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Top 5 Big Ten Running Backs For 2013

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Top 5 Big Ten Running Backs For 2013

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The 2012 Big Ten football season was a very different year in terms of normal Big Ten football when it came to running the football. Out of the top five rushers in the entire conference, two were quarterbacks in Braxton Miller of the Ohio State Buckeyes and Denard Robinson of the Michigan Wolverines.

As for actual running backs, the two leading rushers, Montee Ball and Le’Veon Bell, have both moved on from college football to the NFL after stellar Big Ten careers putting up big numbers for both of their schools.

The Big Ten has always been known for having bruising running backs amassing many carries and being big and physical, but times are changing around the conference as more spread offenses develop. Backs like Venric Mark and Ameer Abdullah, the two leading rushers returning to the conference this season, are both quick, speedy backs who play in a spread out offensive system.

Although they are the speedsters of the conference, that doesn’t mean the tradition of between the tackle running backs are gone. James White of the Wisconsin Badgers is a tough runner and has put up solid numbers as a backup during his time in Madison. Carlos Hyde of Ohio State is another big, punishing running back who fights for every yard he gets and is a mean runner.

Other backs around the conference that will put up big numbers come 2013 are guys like Donnell Kirkwood of Minnesota, Mark Weisman of Iowa and Thomas Rawls of Michigan. Each one of these running backs are potential breakout stars in the conference.

Here are the top 5 running backs heading into the 2013 season for the Big Ten.

Erik Sargent is a college football writer for Follow him on Twitter @Erik_Sargent, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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5. Zach Zwinak, Penn State Nittany Lions

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Of all the problems surrounding the Penn State Nittany Lions football program in 2012, Zach Zwinak was not one of them. He provided a solid rushing attack for a Penn State offense that lacked true star power. He ran for exactly 1,000 yards last season to go along with eight touchdowns and had over 100 yards rushing in six games throughout the year. Zwinak is an old-school runner and is a lot of fun to watch. He is also a good back in passing situations, possessing good hands and is a solid pass blocker. With Penn State looking to break in a new quarterback, look for Zwinak to take some pressure off of whoever the quarterback is.

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4. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State Buckeyes

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Carlos Hyde has the potential to be one of the best running backs in the Big Ten this season. Playing in the high powered Urban Meyer spread offense, there will be lots of room for him to gain big yards, especially with defenses being forced to focus on quarterback Braxton Miller. Hyde is one of the toughest runners in the conference, and he has great speed to back it up. He is almost a lock to score if the Buckeyes get in the red zone, and Hyde should be well over 1,000 yards rushing this season if he stays healthy.

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3. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska Cornhuskers

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Ameer Abdullah quietly put up 1,137 yards rushing and eight rushing touchdowns last season while filling in for the injured Rex Burkhead all year. While most of the attention was put on Burkhead’s injury and the play of quarterback Taylor Martinez, Abdullah was tearing up defenses with his great speed. He had six games of over 100 yards rushing and finished sixth in the conference in rushing. With a lot of attention focused towards Martinez and Burkhead graduated, look for Abdullah to have another solid season.

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2. James White, Wisconsin Badgers

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Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

After being the backup in high school to now NFL running back Gio Bernard and then coming to Wisconsin and being the backup for John Clay and Montee Ball, it is finally time for James White to be the number one guy. White has run for over 2,500 yards in his career and has never been the starter, which is astonishing. He is a between the tackles runner and is a perfect fit as a Wisconsin running back, although it will be interesting to see if new head coach Gary Anderson changes the offense at all. Look for White to be among the top running backs at the end of the season.

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1. Venric Mark, Northwestern Wildcats

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Venric Mark was one of the most electrifying players in the entire Big Ten conference last season, running for 1,371 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. He also had 104 receiving yards and a touchdown out of the backfield. Mark is one of the fastest players in the entire conference and is able to find major seams in the Northwestern spread offense. He can outrun anyone on the field and is a threat to score the ball every time he touches it. He is also a serious return game threat, returning two punts for touchdowns last season.