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Big Ten rankings: No. 1, Montee Ball

8/30/2012

We have reached the summit.

Our preseason Big Ten Top 25 player rankings conclude today with the No. 1 player on the list. As a final reminder, these rankings are based on past performance and potential for this season.

As D'Angelo Barksdale once explained, "The king stay the king ..."

No. 1: Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin, senior, 5-foot-11, 215 pounds

2011 postseason rank: No. 1

2011 numbers: Led the FBS in rushing yards with 1,923 and tied the FBS record for most touchdowns in a season with 39. Averaged 6.3 yards per carry and caught 24 passes for 306 yards. Heisman Trophy finalist.

Why he's here: There was very little suspense about who would be No. 1 on this list. We must admit that we got a bit nervous when Ball was the victim of an assault and suffered a concussion just before training camp. But all indications are that Ball will be healthy for the start of the season. And that's all the assurance we need to keep him at the top.

What else is there to say about a guy who scored 39 touchdowns and rushed for more than 1,900 yards last year? I still believe that future college football historians will look at Ball's numbers and wonder how he could only finish No. 5 in the Heisman balloting. Ball surprised a lot of people by coming back for his senior year, but he heard from the NFL that he needed to get stronger and improve on his pass protection. So he has worked hard at doing that in the offseason, putting on some weight yet looking possibly even faster than before.

Ball also informed us this summer that his first name is pronounced Mon-tay, not Mon-tee, so we'll have to get used to that. Seeing him reach the end zone though, is now a familiar sight, and he needs just 18 touchdowns to break the NCAA career record. If he comes close to last year's scoring pace, he should have that by midseason.

It wasn't the greatest offseason for the Badgers star. But as Wisconsin's Heisman campaign says, this fall belongs to Ball. The top spot of this list has belonged to Ball since the end of last season. Let's see if he can stay there in 2012.

The countdown

No. 25: Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska

No. 24: MarQueis Gray, QB, Minnesota

No. 23: Ricardo Allen, CB, Purdue

No. 22: Mike Taylor, LB, Wisconsin

No. 21: Jared Abbrederis, WR/KR, Wisconsin

No. 20: Denicos Allen, LB, Michigan State

No. 19: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State

No. 18: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State

No. 17: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State

No. 16: Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois

No. 15: Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB, Michigan

No. 14: Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State

No. 13: James Vandenberg, QB, Iowa

No. 12: Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin

No. 11: Johnny Adams, CB, Michigan State

No. 10: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

No. 9: Jonathan Brown, LB, Illlinois

No. 8: Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin

No. 7: Kawann Short, DT, Purdue

No. 6: Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan

No. 5: Gerald Hodges, LB, Penn State

No. 4: William Gholston, DE, Michigan State

No. 3: John Simon, DE, Ohio State

No. 2: Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska