Published Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 10:46 pm / Updated at 1:14 am
Barfknecht: Prime RB choices make all-conference selections tough

LINCOLN — Those of us with All-Big Ten football ballots wish there were first-team slots for four running backs.

That's the one position where this league can compete in talent nationally, and it's going to make for an interesting yet headache-inducing decision on first- and second-teamers.

If we voted today, one of my first-teamers would be Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah, who has meant everything to the Husker offense.

The junior from Homewood, Ala., is sixth nationally in rushing at 133.6 yards a game. He is coming off a 123-yard performance against Michigan State's No. 1-ranked defense. The Spartans hadn't allowed any team to run for 100 yards this season, much less an individual.

“There is a reason why he's the league's leading rusher,” MSU coach Mark Dantonio said. “Quick, explosive, he gets a crease and he can get up and go.”

The only knock on Abdullah, in comparison with other candidates, would be his touchdown total of eight.

My other first-team spot is up in the air.

Ohio State's Carlos Hyde, because of a disciplinary suspension, has played seven games, which keeps him out of the national statistics for now. But the senior from Naples, Fla., would be one spot ahead of Abdullah at 135.3 yards.

Hyde has 11 touchdowns already, and was a horse in Ohio State's three biggest wins: 17 carries, 85 yards vs. Wisconsin; 26 carries, 168 yards, three touchdowns vs. Northwestern; and 24 carries, 149 yards, two touchdowns against Iowa.

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Wisconsin has two backs good enough to merit first-team selection.

Melvin Gordon, a sophomore from Kenosha, Wis., is ninth nationally at 130.6 yards per game and 12 touchdowns. James White, a senior from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., is 14th at 115.6 yards and 12 touchdowns.

But Gordon and White have been so efficient and productive while splitting carries that they might split enough votes to miss out on a first-team spot. Together, they have rushed for 2,462 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Those four aren't the only candidates.

Indiana's Tevin Coleman is 21st nationally at 106.4 yards with 12 touchdowns. The sophomore from Tinley Park, Ill., who missed Saturday's game with a sprained ankle, leads the nation in runs of 40 yards or longer with eight.

Minnesota's David Cobb is 35th nationally at 94.2 yards and seven touchdowns. The junior from Killeen, Texas, entered the season third on the depth chart, but moved up after teammates were injured.

Michigan State's Jeremy Langford is 37th nationally at 92.6 yards and 13 touchdowns. The junior from Wayne, Mich., has led an MSU offense resurgence in recent weeks.

Contact the writer: Lee Barfknecht    |   402-444-1024    |  

Lee Barfknecht has won nine national writing awards from four separate organizations, and is a 12-time winner of the Nebraska sportswriter of the year award. He covers Big Ten football and basketball, Nebraska basketball and other college financial issues for The World-Herald.

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