- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Big Ten postseason player rankings have reached the top 20. As a reminder, these rankings are based entirely on performance during the 2012 season. Our next selection filled in for a guy they call Superman in Husker Country, and delivered quite the heroic performance of his own.
Just call him Ameer Guapo ...
No. 20: Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska, sophomore, 5-foot-9, 185 pounds
Preseason rank: Not ranked
2012 numbers: 226 carries for 1,137 rush yards and eight touchdowns; 24 receptions for 178 yards and two touchdowns; 16 punt returns for 209 yards and a touchdown; 17 kick returns for 360 yards
Why he's here: Rex Burkhead came in at No. 2 on our preseason Top 25 player countdown, and for good reason. He carried Nebraska's offense at times during the 2011 season, rumbling for 1,357 yards and 15 touchdowns on a whopping 284 carries. The thought of Burkhead missing almost the entire season with a knee injury seemed like a daunting one for Big Red. The thought of Nebraska still leading the Big Ten in both rushing (253.4 ypg) and total offense (460.8 ypg) with Burkhead mostly sidelined seemed highly unlikely. Thanks to Abdullah, that's exactly what happened.
Abdullah stepped into the featured role and delivered week after week. He recorded six 100-yard rushing games, including four straight against Big Ten opponents as Nebraska mounted its surge to win the Legends Division. Abdullah gave quarterback Taylor Martinez another target in the passing game and made a significant impact on returns. He had an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown against Idaho State and an 83-yard kick return to set up a score against Wisconsin in the Big Ten opener. His punt return average (13.1) would have led the the Big Ten if he had enough attempts, and he finished fourth in the league in all-purpose yards (134.6 ypg).
Abdullah earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and showed impressive durability despite a smaller frame, averaging 22.8 carries during a five-game stretch of league play in which Burkhead was sidelined. The season prepared him to headline Nebraska's rushing attack in 2013.
No. 21: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State