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Thursday, January 30, 2014
Big Ten postseason player rankings: No. 4

By Mitch Sherman

We’re into the final four of the Big Ten postseason player countdown, which measures only performance during the 2013 season. Next on the list is a player who produced a monster season at one of the Big Ten’s historically significant positions.

No. 4: Ameer Abdullah, RB Nebraska

Previous ranking: No. 13

Ameer Abdullah
We dare you to find a Big Ten running back more important to his team than Ameer Abdullah was to Nebraska. Go ahead ... we'll wait.
Making the case for Abdullah: He was the most important running back to his team in the Big Ten.

Go ahead, try to make another argument for someone else. It won’t stand up to Abdullah’s value last season in Lincoln.

The Huskers played all but one conference game without quarterback Taylor Martinez and offensive guard Spencer Long, Nos. 3 and 12, respectively, in the Big Ten preseason player rankings.

Abdullah was the constant. He topped 100 yards in 11 games, missing by two yards in a loss to UCLA and 15 yards in Iowa’s victory over Nebraska.

See what happened when he didn’t produce big?

Usually, though, he came through for the Huskers. Abdullah churned for 123 against Michigan State’s top-rated defense -- the first back since to go over 100 yards on the Spartans since he and Martinez did it in 2012. Abdullah gained 122 in the Gator Bowl against Georgia, 165 against Minnesota, 225 against Illinois and 147 in a win at Penn State.

Often, he wasn’t just the Huskers’ best offensive option; Abdullah was their only option.

His signature play came not on a run but a reception, as he gained 16 yards -- most of it after the catch, with defenders all around -- on a fourth-and-15 toss from Ron Kellogg III to extend Nebraska’s last-minute, game-winning drive against Northwestern.

His 1,690 yards led the Big Ten and ranked fourth all time on the single-season charts Nebraska, the best year by a runner in Lincoln since 1997. And back then, Ahman Green posted big numbers behind a national-title caliber offensive line.

Abdullah operated behind a makeshift group after the loss of Long on Oct. 12. Still, the 5-foot-9 junior averaged better than six yards per carry and remained durable, rushing 19 times or more in each of Nebraska’s final nine games.

He’s coming back for his senior year in 2014, so Big Ten defensive players get a final crack at the Alabama native. Wish them luck.

The countdown