The Big Ten is known for its running game despite a recent departure to that philosophy. Quicker athletes who can double as running backs are playing quarterback, but the tailback position still remains a foundation of Big Ten offenses. This year's crop is particularly strong.
Ball has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons lately but no one can question his on-field production. Ball tied Barry Sanders' NCAA record 39 touchdowns last season as he averaged more than 137 yards per game. The most impressive stat may be that Ball hasn't fumbled in 617 career rushes.
At 5-foot-11 and 210 pounds, Burkhead is a relentless tailback who ran for 1,357 yards last season and 15 touchdowns. He had more than 20 carries in eight games in 2011, including a Nebraska-record 38 rushes in a 20-7 win over Iowa.
3. LeVeon Bell, Michigan State
Bell was the Spartans' leading rusher last season with 948 yards and 13 touchdowns but of all the returning receivers, he had the most receptions last season with 35. The Spartans will lean heavily on a veteran offensive line, including four returning starters, to open gaps for Bell. Now that QB Kirk Cousins, WR B.J. Cunningham, and RB Edwin Baker are all in the NFL, Bell should expect a lot more responsibility as Michigan State breaks in QB Andrew Maxwell.
4. Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michigan
Toussaint slipped a bit on this list due to his recent DUI arrest. As a result, the junior's eligibility for the Alabama game -- at coach Brady Hoke's discretion -- is in jeopardy. Nevertheless, Toussaint trailed only Denard Robinson in rushing with 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns. Toussaint had five games of more than 100 yards rushing production, topped by a season-high 192 at Illinois last year. Having 6-foot-8, 302-pound LT Taylor Lewan doesn't hurt, either.
Gillum transferred from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, where he racked up 2,339 yards and 25 touchdowns in two seasons. The 5-foot-11, 204-pound junior is expected to play immediately. The Gophers' top-returning rusher, Donnell Kirkwood, rushed for just 243 yards with a 3.6 ypc average.
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