Athlon ranks top 50 Big Ten football players

Athlon Sports recently released its Big Ten Player Rankings: The Top 50 players for 2012, and two-time reigning Big Ten champ Wisconsin highlights the top of the countdown. Five of the first 12 names are Badgers, headlined by Heisman Trophy candidate Montee Ball, at No. 1, and left tackle Ricky Wagner, at No. 6. While Wisconsin dominates the top of the list, Michigan State (9), Nebraska (8) and Ohio State (8) all boast more overall players than Wisconsin (7).

[AthlonSports.com: Big Ten Player Rankings: The top 50 players for 2012]

Here’s what Athlon says about the Big Ten’s best player:

“Ball emerged as one of the elite tailbacks in his junior season at Wisconsin, leading the nation with 1,923 rushing yards and an astounding 33 rushing touchdowns. His 39 total TDs last year tied the NCAA record originally set by Barry Sanders in 1988. Ball has rushed for at least 100 yards in 16 of the last 20 games dating back to November 2011. Don’t be surprised if Ball is on the podium in New York in early December accepting the Heisman Trophy.”

Absolutely. Late last month, I offered my preseason Big Ten player rankings, which, to no surprise, also featured Ball atop the list.

The biggest disparity between my list and Athlon’s is Ohio State defensive end John Simon, who I ranked as the Big Ten’s No. 5 defensive player and Athlon had No. 3 overall.

Admittedly, I undervalued Simon. I first realized this at last week’s Big Ten media days, where coaches and players raved about the Buckeye. Either way, the Big Ten is loaded on defensive talent this year.

What do you think of the Athlon list?

Brent Yarina is a web editor and blogger for BTN.com. Find all of his work here and follow him on twitter at @BTNBrentYarina.

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