Nebraska Cornhuskers: Minnesota Gophers

Most would agree New Year's Day bowl games don't mean what they used to. You could say the same thing about rushing for 1,000 yards. There are more games and more plays in the sport today, and it's hardly uncommon for a player to reach four digits on the ground, as 51 FBS players got there in 2013.

Still, the 1,000-yard rushing mark is no small feat, and it's a good gauge for assessing players, teams and leagues. The Big Ten had seven 1,000-yard rushers in 2013, one fewer than it had in 2012.

We begin a series of statistical projections for the 2014 season with 1,000 rush yards, and our analysis begins with the five men who got there last fall and who return to their teams this year.

[+] EnlargeAmeer Abdullah
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsNebraska's Ameer Abdullah is looking to post his third season of rushing for over 1,000 yards.
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska (1,690 rush yards in 2013): Abdullah was one of the most consistent backs in the country last fall, eclipsing 100 rush yards in 11 of 13 games, including a streak of eight consecutive 100-yard performances. He will try to become the first Husker with three seasons of 1,000 rush yards or more. Although it might be tough for Abdullah to match last year's overall rushing numbers, barring injury, he should have little trouble reaching the 1,000-yard mark.

Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin (1,609 yards): Gordon surged out of the gate with 140 rush yards or more in each of his first four games last season, as he topped the FBS rushing chart. Despite sharing time with fellow 1,000-yard back James White and never logging more than 22 carries, Gordon had eight games with at least 140 rush yards and averaged 7.8 yards per carry. He's arguably the nation's top big-play ball-carrying threat and should easily eclipse 1,000 rush yards as he steps into a bigger role.

Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State (1,422): It's impossible to quietly rush for 1,400 yards in a season, but Langford slipped under the radar as his teammates on defense and at quarterback received more attention. Still, his consistency should not be overlooked: He set a team record with eight consecutive 100-yard rushing performances and led the Big Ten with 18 rushing touchdowns. He did much of his damage late in games. Although Langford likely won't get 292 carries again, he should easily get to 1,000 rush yards.

David Cobb, RB, Minnesota (1,202) Arguably no Gophers player benefited more from the team's commitment to the power run on offense. Cobb logged 237 carries -- second in the Big Ten behind Langford and Abdullah -- and had five 100-yard rushing performances, the most by a Minnesota player since Marion Barber III in 2003. Cobb did much of his damage in Big Ten play, recording four consecutive 100-yard rushing performances. Another 1,000-yard season is possible, but Cobb faces arguably more competition than any back on this list and will have to keep progressing.

Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State (1,068): Miller is poised to finish his career as one of the Big Ten's most productive offensive players. The league's reigning two-time offensive player of the year needs just 842 rush yards to move into second place on the Big Ten's all-time quarterback rushing list. More impressive, he needs 715 yards to claim second place on Ohio State's all-time rushing list (all players). Miller certainly is capable of a third 1,000-yard season, but a revamped line and his goal of improving as a passer could make it challenging.

Now let's take a look at eight other players who could challenge that 1,000-yard mark in 2013, in order of likelihood:

Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana (958 rush yards in 2013): Coleman finished ahead of Langford, Cobb and Miller in rushing average (106.4 ypg) and easily would have reached four digits had he played in more than nine games. A big-play threat who averaged a Gordon-like 7.3 yards per carry last season, Coleman should have no trouble surging past 1,000 yards this season.

[+] EnlargeMark Weisman
David Purdy/Getty ImagesIowa's Mark Weisman has just missed 1,000 yards in the past two years, but this could be the season he tops that magic number.
Mark Weisman, RB, Iowa (975): Weisman has been close to 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons and should get there as a senior. He will be sharing carries with Jordan Canzeri and others, and Iowa likely will balance out Weisman's touches a bit more. But if Weisman can break off a few more big runs behind a good offensive line, he'll get to 1,000.

Zach Zwinak, RB, Penn State (989): Some would argue Zwinak isn't the best running back on his team (Bill Belton), but the fact remains he reached 1,000 yards in 2012 and nearly got there last season. The carries balanced between Zwinak and Belton could make it tougher for either back to reach the milestone, and the offensive line is a concern.

Paul James, RB, Rutgers (881): Know the name, Big Ten fans. James rushed for 881 yards on only 156 carries last season. His rushing total through the first four games (573 yards) trailed only Gordon for the FBS lead. Health is a concern here, but if James stays on the field, a 1,000-yard season is easily within reach.

Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern: Projecting Mark is tricky as he rushed for 1,371 yards in 2012 but missed most of last season with injuries and remains prone to more health issues. He's an excellent candidate to gash defenses for big yards if he remains on the field, and he should play behind an improved offensive line.

Josh Ferguson, RB, Illinois (779): It all comes down to opportunities for Ferguson, who averaged 5.5 yards per carry last season but also finished second on the team in receptions with 50. A true big-play threat, Ferguson is capable of getting to 1,000 yards but likely needs at least 25 more carries.

Bill Belton, RB, Penn State (803): Like Zwinak, Belton faces some challenges: sharing carries and playing behind a potentially leaky line. But he has shown superstar potential at times and turned in a strong spring for the new coaching staff.

Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin (547): Like Gordon, Clement makes the most of his opportunities. He averaged 8.2 yards per carry as a freshman, and while he's Gordon's backup now, he could become a 1A player by midseason. Gordon and White set an NCAA record for single-season rush yards by teammates. Gordon and Clement could challenge it.

Who do you think reaches 1,000 rush yards this fall? Let us know.

Big Ten's lunch links

May, 23, 2014
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Looking for a stylish addition to your home? Consider this.



Big Ten lunch links

May, 22, 2014
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Quiet days of May...
  • Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and the Pac-12’s Larry Scott discuss the NCAA’s autonomy model for five major conferences.
  • Charting the dream recruits for every Big Ten program in the class of 2015, according to Bleacher Report.
  • Three former Michigan greats are set to receive word on their candidacies for the College Football Hall of Fame. Ex-Illinois stars are waiting, too.
  • A new system allows Nebraska season-ticket holders to pick their seats at Memorial Stadium. Washington receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow is still considering a transfer to Nebraska.
  • Michigan State wants to capitalize on its success to open new doors in recruiting. Ex-Spartan Micajah Reynolds looks to get a shot on defense with the Dolphins.
  • James Franklin touts the Penn State brand.
  • Pondering the quality of Ohio State’s defensive line, which features three possible future first-round NFL picks.
  • Fifteen observations from a documentary on Rutgers’ spring practice.
  • Wisconsin lands a defensive line recruit from a high school that produced two NFL draft picks this month at the same group of positions.

Big Ten lunch links

May, 14, 2014
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Busy time for a Wednesday in May. Keep up here with Adam Rittenberg's reports from the spring meeting of Big Ten athletic directors.
  • From Rosemont, Ill., the Big Ten sticks to its commitment to play nine conference games, starting in 2016. League athletic directors generally still oppose alcohol sales at football stadiums.
  • Strong comments from Northwestern AD Jim Phillips on the unionization issue.
  • Nebraska AD Shawn Eichorst finally offers a few words on coach Bo Pelini.
  • Minnesota AD Norwood Teague is not a fan of the “we hate Iowa" chant, especially when it’s sanctioned by the UM athletic department.
  • The league sets remaining kickoff times for homecoming next fall.
  • Rutgers dismisses quarterback Philip Nelson in the wake of a felony assault charge for the recent Minnesota transfer, leaving the Scarlet Knights’ QB situation for 2015 in limbo. And the view from Minnesota.
  • Nebraska linebacker Josh Banderas is charged with felony theft. A few early mock drafts for 2015 place Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory in a lofty spot.
  • Ohio State coaches are out looking for quarterbacks in Georgia and California.
  • More recruiting talk from James Franklin, who says the changing face of the Big Ten will not affect Penn State’s ability to recruit regionally and nationally.
  • Michigan State signs up to face Arizona State in a home-and-home series, starting in 2018.
  • QB Andrew Maxwell is among the latest former Spartans to get an NFL look. Same story for ex-Wisconsin QB Danny O’Brien.
  • A former Iowa safety led police in his hometown on a chase and got tased.

Big Ten's lunch links

March, 13, 2014
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Hoops, hoops everywhere. Here's some football:

Big Ten lunchtime links

January, 31, 2014
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National Signing Day is just five days away, so this is now in my head. Don't judge me.

Big Ten class rankings analysis 

January, 29, 2014
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National signing day is almost upon us and Big Ten teams have been feverishly adding prospects to their classes. Here is a look at the latest movement within the conference in the ESPN class rankings and trends from the past week.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

January, 27, 2014
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There is only one weekend left for visits before signing day. Things are getting down to the wire, which means we are set to see a lot of activity in a short amount of time.

Here is a look at what happened within the Big Ten this past week.


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Big Ten class rankings analysis 

January, 22, 2014
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There have been commitments and decommitments across the board in the Big Ten, which means there has been movement among the class rankings.

As signing day approaches, teams will be looking to fill the final spots in their class. Here is a look at trends and a few items to watch within the conference:

Trending up: No Big Ten teams moved up in the class rankings for this week, but that doesn’t mean schools aren’t improving.

Penn State has been on a tear recently with James Franklin and his staff on board. Despite losing ESPN 300 defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) to Florida and defensive back Troy Vincent Jr. (Baltimore/Gilman) to NC State, the Nittany Lions have added some big pieces as well.

The most recent was three-star athlete Trace McSorley (Ashburn, Va./Briar Woods), who flipped his commitment from Vanderbilt to Penn State. McSorley was originally recruited as a defensive back by Franklin at Vanderbilt, but then the offer was switched to quarterback while he was committed to the Commodores.

McSorley will add some depth and competition at the quarterback spot for Penn State, as Christian Hackenberg and early enrollee Michael O’Connor are the only other quarterbacks on the roster.

Indiana has also been on a nice run, picking up five commitments in the past week, from linebacker Tegray Scales (Cincinnati/Colerain), running back Tommy Mister (Chicago/St. Rita), athlete Waynedriko Smith (Orlando, Fla./Orangewood Christian) and defensive backs Zeke Walker (Cayce, S.C./Brookland-Cayce) and Tony Fields (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby).

Trending down: Michigan hasn’t lost any commitments in the 2014 class, but the Wolverines lost ESPN Junior 300 running back Damien Harris (Berea, Ky./Madison Southern) over the weekend.

Harris is the No. 1-ranked running back and No. 17 overall in the 2015 class. Losing Harris and fellow ESPN Junior 300 member George Campbell (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) is a big blow to the 2015 class.

Add in the fact that Michigan’s main remaining target for the 2014 class, Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) could end up not picking Michigan and could end up at rival Michigan State or Ohio State, that’s more bad news for Michigan.

The Wolverines haven’t landed a commitment since August and steadily have been moving down the class rankings. If the coaches miss on McDowell, that would mean they missed on three major targets: McDowell, five-star defensive end Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) to Alabama and in-state defensive end Jhonathon Williams (Berrien Springs, Mich./Berrien Springs) to Notre Dame.


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The football world has descended on Mobile, Ala., this week as the top senior college prospects gear up for the Reese's Senior Bowl on Saturday. Be sure to follow ESPN.com's coverage of practices and the game itself as players audition before NFL coaches, general managers and other personnel types.

Here are a few takeaways after reading some of the Senior Bowl coverage:

  • [+] EnlargeRa'Shede Hageman
    Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY SportsMinnesota defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman has impressed scouts this week at the Senior Bowl practices.
    Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman has impressed a lot of folks in Mobile and strengthened his case to be a first-round pick in May's draft. Hageman blossomed as a senior for the Gophers, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors, and has shined alongside other defensive linemen like Pitt's Aaron Donald (who won the Outland Trophy, Bednarik Award, Nagurski Trophy and Lombardi Award). At 6-foot-6 and 318 pounds, Hageman has a unique frame and unique abilities that are showing up right now.
  • Kain Colter played mostly quarterback at Northwestern, but his cameos at wide receiver underscored his ability to excel at the position. He's playing exclusively at wideout during Senior Bowl week and has caught the eye of the ESPN Scouts Inc. crewInsider, which sees him as a slot receiver who compares in some ways to another former Big Ten quarterback-turned-NFL-receiver, one-time Indiana star Antwaan Randle El.
  • Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland is another player generating buzz. Borland's height continues to be a topic of discussion, but as he did throughout a decorated Badgers career, he's getting it done on the field in impressive fashion. The Zach Thomas comparison is being made, and some also liken Borland to former Boston College standout Luke Kuechly, who has transitioned very well to the pro level with the Carolina Panthers.
  • While everyone continues to talk about Richard Sherman, another cornerback with a similar build to Sherman stood out at Monday's practice. Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste, who like Sherman began his college career at wide receiver, impressed onlookers with his length in press coverageInsider. NFL Media's Gil Brandt described Jean-Baptiste as "like a clone of Richard Sherman." At 6-3 and 215 pounds, Jean-Baptiste is part of the new wave of larger cornerbacks.
  • Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz has drawn praise from Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage and others following some good practices. Fiedorowicz has told reporters in Mobile that there's more to his game than he displayed at Iowa, where he was used primarily as a blocker before emerging to record 75 receptions his final two seasons. His size has always jumped out, and he's showing how well he can catch passes this week.

There's much more to come from Mobile, so be sure to follow all of our Senior Bowl coverage.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

January, 20, 2014
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As usual there is a ton of action happening around signing day. The Big Ten has had commitments, decommitments, offers and everything in between.

Here is a look at what took place within the conference on the recruiting trail this past week:


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Key recruiting visits -- Big Ten 

January, 17, 2014
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Now that the dead period has ended, prospects will continue taking visits to schools before signing day. The Big Ten has several top targets traveling all over the country this weekend, so here is a look at some of the bigger visitors for the conference.

1. DT Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes)
Visiting: Ohio State
Nnadi, who is ranked No. 253 in the ESPN 300, has Ohio State, Penn State, Florida State and Virginia Tech in his top group. The nation’s No. 21 defensive tackle visits Ohio State this weekend and with new defensive line coach Larry Johnson now officially hired by the Buckeyes, we’ll see where Ohio State ranks after this trip.


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Big Ten lunchtime links

January, 10, 2014
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Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars?

Big Ten lunchtime links

December, 27, 2013
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Let the (B1G) games begin ...
  • Bo Pelini was all business as Nebraska arrived at its bowl site and said that "obviously, not everybody made the trip" -- although he wouldn't specify who.

Big Ten recruiting storylines: Dec. 19 

December, 19, 2013
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As the calendar year winds down, there is still plenty to talk about within recruiting. Big Ten teams have been on a roll on the recruiting trail as of late, and each program is hoping that continues into signing day.

Here are five things for fans to watch as we head into the holiday season.

Under Armour Game

There are six Big Ten teams represented in the Under Armour All-America game this year with Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State all having commitments scheduled to play in the game.

The game will be played Jan. 2 in St. Petersburg, Fla., but there will be plenty to watch before the big game. The participants will go through tough practices and skill competitions leading up to the event, which always has some interesting storylines.

The practices put the best players in the country against each other, so it’s a good measuring stick of top prospects.


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North Carolina's post-game celebration at Duke turns costly. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini isn't panicking and three things for which to watch when the newest playoff rankings are released.
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