, who watched him pound opposing defenses in the fourth quarter. In four of Michigan State's final five Big Ten contests, Langford wound up with a long fourth-quarter score that helped put the games away. (Michigan -- 40-yard TD; Nebraska -- 37-yard TD; Northwestern -- 37-yard TD; Ohio State -- 26-yard TD.)

His final numbers aren't as big as some others -- 1,422 rushing yards, 18 rush TDs; 28 catches, 157 yards, 1 TD -- but those stats aren't too shabby considering Langford wasn't used as the workhorse until mid-October. Michigan State likely never would've won a Rose Bowl without him.

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