staff, October 4, 2012

When talking best running back in the Big Ten,'s Tom Dienhart and Brent Yarina agree it's Le?Veon Bell. Through five games, Bell leads Big Ten backs in yards (655 – yes, he also has most carries) and ranks in the top two in receptions (20) and receiving yards (125). He?s also a terrific blocker.

In other words, Bell's a complete back. It's the Big Ten's No. 2 back where our guys disagree. They debate it in this post, plus we include your tweets.

Brent: My guy is Northwestern?s Venric Mark. He's the top running back in my latest Player Rankings, a more week-to-week, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately thing, so the diminutive, electric Wildcat has to be my answer here.

Tom: Mark is an electric back with big-play ability. But I have to go with Iowa wunderkind Mark Weisman, who is one of the feel-good stories in college football this season. And Brent-I never in a million years thought any Hawkeye back would be in this conversation-let along leading it–back on Labor Day.

[RELATED: Week 6 Power Rankings | Week 6 Player Rankings | Week 6 Heisman Watch]

Brent: Interesting that neither of us went Montee Ball or Rex Burkhead. Guess we have injuries to thank for that. You?re right, though, Weisman is the best story in the Big Ten. His stiff-arm is out of this world, and I can watch the replays of it all day long. But I like Mark because he's so exciting – not to mention productive – and he should benefit the more Northwestern runs do-it-all Kain Colter, as it did last week.

Tom: Weisman is a tribute to the old ?luck? equation: preparation meets opportunity. And what makes the sophomore walk-on?s feats all the more incredible is he?s doing them without much help from the passing game and behind a line with three new starters. This is storybook stuff, Brent. Someone call Hollywood!!

Brent: Ha! It definitely is. It?s up there with Blair White, the hopeful dentist, and J.J. Watt, the former pizza delivery boy, when it comes to Big Ten walk-on stories. Mark is a good story, too. He added mass this offseason and changed positions, and he hasn?t shown any signs of a guy making such an adjustment.

Mark Weisman

Tom: Yes, I like Mark, too, but I still wonder if at 5-8, 175, how well he can hold up. Is he really a feature back? Quarterback Kain Colter means as much-if not more-to Northwestern?s rush game. Still, Mark is a special guy in the open field and a big play waiting to happen. This just isn?t a great year for running backs in the Big Ten.

Brent: Size and durability are issues. But until they start to affect Mark, it?s unfair to hold that against him. One can make the same argument for Weisman, as well. I mean, neither of us know how he'll hold up to all of these carries. He?s a big guy, no doubt, but is he accustom to toting the rock THIS much?

Tom: Yes, Weisman isn?t a proven commodity over the long haul. But he is a 6-0, 225 pound fullback by trade. So, you?d figure he can take a licking. But, as other Hawkeye backs get healthy-guys like Damon Bullock and Greg Garmon-I have to think Weisman?s role could be reduced. Still, he is fun to watch and a great story.

Brent: Indeed. So we both went with a guy who has "Mark" in his name. Both are good options, but I'm sure fans will be quick to make a case for for Ball and Burkhead.

Big Ten Rushing Leaders
Rank Player Team G Rushes Yds Yds/G Avg TD Long
1 L. Bell MSU 5 134 655 131.0 4.9 5 40
2 B. Miller OhioSt 5 90 577 115.4 6.4 7 65
3 V. Mark NW 5 101 538 107.6 5.3 5 47
4 M. Weisman Iowa 5 74 515 103.0 7.0 7 44
5 A. Abdullah Neb 5 79 486 97.2 6.2 5 45
6 M. Ball Wisc 5 125 450 90.0 3.6 6 22
7 D. Robinson Mich 4 66 441 110.3 6.7 4 79
8 D. Kirkwood Minn 5 93 394 78.8 4.2 3 26
9 K. Colter NW 5 59 371 74.2 6.3 6 29
10 T. Martinez Neb 5 50 298 59.6 6.0 3 92

What do fans think? Here are their tweets: