Big East 2012 Top 25 countdown: No. 19

Let's move along in our countdown of the best players in the Big East in 2012.

No. 19 Jerome Smith, RB, Syracuse

Making the case: If we had come out with a ranking of the Top 25 players in the Big East at the midway point of the season, Smith would never have made this list. But his performance in the second half of the year makes him hard to ignore. Smith ended up rushing for 1,171 yards this season -- and 816 of them came in the final seven games of the season. In those seven games, Smith ran for more than 100 yards five times. It is no coincidence that Syracuse ended up 6-1 in those games, with a share of its first Big East title, considering how much the Orange have relied on their running game. Syracuse has now had a 1,000-yard rusher in five straight seasons.

What is particularly impressive about Smith is the power with which he runs the football. At 5-foot-11 and 213 pounds, Smith is able to run through tackles. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry -- better than the 4.4 yards per carry Antwon Bailey averaged a season ago -- and nearly the same as the 5.3 yards per carry the much faster Prince-Tyson Gulley averaged in 2012. Smith only scored three touchdowns, but much of that is a function of different personnel packages, and splitting time with Gulley. In the end, the way Smith closed out the season makes him worthy of being on this list.

Previous ranking: NR.

The countdown

No. 20 Devin Street, WR, Pitt

No. 21 DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville

No. 22 Matt Brown, RB, Temple

No. 23 Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

No. 24 Tyler Matakevich, LB, Temple

No. 25 Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt