Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett will occasionally give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which blogger is right.
Today's Take Two topic is this: Who is the Big Ten's best running back at this point in the season?
Take 1: Adam Rittenberg
Brian, we'd both agree there are two obvious candidates in Wisconsin's Montee Ball and Nebraska's Rex Burkhead. Both men have been fabulous so far this season. They both have 107 carries and nearly the same amount of rushing yards (653 for Ball, 635 for Burkhead). The big statistical difference is touchdowns (Ball has 16, Burkhead has 9). While Ball's scoring skills have been superb for quite some time, I'm going with Burkhead for several reasons. He has faced better defenses, three of which -- Washington, Ohio State and Wisconsin -- rank among the top 42 against the run. Burkhead had 120 rush yards and two touchdowns against Washington, and 178 total yards (119 rush, 59 receiving) and two touchdowns against Ohio State. Ball, meanwhile, hasn't faced a defense ranked in the top 60 against the run. While Ball runs behind of the nation's most formidable offensive lines, Burkhead operates behind an extremely young Nebraska line that has been predictably inconsistent. Both players share a backfield with playmaking quarterbacks, but Ball has benefited a little more from Russell Wilson than Burkhead has from Taylor Martinez. My last reason for picking Burkhead? He's from Texas. Ball is from St. Louis. The Rangers will crush the Cardinals in the World Series, prompting you and Ball to cry on each other's shoulders.
Take 2: Brian Bennett
Adam, that's the kind of shaky logic I'd expect from a Cubs fan. Ball is the right choice here, and not just because he's a very smart baseball fan. You've already made some of my points for me -- Ball has more yards on the same amount of carries, and he has an unbelievable knack for finding the end zone. The ultimate goal in football is to score touchdowns, right? Well, Ball has 18 of them this year (including one passing touchdown, because he can do it all). He's also more dangerous as a receiver, with more than double the amount of receiving yards as Burkhead (166 to 68). Ball also splits carries with James White, and he's usually wearing a ballcap and posing for pictures by the fourth quarter, while Nebraska has gone down to the wire in several of its games. Just think what Ball's stats would be if Wisconsin really decided to feed him the ball. And I disagree with your assessment that Wilson benefits Ball more than Martinez does Burkhead. While Wilson's passing ability opens up the running game, you can't overlook the fact that Martinez is a run-first quarterback who occasionally pitches to Burkhead on the option play. Defenses have to gear up to stop Martinez's running, which often frees holes for Burkhead. I really like both guys, and the difference between the two is nowhere near as sizable as, say, the gap between the Cardinals and the Cubs. But if you ask me who's better, I have to say it's Mr. Touchdown, Montee Ball.