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Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Poll: Big Ten's best running mates

By Brian Bennett

It's election day, and we certainly couldn't let that go by without having our own little voting party in the Big Ten.

Of course, in the presidential election, you're actually voting for a ticket. That got us thinking about running mates in the Big Ten this season. There are some very good duos in the league on both sides of the ball. Which one is the best? Here are our five candidates:

Ohio State's Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde: The Buckeyes' backfield duo has brought the thunder (Hyde) and lightning (Miller) to the field this season. Miller has been a legitimate Heisman candidate all year long, and Hyde's emergence as a big-time power back (737 yards and 13 touchdowns in just eight games) has taken Ohio State's offense to new levels. This ticket is guaranteed to carry the all-important swing state of Ohio.

Penn State's Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges: This ticket is strong on defense, as the two Nittany Lions' senior linebackers bring the pain. Mauti is a leading candidate for Big Ten defensive player of the year, while Hodges has come on strong in conference play. Together, they've combined for 159 tackles and untold bruises. Their platform: pain.

Nebraska's Taylor Martinez and Ameer Abdullah: The Martinez-Rex Burkhead ticket looked like a winner in the preseason, but Burkhead has been hobbled all year with a knee injury. Abdullah has lessened that loss by running for 826 yards and eight touchdowns, while Martinez has evolved into one of the best -- and most clutch -- quarterbacks in the league. The Nebraska voting bloc figures to turn out in force for these candidates.

Wisconsin's Chris Borland and Mike Taylor: From Paul Ryan's home state come these running mates, who have a proven track record after being two of the best linebackers in the Big Ten last year as well. Their approval rating rivals that of Mauti-Hodges for all they do for the Badgers defense. They've combined for 166 tackles and appear on their way to each eclipsing 100 tackles for a second straight year.

Northwestern's Kain Colter and Venric Mark: Chicago politics can be complicated, but it's pretty clear that this Evanston duo deserves strong consideration. Both Colter, a do-it-all player who can line up at quarterback, receiver or running back, and the diminutive but speedy Mark -- Northwestern's first 1,000-yard back since 2006 and a dangerous return man -- can fly like Air Force One. They've combined for more than 2,400 all-purpose yards this season.

Let your voice be heard by voting for one of these tickets now. After all, it's your constitutional right.