The Daily Iowan

Big Ten football power rankings: running backs

The Big Ten has some of the best running backs the country has to offer.

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Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor (23) is tackled by Iowa linebacker Ben Niemann (44) just before the goal line during the game between Iowa and Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. The Hawkeyes fell to the Badgers 38-14. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor (23) is tackled by Iowa linebacker Ben Niemann (44) just before the goal line during the game between Iowa and Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. The Hawkeyes fell to the Badgers 38-14. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor (23) is tackled by Iowa linebacker Ben Niemann (44) just before the goal line during the game between Iowa and Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. The Hawkeyes fell to the Badgers 38-14. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Adam Hensley and Pete Ruden

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Daily Iowan Pregame Editor Adam Hensley teams up with Sports Editor Pete Ruden to break down the Big Ten’s best running backs heading into the 2018 season.

5. L. J. Scott, Michigan State

Iowa fans remember Scott all too well, as his outstretched arm in the 2015 Big Ten Championship kept the Hawkeyes from seeing the College Football Playoff.

Since then, Scott has improved to become one of the best backs the conference has to offer.

Scott amassed 898 yards on the ground in 2017, scoring 8 touchdowns in the process. Without a lot of experience behind him, Scott will once again be the feature back for a Spartan offense that has relied heavily on him in the past.

With four starters returning on the line, expect more of the same consistency from Scott.

4. Miles Sanders, Penn State

Goodbye, Saquon Barkley. Hello, Miles Sanders.

We aren’t going to say Sanders is the next Barkley by any means, but he’s very good. The only reason why he wasn’t a headliner in 2017 was due to his counterpart.

Sanders carried the ball 31 times last season, totaling 191 yards and a pair of touchdowns. In his two seasons at Penn State, he’s commanded a yards-per-carry average of 6.7.

Sanders will make a name for himself in 2018. While he might not have the same impact as Barkley had in James Franklin’s offense, he’ll be an excellent component in the system, complimenting quarterback Trace McSorley well. Franklin’s high-powered offense will spread the field, leaving Sanders with plenty of opportunities to make plays.

3. Karan Higdon, Michigan

Higdon will serve as the strength of a Wolverine offense that has something to prove.

Higdon ranked sixth in the conference with 994 yards on the ground last season, adding 11 touchdowns. It is worth noting that Higdon produced that much on just 164 carries, which puts his average yards per touch at 6.1.

He posted two 200-yard games against Indiana and Minnesota in 2017, scoring a combined 5 touchdowns in those contests.

With Chris Evans – who ran for 685 yards – also in the mix, the running backs will play a key role in Michigan’s season.

2. J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State

As a freshman, Dobbins tore up the gridiron, rushing for 1,403 yards and 7 touchdowns. He averaged 7.2 yards per carry on 194 attempts. Throw in 22 receptions for 135 yards and a touchdown, and Dobbins is one of the country’s most complete backs.

Dobbins did some of his best work against top competition. Against one of the league’s best defenses in Wisconsin, Dobbins ran for 174 yards. One week earlier, he ran for 101 against Michigan. He also ran for 124 yards against Michigan State.

Look for Dobbins to be a dark horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy this season.

1. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

Taylor led all Big Ten backs in 2017 with 1,977 rushing yards, beating J.K. Dobbins, the conference’s next best, by over 500 yards.

With a veteran offensive line that returns four starters and arguably serves as the offense’s deepest position group, Taylor will certainly have holes opened up for him.

After scoring 13 touchdowns and finishing the season as a Doak Walker Award finalist and second-team All-American, it’s clear who will serve as the workhorse for a powerful Badger offense.

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