Debate it: 2012 Big Ten rushing yards leader

Yesterday, BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart and BTN.com web editor and blogger Brent Yarina hit email to debate the 2012 Big Ten leader in passing TDs, the third in our series of Big Ten statistical predictions. Now up: Rushing yards. Who will lead the Big Ten in 2012? See Tom and Brent’s email thread in this post and vote for your leader.

[2011 Big Ten rushing yards leaders]

Rushing Yards
2011 Leader: Montee Ball, 1,923 rushing yards
Returning leaders: Montee Ball, 1,923; Rex Burkhead, 1,357; Silas Redd, 1,241; Denard Robinson, 1,176; Fitzgerald Toussaint, 1,041.

Brent: Which Big Ten player will run for the most yards in 2012? Man, this would be a lot more fun if Montee Ball opted to enter the NFL draft, huh? It’s Ball, who ran for 566 more yards than his next competitor, and I honestly can’t make a case for anyone else. Injury is the only thing that can keep him from the top spot.

[Read all of our 2012 Big Ten statistical predictions]

Tom: Yeah, how can Ball not be the pick here? He ran for more yards than any back in the nation last season (1,923) and is geared up for a big senior send off—even working behind a retooled line and with a new quarterback–after eschewing the NFL. The biggest threat to Ball may be teammate James White, who could compete for more carries after running for 713 yards in 2011.

Brent: Good point about White. Let’s not forget he led Wisconsin in rushing two years ago as a freshman. Last season, while he wasn’t as effective, he simply got lost in Ball’s dominant record-breaking campaign. I assume with your reference of White, the speedster out of Florida is your dark horse candidate?

Tom: No, if you are looking for a dark horse, keep an eye on Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell. He emerged last year as an elite back, running for 948 yards. He also caught 35 passes. Bell also will benefit from working behind what many believe will be the best line in the Mark Dantonio era. But to truly make a run at the rushing title, Bell will need new quarterback Andrew Maxwell to develop quickly to keep defenses from cheating to stop the run.

Brent: Solid selection. Bell is going to be a beast now that he’s the full-time primary back. Here’s to hoping he doesn’t turn into this year’s Edwin Baker, who entered last season with HUGE expectations before racking up only 664 yards and five touchdowns.

My dark horse is Silas Redd. He’s the forgotten man among the Big Ten’s elite backs, and a lot of that has to do with his struggles late last season, the result of Penn State’s inept passing game. Through the first half of last year, though, Redd was as good as anyone not named Montee Ball.

BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is on Twitter and Facebook, all of his work is at btn.com/tomdienhart, and you can subscribe to it all via his RSS feed. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below.

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