The start of the college football season is just a few short weeks away and it promises to be an entertaining race in the Big Ten. Now, if you are an Ohio State fan, you are hoping it is not too interesting, especially after coming up short last season. But the other 13 teams have scholarships and uniforms too and there is no denying that there is plenty of talent spread out around this conference.
It got us to thinking about the top players at specific positions going into the season. Ohio State fans are always well-aware of who their favorite team has but what about the rest of the teams in the league?
The Big Ten had always been known as a run-first league and while we are seeing more prolific passing offenses from many teams, if you want to be successful in this conference, you better have someone that can run the ball.
Last season the Big Ten only had three of the nation’s top-20 rushers and two of them are gone (Kenneth Walker III & Hassan Haskins) with No. 20 Braelon Allen (Wisconsin) returning along with No. 23 TreVeyon Henderson.
Who is poised to have the biggest year in the Big Ten at running back? Can Ohio State have a top rusher along with a top quarterback and top receiver or will a traditional run-first team like Wisconsin own that title? We take a look at our top five running backs for the league going into 2022.
5. Chase Brown – Illinois
I went back and forth between Brown and Wisconsin’s Chez Mellusi here but with Brown being the No. 1 back at Illinois and Mellusi behind another top back, we had to go with the player who should see more carries.
Brown only played in 10 games last season and still hit the 1,000-yard mark and while he did not find the end zone often (only five scores on the season) neither did the Illini with just 12 rushing touchdowns.
The Canadian import has good size at 5-foor-11, 205 pounds and showed that he had the power and stamina to be a feature back with several games breaking the 20-carry mark. One of the more impressive facts is that Brown only fumbled the ball once and did the Illini did not lose possession on that fumble.
It may be a long year for the Illini in 2022 but if you are going to watch Illinois play, give Brown a watch because he is a fun player to keep track of.
4. Blake Corum – Michigan
If Michigan wants to repeat its lofty goals in 2022 it is going to need to keep running the ball well and while it won’t all be on Corum’s shoulders with Donovan Edwards on the roster, the Wolverines will need to keep seeing progression from their 5-foot-8, 200-pounder.
Last season saw Corum rush for 952 yards and 11 scores as the 1A to Hassan Haskins, but now Corum needs to carry the mail. In the last four games of the 2021 season, Corum rushed 15 times including just three carries in the CFP Semifinals game against Georgia.
The Michigan back was able to show what he could do in the early stretches of the season when he rushed for a combined 406 yards on 48 carries and seven touchdowns against Western Michigan, Washington, and Northern Illinois. He is not going to sneak up on anyone this year but should be able to get off to a good start as the Michigan schedule is one of their easier ones.
3. Mo Ibrahim – Minnesota
Last year is a season of what-if for Ibrahim as he only got to play a little bit less than a full game before a season-ending injury put him on the shelf for the rest of the season.
The Buckeyes had the chance to see him first-hand and in that one game of action had 30 carries for 163 yards and two scores.
Ibrahim is one of those rare sixth-year seniors and has seen everything that college football has to offer. Mo already has a pair of 1,000-yard seasons, both in 2018 and in 2020. That 2020 season saw him rush for 15 scores for the Gophers and if Minnesota wants to compete in the Big Ten West, the hope is that he can regain that form coming off a way-too-short 2021 season.
2. Braelon Allen – Wisconsin
Allen really helped turn around Wisconsin’s 2021 season when he emerged against Illinois in his first 100-yard game of the season. The Badgers got off to a horrible start and just did not look like a typical Badgers team until Allen was given ample opportunity.
In 11 games of action, Allen rushed for 1,268 yards and 12 scores including a two-game stretch where he put up a combined six scores against Northwestern and Nebraska.
The Badgers have had some big backs through the years and Allen is no different, a listed 6-foot-2, 240-pounds and by the time the second half rolls around and if you are on defense, he looks even bigger than that.
Unless Graham Mertz at quarterback had a tremendous offseason this Badgers team will be a ground-and-pound type of team once again and much of the Badgers success will rest on the legs of Allen and his cohort, Chaz Mellusi.
1. TreVeyon Henderson – Ohio State
It really was a coinflip if we were going to go with Henderson or Allen here at the top of the list. Tie goes to the home team and Ohio State’s running back is here. His yardage numbers were a little behind Allen’s with just 1,248 but his touchdowns were ahead with 15 to Allen’s 12.
The Buckeyes got away from the run as the season went on and Henderson did not have a 100-yard game in his final five games of the year, but his carries were down as well. And let’s not forget that Henderson did not have a senior season of high school in Virginia and was playing more game than he had played at any other point of his season and while nobody would want to admit that there is a freshman wall, there is.
A year older and a year stronger, there is reason to believe that Ohio State’s offense will remain more balanced as the year goes on and will provide ample opportunity for Henderson to get his touches the whole way, even with talented players like Miyan Williams and Dallan Hayden on his heels.