Big Ten Running Back Watch: Abdullah, Coleman off to races

Big Ten Running Back Watch: Abdullah, Coleman off to races
September 1, 2014, 9:15 am
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Vinnie Duber

The Big Ten is jam-packed with incredible running backs. Nearly every team has a featured back that's doing great things on a week-to-week basis. So is going to provide a weekly update on how the league's top ball-carriers are faring. This is the Big Ten Running Back Watch.

Best of the best

Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska

Only Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon came into the season with more hype at the running back position than the conference's reigning leading rusher, Abdullah. The Nebraska running back went off, as did much of the Huskers' offense, in a pounding of Florida Atlantic. The numbers: 21 carries, 232 yards, one touchdown.

Tevin Coleman, Indiana

Indiana's win over Indiana State might not have been as impressive as the other Big Ten teams who went up against FCS opponents, but the running game was unbelievable, with the team rushing for 455 yards. Coleman was the main reason, carrying the ball 23 times for 247 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Lost in the shuffle last season among all the league's great backs, Coleman certainly ranks among the best, and he showed it with a monstrous day Saturday.

Paul James, Rutgers

One of the conference's two newcomers can add a running back to the Big Ten's ever-growing list. James was dependably excellent in the Knights' impressive win over Washington State on Thursday. He carried the ball 29 times for 173 yards and three, count 'em, three touchdowns in the win. James' success maybe shouldn't be too shocking. He was an all-conference selection in the AAC last year.

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten Power Rankings: Spartans look the part]

Impressive outings

Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith, Michigan

After turning in one of the worst rushing seasons in the Big Ten last season, the Wolverines needed some improvement out of the backfield. Saturday they got it. This sophomore combo pulled a 180 from last season, combining for 285 yards on the ground. If the rushing attack can come back to life for Michigan, look out.

Raheem Mostert, Purdue

The only team with a worse run game than Michigan last year was Purdue, but the Boilermakers also erased that memory Saturday, mostly thanks to Mostert, who made an awesome debut as the team's featured back. The two-time conference track champ went for 146 yards and a touchdown against Western Michigan.

Berkley Edwards, Minnesota

The little brother of former Michigan wideout Braylon Edwards, Berkley is technically Minnesota's fourth running back. But he made some noise in the Gophers' season-opening win Thursday, scoring a pair of touchdowns and racking up 60 yards on just four carries. A new home-run hitter for Jerry Kill?

[MORE BIG TEN: No one knows why Badgers' Melvin Gordon disappeared vs. LSU]

Needs improvement

Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

You hate to put the Heisman hopeful in this category because his unfortunate game Saturday was hardly his fault. Statistically, a 140-yard day with a touchdown is pretty darn good. But Gordon got just four carries in the second half of the Badgers' loss to LSU for some inexplicable reason. Hopefully, Gary Andersen will soon realize his best chances at winning a game involve giving Gordon the ball almost constantly.

Josh Ferguson, Illinois

Ferguson was supposed to be the premier offensive weapon for the Illini this season both out of the backfield and in the passing game. He did catch one of Wes Lunt's four touchdown throws in the win over Youngstown State, but he ran the ball just 11 times for 42 yards. That ineffectiveness contributed to the Illini's scare against this FCS opponent.