Over the next few weeks, a panel of Scout.com Big Ten reporters will be breaking down the conference position-by-position.
Today we look at the running back spot, where there was a clear leader but the next three ball-carriers were highly contested. Can Northwestern's Justin Jackson, Wisconsin's Corey Clement, or L.J. Scott of Michigan State catch the runaway winner?
The reporters were asked to rank the top five at the position, with five points going to the No. 1 spot, four to No. 2, three to No. 3, and so on...
1. Saquon Barkley, Penn State: 48 POINTS (8 First Place Votes)
Barkley broke out as a freshman last season, totaling over 1,000 yards on the ground, including seven touchdowns. He showed flashes of brilliance that has propelled him to the top back in the Big Ten according to many. One of those flashes actually came in a loss at Ohio State. The Buckeyes dumped the Nittany Lions 38-10 but Barkley did everything he could to carry the team on his back. He ran for 194 yards on 26 carries against one of the country's top defenses and without much of a passing game to keep him fresh or the offense honest. Barkley also racked up 195 yards earlier on in the season in the Big Ten opener against Rutgers. Those types of performances are now expected.
2015: 182 carries, 1,076 yards and 7 TD's. 20 receptions, 161 yards and 1 TD.
2. Justin Jackson, Northwestern: 36 POINTS (2 First Place Votes)
Jackson is the lone player in the top five that is coming off back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons as the others have only been playing in the league for a year or are returning from injuries that set them back. The Northwestern star found the end zone much more two years ago but captured his career-high in yards last season. In 2015, Jackson ran for 1,418 yards on 312 carries. He's certainly turned into their bellcow, especially in last year's final two regular season games. He took 35 carries against Wisconsin for 139 yards followed by 37 carries against Illinois that went for 172 yards. His most productive game were the 186 yards he rushed for against Penn State in a narrow home victory in November.
2015: 312 carries, 1,418 yards and 5 TDs. 21 receptions and 162 yards.
2014: 245 carries, 1,187 yards and 10 TDs. 22 receptions, 201 yards and 1 TD.
3. L.J. Scott, Michigan State: 29 POINTS
Scott shared the backfield a year ago with three other guys in Madre London, Delton Williams and Gerald Holmes. All four likely see time this year for the Spartans but it is clear that Scott will receive an increased workload from last season. His most effective game came against Purdue when he ran for 146 yards on 18 carries in a tight three-point win over the Boilermakers. His most impactful game was easily the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis when he rose to fame against Iowa to raise the conference trophy and send Michigan State to the College Football Playoff. He only totaled 73 yards on 22 carries but he was a pivotal part of the long, final drive that salted the game away and nobody will forget his gutty, physical touchdown run that saw him lunge into the end zone while being tackled by three Hawkeyes.
2015: 146 carries, 699 yards and 11 TDs.
4. Corey Clement, Wisconsin: 27 POINTS (ONE 1ST PLACE VOTE)
Clement was largely out of commission a year ago due to an injury. He had to undergo sports hernia surgery last season that put him on the shelf for many games. He tried to make a return but was not operating at 100 percent. He should be tuned up and firing on all cylinders in 2016 for the Badgers. He had one 100-yard game in 2015 when he racked up 115 yards against Rutgers in a convincing victory for Wisconsin. His notoriety came from a 2014 season where he turned in several impressive performances as the back-up, including a 164-yard contest against Illinois and running for over 100 yards against Auburn in the Outback Bowl.
2015: 48 carries, 221 yards and 5 TDs.
2014: 147 carries, 949 yards and 9 TDs.
5. Mike Weber, Ohio State: 5 POINTS
Even without any production in his career, Mike Weber stakes claim to the fifth spot among the Big Ten's best running backs. An injury kept him out of action a season ago, along with being on a roster that included Ezekiel Elliott who was taken fourth overall by the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL Draft. Past precedence likely plays a role in this selection as the Buckeye running backs have had a ton of success under head coach Urban Meyer but also Weber's projected ability. He was one of the country's best running back prospects in the class of 2015, so much that he was expected to play a role as a true freshman a year ago before being sidelined with an ailment.
HONORABLE MENTION (RECEIVED VOTES)
DEVINE REDDING, INDIANA
DEVEON SMITH, MICHIGAN
SHANNON BROOKS, MINNESOTA
MARKELL JONES, PURDUE
KE'SHAWN VAUGHN, ILLINOIS
DEVINE OZIGBO, NEBRASKA
PANELISTS: Panelists: Josh Harvey (Nebraska), Mark Brennan (Penn State), Derek Young (Iowa), Keith Cavanaugh (Maryland), Dave Berk (Michigan State), Ryan Burns (Minnesota), Jeremy Werner (Illinois), Ryan Ginn (Ohio State), Ben Worgull (Wisconsin), Sam Hellman (Rutgers) and Josh Newkirk (Michigan)
Video done by Josh Harvey, Big Red Report