The Big Ten is known for churning out 1,000-yard running backs. That’s still the case in 2013, with talents such as Ameer Abdullah, Carlos Hyde, Venric Mark and James White, among others, calling the Big Ten home. In recent seasons, however, quarterbacks have joined the mix, too. And that only makes predicting the rushing yards leader even more fun. See our guys’ picks for this season’s rushing yards leader in this post.
2012 leader: Montee Ball, Wisconsin – 1,830
2013 returning leader: Venric Mark, Northwestern – 1,366
Tom: James White, Wisconsin – There was a time not long ago when it was White—not Montee Ball—who looked like he was primed to be the top Badgers back. Well, Ball is gone, and the speedy White is in the spotlight. He has been there before, rushing for 1,052 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2010—more than Ball (996) that season. Last year, the 5-10, 197-pound White rushed for 806 yards and 12 scores. In between, White rushed for 713 yards and six scores in 2011. Add it all up, and White has 2,571 career yards rushing with 32 touchdowns. No other returning Big Ten back has a resume that’s more impressive. Want more? White will work behind another strong line. The only thing that could hold him back in 2013 is if he has to share carriers with Melvin Gordon.
Dark horse: Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
[ RELATED: View all of our preseason stat predictions ]
Brent: Venric Mark, Northwestern – At 5-8, 175 pounds, people worried about Mark’s durability last year in his debut season at running back. Week after week, though, the former athlete/returner just kept toting the rock and producing – to the tune of 1,366 yards, the most of any returning Big Ten player, and 12 touchdowns. Nowadays, those durability concerns seem laughable. Not only did Mark start all 13 games, he averaged 17.4 carries and was productive enough and fresh enough to rack up eight 100-yard efforts. So, yeah, Mark and his diminutive frame can handle the rigors of Big Ten play. Barring an injury – a concern for every player, really – Mark figures to produce even more as a senior in an experienced offense that boasts quality weapons all over the field.
Dark horse: Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
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