The Big Ten Conference has slowly began a transition from traditional football to the more progressive offensive style game that college football fans see today. The spread offense has found a way to slither into the big ten. When sweatshirts and ball caps are boxed up and put in the attic to make way for coveralls and parkas across the Midwest a transition in the style of football being played is often necessary. Hands get colder and footballs are harder to grip making them harder to throw and catch. When these natural occurrences happen Coaches in the Big Ten often look to one man to carry their offenses, their running back.
It would be unfair to claim that the Big Ten is the standard for running backs in all of college football as so many other conferences have produced college and professional talent at the position. That said, the Big Ten put their top two running backs from a season ago into the NFL and both Le’Veon Bell from Michigan State (now with the Pittsburg Steelers) and Montee Ball from the Wisconsin Badgers (now with the Denver Broncos) are key contributors to their football teams. Ameer Abdullah from the Nebraska Cornhuskers is now a first team all-Big Ten selection at his position in this his junior season. And Venric Mark from the Northwestern Wildcats had an unfortunate season-ending injury.
This year the honor of the top running back in the Big Ten Conference was awarded to Carlos Hyde of the Ohio State Buckeyes. This season the senior was forced to miss the first three competitions of the season as head coach Urban Meyer sat his running back for disciplinary reasons. Since his return, Hyde has done nothing short of dominate opponents. He is averaging over seven yards a carry this season and has rushed for over twelve hundred yards in spite of the early season suspension. Hyde has also nearly doubled his receiving statistics from a year ago in a year when the Buckeyes have rarely needed to rely on their passing attack because of Hyde and quarterback Braxton Miller’s ability to gain yards on the ground.
Hyde is definitely deserving of the award this season but there are rarely awards given in college football that are without discussion. While Hyde had Millers support this season. Nebraska’s running back Ameer Abdullah was without his quarterback Taylor Martinez this season. Martinez won the first team All-Big Ten quarterback over Miller last season. Had Martinez been available in 2013 Abdullah may have found his yards easier to come by.
Also deserving of consideration for the award was Melvin Gordon from the Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers seem to always have an athlete in discussion for this award. At the beginning of this season many thought the top rusher for the Badgers would likely be senior James White but Gordon proved to be a very electrifying rusher for Coach Gary Anderson and the Badgers. Also Iowa Hawkeyes running back Mark Weisman was an early season favorite for the award but the Junior fell off pace in the middle of the season. Weisman will definitely be a back to watch next season as this will undoubtedly be another tight competition for the Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year Award.