Iowa's Greene an All Time Big Ten Great?

Iowa running back Shonn Greene is having a season for the ages. If you are an Iowa fan reading this, that's not news to you. However, if you are a fan from some other school in a conference other than the Big Ten, you might not have noticed. Like or not American, the Hawkeye running back deserves consideration for the most coveted award in college football.

Iowa running back Shonn Greene is having a season for the ages. If you are an Iowa fan reading this, that's not news to you.

However, if you are a fan from some other school in a conference other than the Big Ten, you might not have noticed. This has been the year of the quarterback, with several Big 12 signal callers putting up mind boggling numbers. Throw in the sitting Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, plus Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree, and Greene has been buried on the back pages of sports sections across America.

What is undeniable, if you take the time to look at the numbers, is that Iowa's Shonn Greene is putting together one of the finest seasons a Big Ten running back has ever had.

We will look at two sets of data; Big Ten games only, and all games.

First, here are the top five single season rushing performances in Big Ten history, league games only:

1,549 Damien Anderson, NU, 2000 (234 att.) 6.6 per rush
1,470 Lorenzo White, MSU, 1985 (288 att.) 5.1 per rush
1,465 Larry Johnson, PSU, 2002 (166 att.) 8.8 per rush
1,399 Anthony Thompson, IND, 1989 (286 att.) 4.8 per rush
1,336 Tshimanga Biakabutuka, MICH, 1995 (193 att.) 6.9 per rush
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1,079 Shonn Greene, IOWA, 2008 (178 att) 6.1 per rush

Greene has one game remaining, and if he gets his Big Ten average of 153 yards on Saturday against Minnesota, he would finish with 1,233 yards on 203 attempts, and 6.1 yards per rush.

As you can see, his average yards per carry would eclipse White and Thompson's numbers from their record setting years. Michigan State finished 9-4 in 1985 while Indiana finished 5-6 in 1989.

Now, here are the best single season rushing performances in Big Ten history, all games, with yards per carry listed at far right:

2,109 Ron Dayne, WIS (325 att.) 1996 6.4
2,087 Larry Johnson, PSU (271 att.) 2002 7.7
2,066 Lorenzo White, MSU (419 att.) 1985 4.9
2,063 Damien Anderson, NU (311 att.) 2000 6.6
2,034 Ron Dayne, WIS (337 att.) 1999 6.0
1,927 Eddie George, OSU (328 att.) 1995 5.8
1,818 Tshimanga Biakabutuka, MICH (303 att.) 1995 6.0
1,805 Vaughn Dunbar, IND (364 att.) 1991 4.9
1,793 Anthony Thompson, IND (358 att.) 1989 5.0
1,785 Darnell Autry, NU (387 att.) 1995 4.6
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1,585 Shonn Greene, IOWA (256 att) 2008 6.2

If Greene would get his average yards per game and attempts per game over the course of Iowa's final two games (Minnesota and the bowl game), his stat line would look like this:

1,873 (257 att) and 6.2 yards per carry.

That would be the 7th highest single season rushing total in Big Ten history.

In Iowa, there is a lot of talk about Shonn Greene and the Heisman Trophy, as to whether or not he will be invited to New York City for the ceremony.

Here is a look at some of the names from above and how they fared in the Heisman balloting during their outstanding seasons from years gone by:

Lorenzo White: He finished 4th in the balloting behind Bo Jackson, Chuck Long of Iowa and Vinnie Testaverde. Incidentally, Bo Jackson rushed for 1,786 yards in 1985 and averaged 6.4 yards per carry, numbers very similar to what Greene could put up by season's end.

Ron Dayne: Dayne won the Heisman in 1999, although his statistics were better in 1996. Dayne didn't finish in the Top 10 in the Heisman voting in 1996; freezing out the freshman?

Eddie George: George won the Heisman in 1995

Darnell Autry: He finished 4th in the Heisman voting in 1995

Larry Johnson: Johnson finished 3rd in the Heisman balloting that season, behind winner Carson Palmer and runner up, Brad Banks from Iowa.

Damien Anderson: Anderson finished 5th in the Heisman vote in 2000, a year where Chris Wienke of Florida State took home the hardware.

Tshimanga Biakabutuka: He finished 8th in the Heisman ballot of 1995; now that was a strong year for Big Ten running backs!

Vaughn Dunbar: Dunbar finished 6th in the Heisman ballot of 1991, with Michigan's Desmond Howard winning the award.

Anthony Thompson: Thompson was the Heisman runner up in 1989 behind Houston's Andre Ware.

Where does all of this leave Shonn Greene? Well, we know he is not going to win the Heisman Trophy. That award will go to one of the players from this pool: Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree.

Will Greene finish in the Top Five of the balloting? If enough Big Ten region voters place him in their Top Three, he has a chance. However, the odds seem slim this year.

That being said, it's very interesting to look at some of the statistics put up by some of the all time best backs in the Big Ten, see where they finished in the Heisman vote and know that Greene is on pace for one of the best single rushing seasons in 113 years of Big Ten football….even though much of the nation hasn't noticed.


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