With the NCAA's all-time rushing leader, college football's only two-time Heisman Trophy winner, and countless other greats included in its ranks, it's safe to say that the Big Ten has produced its fair share of memorable running backs over its 114-year existence.
For many years, the Big Ten was the premiere conference when it came to running the ball and employing a smash-mouth offense. Not surprisingly, the running back was essential to that game plan and they became the faces of many teams and the conference as a whole.
Nine Heisman Trophy-winning Big Ten running backs says it all.
Until the advent of the spread offense and, more generally, the passing game, running backs were the key to virtually every Big Ten team. And, to more traditional offenses—like Wisconsin's—they still are.
But now for many teams in the Big Ten, the quarterback's passing ability, and in the case of spread offenses, running ability, has a bigger impact on the game than the performance of the running back.
Still, the impact the running back has had on the course of the Big Ten can't be ignored, even in these rapidly changing times for college football.
So, of all the great running backs who have dominated headlines in the Midwest over the years, who is the greatest of them all?
Note: To be included, running backs had to have played two full years in the Big Ten.
Decisions were based on career yards, yards per carry, touchdown totals, and individual awards won, though some of the older 'backs may not have the numbers that today would be considered a successful season. However, their impact on the team and the game as a whole warrants inclusion on this list.
Also, no Penn State players were included in this list because the Nittany Lions only joined the conference in 1993 and, consequently, the pool of players to choose from was considerably smaller than the rest of the schools.