Ranking the Best Running Backs in the Big Ten Week 6

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Big Ten: Running Back Power Rankings Week Six

badgers
Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

The Big Ten has featured some solid games at the running back position this season and with the talent and names that the conference has, that should come as no surprise.

Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell has had an up-and-down season while Iowa’s Mark Weisman has burst onto the season with the injury to their starter, Damon Bullock.

Everyone is still waiting for some running backs to show up to the party—players such as Michigan’s Fitzgerald Toussaint and Wisconsin’s Montee Ball.

Take a look at who’s on top of my weekly power rankings.

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12. Josh Ferguson, Illinois

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Bradley Leeb-US PRESSWIRE

Ferguson is the youngest running back in the conference and has some of the most potential at this position. The redshirt freshman had a poor week five performance against Penn State in a loss. With quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase coming back, he saw his production drastically decrease, carrying the ball just five times for a baffling four yards. The freshman will have to wait another week to get his first career touchdown.

Season: 37 rushes, 170 yards, 0 TD

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11. Zach Zwinak, Penn State

penn state
Bradley Leeb-US PRESSWIRE

Zach Zwinak has emerged as the number one running back for the Nittany Lions and had the best game of his young career in week five. The Nittany Lions beat Illinois 35-7 and was a big part of the scoring game. The sophomore had 19 rushes for 100 yards and two touchdowns in the win and proved he is the most reliable back so far for a team that is one of the lowest ranked rushing attacks in the FBS. This was Zwinak’s second game in a row rushing for over 90 yards and he seems to be the clear starter now.

Season: 40 rushes, 196 yards, 2 TD

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10. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State

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Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE

Carlos Hyde is finally back for the Buckeyes and he has taken over the carry load from senior running back Jordan Hall last week against Michigan State. Although Braxton Miller is the primary rusher for the team, Hyde will be a nice back-up plan when Miller gets tired of scrambling, or hurt after taking a big hit. Hyde had 11 carries in first game back since week two for just 49 yards and no scores. He will need to produce more if Ohio State is going to hold off Nebraska this week.

Season: 35 rushes, 158 yards, 2 TD

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9. Fitzgerald Toussiant, Michigan

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Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Fitzgerald Toussaint has had a nightmare season in 2012 and Michigan is hoping he comes out of his slump- and fast. Michigan’s offense has struggled mightily in the past couple games, besides the game against lowly UMass, and Toussaint is a big reason why. The junior running back has yet to accumulate 100 yards in his three games this season and last week’s bye week could help his mentality for the rest of the season. Denard Robinson can’t do it all for this team and Toussaint needs help take some pressure off of him.

Season: 26 rushes, 150 yards, 1 TD

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8. Donnell Kirkwood, Minnesota

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Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

Kirkwood is on a Minnesota team that is now looked at as a fluke. They started the season 4-0 and looked to be one of the teams that would shock the Big Ten this season. They then lost to a less-than-confident Iowa team 31-13 last week and had everyone claiming that they were the same old Minnesota team. Kirkwood is a solid running back for a team that used to have their quarterback, MarQueis Gray, carry the load on the ground for the Gophers. Then, Gray got injured and Kirkwood had to step up. It isn’t a success thus far, judging by his last few performances, including last week in which he had 12 carries for a season-low 33 yards. He will most likely take a back seat to Gray once he comes back.

Season: 94 rushes, 394 yards, 3 TD

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7. Akeem Shavers, Purdue

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Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

Purdue was the only conference team last week that didn’t play another Big Ten team. Akeem Shavers is the go-to guy for the Boilermakers and the offense has not missed a beat since the loss of quarterback Robert Marve. Although Marve may be back this season, Purdue still looks to Shavers to be the guy to rely on to get the tough yards. Shavers carried the ball a solid 25 times last week against Marshall for just 73 yards, but he added a touchdown, his third of the season.

Season: 58 rushes, 240 yards, 3 TD

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6. Stephen Houston, Indiana

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Michael Hickey-US PRESSWIRE

Stephen Houston has been Indiana’s starting running back for three weeks now and he has proved he is there to stay. The Hoosiers are still trying to deal with the loss of quarterback Tre Roberson and Houston is trying to help them get over it. Houston has averaged over six yards per carry this season and has been a pleasant surprise for Indiana. He had 91 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries last season.

Season: 42 rushes, 255 yards, 4 TD

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5. Montee Ball, Wisconsin

badgers
Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Ball has yet to prove that last season’s performance isn’t just a thing of the past. The senior running back and Heisman finalist from a season ago is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry this season and looks like he is turning into a grind-it-out back instead of the shifty, quick back from a year ago. Another area he has struggled in has been receiving. He has not had a catch since week two and this is alarming for a player who should be the go-to guy on every play. Lucky for him, the Badgers play a struggling Illinois team this weekend and will most likely have the best game he has had all season and silence his critics.

Season: 125 rushes, 450 yards, 6 TD

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4. Venric Mark, Northwestern

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Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE

Venric Mark is playing on the most surprising team in the conference and he is one of three stars on the team. The junior has the second-most rushing yards of any running back in the Big Ten and has proved that his success isn’t a fluke, producing game after game. Last week, the Wildcat’s running back had 29 rushes for 139 yards and a touchdown. These numbers are pretty impressive, but they are not as good as the quarterback Kain Colter’s performance. Colter, a quarterback-running back-reciever combo, had 161 yards rushing last week and proved to be the most dynamic player in the country.

Season: 101 rushes, 538 yards, 5 TD

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3. Mark Weisman, Iowa

iowa
Reese Strickland-US PRESSWIRE

Where did this guy come from? Weisman started the season as the team’s fullback and no one imagined the season would play out this way. The starting running back, Damon Bullock, suffered an injury three weeks ago and Weisman has been the go-to guy ever since. The fullback racked up an astounding 177 yards with a touchdown on 21 carries against Minnesota last week. He is on the fast track to stardom in the conference and a couple more weeks like this and he could find himself at the top.

Season: 74 rushes, 515 yards, 7 TD

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2. Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State

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Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE

Le’Veon had one of his worst games as a starting running back for the Spartans last week against Ohio State. The Buckeyes stuffed Bell and forced him to run up the middle a majority of the time and he couldn’t seem to find an open hole all game. He was held to just 17 rush attempts and 45 yards, both season lows for the junior. On the other hand, he had his best game of the season receiving the ball, pulling in eight catches for a season-high 58 yards. He is still a top-three back in the conference and will most likely pull it together this weekend against Indiana.

Season: 134 rushes, 655 yards, 5 TD

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1. Rex Burkhead, Nebraska

cornhuskers
Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

Nebraska has features a dynamic duo at the running back position so far in 2012. Rex Burkhead injured his MCL in the first game of the season after just three carries and Nebraska fans everywhere were thinking the worst. Sophomore Ameer Abdullah stepped up for the Cornhuskers and showed that life after Burkhead will be just fine. Burkhead returned to play two weeks ago and has given Nebraska the second part possibly the best one-two combination at running back in the country. They combined for 28 rushes and 156 yards last week in a win against the Badgers.

Season: Burkhead- 29 rushes, 273 yards, 3 TD

Season: Abdullah- 79 rushes, 486 yards, 5 TD

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