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Box Score: Big Ten Edition

BY JACOB SHEYKO | OCTOBER 07, 2014 5:00 AM

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On an individual level, the Big Ten is in great shape. The league’s quarterbacks boast uncharacteristically solid passing numbers, and the running backs are as good as they’ve ever been.

But as a whole, the conference has struggled. With Iowa fresh off its first bye week of the season, now is a good time to look at what’s made the Big Ten good and what’s brought it down.

Running backs averaging over 140 rushing yards per game — 4

The Big Ten, obviously, hasn’t been the power conference of the Football Bowl Subdivision lately. But the one thing teams have established is that the conference is the land of elite running backs.

Of the six running backs in the nation that average more then 140 yards per game, four of them play in the Big Ten.

Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin averages 174.2 yards per game, and Indiana’s Tevin Coleman is just behind him with 168.2 yards per game. Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah averages 146.3 yards per game, and Minnesota’s David Cobb averages 144.4 yards per game.

It’s not as if these running backs are getting carry after carry, though; they’ve been efficient whenever they tote the rock. Of those four backs, the worst yards per carry average amongst them is Cobb at just 5.82 yards per carry.

Of the nation’s running backs that have carried the ball at least 100 times this season, Gordon averages the most yards per carry at 8.3, while Coleman and Abdullah are second and third.

Another interesting note: this rushing dominance hasn’t exactly led to dominance as a team. Between those four running backs, their teams combine for a 15-5 record, which is nothing to scoff at, but considering the talent level of the rushers, it’s not eye-popping.

Teams ranked in AP top-25 — three

Following Wisconsin’s 20-14 loss to Northwestern, the Big Ten now has just three teams in the top-25: No. 8 Michigan State, No. 15 Ohio State, and No. 21 Nebraska.

Of the Power Five conferences — SEC, Big 12, ACC, Pac 12, and the Big Ten — this is second worst. The only Power Five conference with fewer schools in the top-25 is the ACC (2).

By comparison, the Big 12, SEC, and Pac 12 all have at least five ranked teams.

It should be noted that several Big Ten teams are receiving votes — Penn State, Wisconsin, Rutgers, and Minnesota — but barring any major upsets, those schools will need a couple of more consecutive wins to enter the poll.

Quarterbacks averaging more than 200 yards passing per game — eight

Passing isn’t the exactly the go-to for most Big Ten offenses. But eight of the league’s quarterbacks are averaging more than 200 yards through the air per game — and that’s not including Iowa’s Jake Rudock, who averages 199.5 passing yards per game.

It’s the first year since 2010 where the Big Ten has had more than four quarterbacks average better than 200 yards per game passing.

Perhaps it’s because of the additions of Maryland and Rutgers for this season, giving them two more teams and, in turn, two more quarterbacks.

But even the conference’s lesser-talented teams have solid quarterbacks — Illinois’ Wes Lunt comes to mind. Also, quarterbacks such as Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg and Michigan State’s Connor Cook are as good as the Big Ten has seen in a while.

The quarterbacks are, for the most part, young. Of those eight quarterbacks, only two are seniors. There are three sophomores and one freshman, meaning this trend could continue for years to come.

Follow @JacobSheyko for updates, news and analysis about the Iowa football team.


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