Big Ten Running Back Power Rankings After Week 1

Zach Dirlam@Zach_DirlamSenior Analyst IISeptember 4, 2012

Big Ten Running Back Power Rankings After Week 1

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    The Big Ten Conference has some talented running backs, and a couple of them had outstanding performances to kick off their seasons last Saturday.

    Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell ran all over Boise State, Montee Ball picked up right where he left off a year ago for the Wisconsin Badgers, Iowa's new starer at running back surprised against Northern Illinois, and an unknown from Northwestern had the game of his career.

    Start the slideshow in order to find out where the Big Ten's most talented running backs rank after their Week 1 performances.

No. 8: Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michigan Wolverines

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    Week 1 Result: Lost 41-14 to No. 2 Alabama (at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas)

    Week 1 Stats: Did not play (suspended)

    Fitzgerald Toussaint was suspended by Michigan Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke for the team's season opener against Alabama, because the redshirt junior running back was arrested and eventually plead guilty to a charge of operating a vehicle while impaired (i.e. drunk driving).

    Although Toussaint didn't play, there were not enough outstanding performances by the other running backs in the Big Ten this week to knock the Ohio native off of the list after his 1,041-yard performance last season.

    Monday afternoon, Toussaint was cleared by Hoke to play in the Wolverines' upcoming game against Air Force. Expect Toussaint to put up some solid numbers this weekend against an undersized Air Force defense.

No. 7: Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Week 1 Result: Won 49-20 over Southern Mississippi

    Week 1 Stats: 15 carries, 81 yards and zero touchdowns. Three receptions, 39 yards and one touchdown.

    The Nebraska Cornhuskers knew senior running back Rex Burkhead would need a solid backup this season if he hoped to stay healthy, and sophomore Ameer Abdullah played that role to perfection in the team's season-opening win over Southern Mississippi.

    Abdullah was a factor on the ground with close to 100 yards rushing and managed to haul in a few passes out of the backfield, including an 11-yarder that resulted in a touchdown.

    With Burkhead nursing an MCL injury entering Nebraska's upcoming game against UCLA, expect Abdullah to get a few more carries than usual and carry the load for the Cornhuskers this Saturday.

No. 6: Carlos Hyde, Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Week 1 Result: Won 56-10 over Miami (Ohio).

    Week 1 Stats: 17 carries, 82 yards and two touchdowns.

    Ohio State did not need much from starting running back Carlos Hyde to beat its in-state foe last Saturday, but the junior managed to accrue 82 yards on the ground in addition to a couple of rushing touchdowns.

    Hyde will continue to rack up carry numbers in the high teens until injured running back Jordan Hall returns or if quarterback Braxton Miller begins to get a little bit banged up as Ohio State approaches Big Ten play.

    The Naples, Fla., native and the Buckeyes will have another chance to dominate this weekend when they line up against the Central Florida Golden Knights. 

No. 5: Rex Burkhead, Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Week 1 Result: Won 49-20 over Southern Mississippi.

    Week 1 Stats: Three carries, 68 yards and one touchdown.

    Senior running back Rex Burkhead carried the ball nearly 300 times and rushed for 1,357 yards in 2011, but for much of Nebraska's season opener last Saturday the Plano, Texas, native was a spectator after injuring his MCL midway through the first quarter.

    Before the injury occurred, Burkhead looked every bit as good as he did a year ago. The 5'11", 210-pounder had the highlight of the first half on a 57-yard touchdown run that put Nebraska on the scoreboard a mere 1:18 into its 2012 campaign.

    Burkhead is listed as questionable according to ESPN.com, so the Cornhuskers' starting running back may not make his way up the power rankings until the end of Nebraska's nonconference slate when he is back to full strength. 

No. 4: Venric Mark, Northwestern Wildcats

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    Week 1 Result: Won 42-41 at Syracuse.

    Week 1 Stats: 281 all-purpose yards, two total touchdowns.

    Most college football fans probably had not heard of Northwestern's 5'8", 175-pound running back before the Wildcats' 2012 season opener against Syracuse last weekend, but anyone who is a fan of the Big Ten should know who this young man is now.

    Mark rushed for 82 yards on 14 carries, caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Northwestern's starting quarterback Kain Colter and returned a punt 82 yards for his second touchdown of the afternoon.

    In total, Mark finished the game with close to 300 all-purpose yards, which Northwestern needed dearly as it hung on to beat Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. 

    At this point, it remains to be seen whether or not Mark will have the consistent production needed to hold the No. 4 spot in the Big Ten running back power rankings. However if the junior tailback keeps making plays, he will find himself on the list for weeks to come.

No. 3: Damon Bullock, Iowa Hawkeyes

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    Week 1 Result: Won 18-17 over Northern Illinois (at Soldier Field in Chicago).

    Week 1 Stats: 30 carries, 150 yards and one touchdown. Three receptions for 26 yards.

    Not much was expected of sophomore running back Damon Bullock, who was one of two remaining scholarship running backs on the Iowa Hawkeyes roster entering the 2012 season opener, but the newcomer racked up 150 yards and ran in Iowa's only touchdown to help push the Hawkeyes past a feisty Northern Illinois squad.

    Iowa's other two running backs only managed 16 rushing yards on six carries, which is not a good sign as the Hawkeyes move forward given the physical style of play in the Big Ten. Bullock will need another one of the Iowa backs to step up and take some of the load off of his back if the Mansfield, Texas, native hopes to continue to pile up big numbers on the ground. 

    Bullock and the Hawkeyes' have in-state rival Iowa State on deck as they hope to find more offensive production than they had in their season-opening win over the Huskies.

No. 2: Montee Ball, Wisconsin Badgers

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    Week 1 Result: Won 26-21 over Northern Iowa.

    Week 1 Stats: 32 carries, 120 yards and one touchdown. Three receptions for 31 yards.

    The Wisconsin Badgers may have underwhelmed in their nail-biting win over Northern Iowa, but senior running back Montee Ball did not fail to put up numbers in the team's season opener.

    Ball set the bar high after he found the end zone a total of 39 times in 2011 and although his numbers on Saturday were not spectacular by his standards, there are not too many running backs in the Big Ten who are able to reach those kind of marks every week.

    The Missouri native eclipsed 100 yards and scored on a one-yard rush in the third quarter to help put the Badgers up 19-0. 

    Ball should have no problem reaching the century mark this weekend either when the Badgers head west to take on Oregon State.

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

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    Week 1 Result: Won 17-13 over No. 24 Boise State

    Week 1 Stats: 44 carries, 210 yards and two touchdowns. Six receptions for 55 yards.

    Junior running back Le'Veon Bell carried the Michigan State Spartans to victory over the Boise State Broncos with 210 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 44 carries. 

    Words cannot do justice to the show Bell put on against the Broncos last Saturday as he leaped over, ran by and plowed over everyone standing between him and the end zone.

    Check out the highlight video above and be sure to tune in to Michigan State's lopsided tilt with in-state foe Central Michigan this weekend. Bell should once again gash the opposing defense and run over anyone in his path.