Michigan Football: Power Ranking the Top 5 RBs the Wolverines Will Face in 2012

Zach DirlamSenior Analyst IIAugust 26, 2012

Michigan Football: Power Ranking the Top 5 RBs the Wolverines Will Face in 2012

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    The Michigan Wolverines used to be recognized for their physical running game and pro-style offense geared around their talented running backs.

    This season, the Wolverines will have to face several of the nation's best running backs with national powers like Alabama, Ohio State and Michigan State on the schedule for 2012.

    One piece of good news for Michigan heading into the upcoming season is that it will not have to face the best running back in the Big Ten, Wisconsin's Montee Ball, who was a Heisman Trophy finalist last year.

    Michigan's front four on defense has been a position of concern throughout fall camp after losing three starters from their 2011 squad that went 11-2 and defeated Virginia Tech in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, which could definitely help the five running backs in this slideshow rack up some big numbers on the ground against the Wolverines.

No. 5: Carlos Hyde, Ohio State Buckeyes

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    The only reason Carlos Hyde comes in at No. 5 on this list is because he is the most unproven out of all but one of the other running backs that will be ranked.

    Hyde rushed for 566 yards and six touchdowns on 106 carries last season and started the Buckeyes opening three games in 2011 in place of suspended running back Dan "Boom" Herron. The junior tailback also managed to rack up over 100 yards rushing against the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Indiana Hoosiers in weeks six and 10 respectively.

    Ohio State will give Hyde plenty of carries early in the season with Jordan Hall slated to be out until at least week three in order to complete his recovery from a foot injury he suffered during the offseason.

    Although Hyde struggled in the Ohio State's final four games a year ago and only managed to gain 53 yards on 13 carries, look for the Florida native to put up solid numbers in Urban Meyer's first season as head coach of the Buckeyes.  

No. 4: Cierre Wood, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Former Notre Dame All-American wide receiver Michael Floyd was not the only offensive playmaker putting up big numbers for the Fighting Irish in 2011.

    Rising senior running back Cierre Wood carried the ball 217 times for 1,102 yards and nine touchdowns last season. In addition, Wood was a legitimate threat in Notre Dame's passing game as well. The Oxnard, Calif., native hauled in 189 receiving yards out of the backfield a year ago.

    Michigan fans should remember Wood, who gashed Michigan's defense for 134 yards and a touchdown in their week two meeting at the Big House last season, and know better than anyone how dangerous the 6'1", 215-pounder can be when the Notre Dame offensive line is opening up holes.

No. 3: Eddie Lacy, Alabama Crimson Tide

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    The Alabama Crimson Tide's last two starting running backs were Heisman Trophy finalists over the past three seasons. Mark Ingram won the coveted award in 2009 en route to Alabama's national title run, and Trent Richardson followed in the footsteps of his older counterpart with an invite to the ceremony but finished third in Heisman voting. Like Ingram, he hoisted the BCS National Championship trophy when the Tide won last year.

    Eddie Lacy is the next man up for the Crimson Tide, and the Louisiana native will look to continue the trend of chasing the Heisman Trophy and hopefully bringing another to Tuscaloosa, Ala.

    Lacy ran for 674 yards and seven touchdowns on only 95 carries in 2011 despite playing second fiddle to Richarson. The junior running back had standout performances against Penn State, North Texas and Mississippi State a year ago. Lacy rushed for a career high 161 yards and two touchdowns against North Texas.

    Additionally, Lacy will be running behind one of the nation's best offensive lines in 2012, two of Alabama's five starting linemen were named First-Team Preseason All-Americans by SI.com, which should allow the 6'1", 220-pounder to thrive for the Crimson Tide this season.

    Michigan will be tasked with trying to slow down Lacy on Sept. 1 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Tex.

No. 2: Rex Burkhead, Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    In order for the University of Nebraska to contend for a Big Ten Championship in 2012, it will need senior running back Rex Burkhead to be outstanding in every single game the Cornhuskers play.

    Burkhead rushed for 1,357 yards and 15 touchdowns on 284 carries a year ago. The rising senior running back also served as Taylor Martinez's safety net and managed to haul in 21 passes for 177 yards along with two touchdowns.

    Michigan's defense held Burkhead to a mere 36 yards on 10 carries in their showdown last season; however, the All-Big Ten running back eclipsed the century mark on the ground against Michigan State and Penn State, both of whom had one of the nation's top rushing defenses in 2011.

    Nebraska will be looking to avenge the 45-17 drubbing it suffered in Ann Arbor last season and Burkhead will likely get the better of Michigan's defense this time around on Oct. 27 under the lights at Memorial Stadium. 

No. 1: Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State Spartans

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    The Michigan State Spartans are riding a four-game win-streak against the Michigan Wolverines into the upcoming installment in the bitter in-state rivalry and rising junior running back Le'Veon Bell will be looking to ruin Brady Hoke's first game against the Spartans at the Big House since he took over in January of 2011. 

    Bell carried the ball 182 times for 948 yards and 13 touchdowns a year ago while sharing carries with two of his teammates, Edwin Baker and Larry Caper. The Reynoldsburg, Ohio native managed to pile up at least 86 yards on the ground in five of Michigan State's final eight contests.

    The Spartans were 4-1 in the games when Bell hit the aforementioned rushing yardage, with the only loss coming at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game.

    Michigan State's offensive line is in much better shape coming into the 2012 campaign than it was at the beginning of last year when it, along with Bell, struggled to establish a physical presence in the run game.

    Bell's total number of carries should increase this season with the early departure of Baker and the Spartans will leave Ann Arbor with their fifth straight win over the Wolverines.