Big Red in the B1G Week 8: We Won and Stuff… Oh, and Rex Burkhead is the Best RB in the B1G

Ohio State was two weeks ago, but this picture makes me happy still.

Look, I cannot come up with an angle for the Minnesota game. You’ve seen the animated GIFs, you probably watched some of it, and most likely you predicted a score in the ballpark of what happened. As B1G fans, what can you take away from this game? Well, little to nothing. Minnesota is its own worst enemy, Nebraska can run the ball, Martinez still looks shaky throwing the ball, there are stupid NCAA fumbling/passing rules, and Jerry Kill cannot catch a break. So yeah, pretty much Nebraska and Minnesota 2011, right?

Anyhow, since my piece about Ohio State never made it to the interweb (me and my internet provider were not getting along well with SBNation), I want to talk about something that deserves some debate. I usually do not like to talk about midseason awards, unless it’s Denard’s September Heisman, but after reading several publications’ view of who is the RB of the year to this point in the B1G, I started wondering why Burkhead isn’t getting more press. I know Nebraska hasn’t knocked the socks off of anyone yet, but I think he deserves a look as the best B1G RB because he’s been doing everything and has looked good doing it. So I’m going to take a stab at it. If my team is picking a RB this year from the crop of backs in the B1G, I’m choosing Rex Burkhead.   

When making assertions such as, "X is the best Y," it’s probably good to back things up with more than, "I like the way he wears a bracelet to remind himself that there are people who have to fight more difficult circumstances than playing NCAA football, getting free school, and eating a ridiculously wonderful set of meals from t he training table." Not that there is anything wrong with that, but character is only a part of this equation, and probably a very small one at that. After all, it’s not like we care about that character stuff once Saturday comes around, now do we

Anyhow, let’s assume that the three best backs in the B1G right now are Montee Ball, Rex Burkhead, and Marcus Coker. I am open to getting blasted in the comments as to why someone is left out (most likely Penn State fans complaining about the overall yards leader, Redd… he doesn’t get invited because he has an extra game and only 6 TDs, so deal with it). When breaking down statistical categories, I chose overall yards, YPC, and TDs. I like that we can then analyze your overall production, how effective you really are with your opportunities, and what you’ve gotten out of the deal. Here’s how these guys break down:

 

Total Yards

YPC

TD

Ball

768

6.1

17

Burkhead

752

5.8

10

Coker

717

4.8

8

 

Right off the bat, Ball takes an early lead in all three statistical categories. I can understand why every article I read named him the best RB of the bunch. He has produced more, on slightly fewer carries, and gets to paydirt regularly. Yeah, the guy is been in Beast-mode it seems. Granted, UNLV and Oregon State (not to mention Nebraska) have not provided the sternest tests to date, but SoS is difficult to measure in a quick turnaround, so we’re going with what we got. Still, what do these numbers really say? In watching Wisconsin this year, Ball has gotten a lot of TDs because that offense is a finely tuned machine. While I do believe he is the cog that makes that thing work, would you give more credit to a strong QB and line or to him on his own? I guess a better question would be if you switched Ball with someone like Burkhead, would there be similar results? I believe so. As for Coker? He's a great back, but I think he is a lot farther behind Burkhead and Ball than these numbers even suggest. He has over 20 more rushes than both Burkhead and Ball and has produced fewer yards and TDs. I will give him credit for his receiving yards, but even with that, he's still not been quite as good as everyone hoped he would be this year. I think he'll have a more productive second half as defenses gear up to stop the pass, but for now he's third on the list. It is worth noting that Redd has less YPC than Coker as well.

 

Getting back to Rex, there are things that I think make him such a great back that you wouldn't see on the surface of the stats above. Let's start at the YPC level per quarter. As the announcers feverishly pointed out on Saturday (in between being bored out of their minds), Burkhead averages a full yard more in the 4th quarter per carry than he does in the third:

YPC/Q

Q1

Q2

Q3

Q4

Ball

5.0

5.8

7.3

7.8

Burkhead

7.5

2.8

5.7

6.8

Coker

4.5

5.6

4.2

4.7

Of course, it seems as if Ball is even more of a monster as the game progresses as he is averaging progressively more yards per carry AND he is getting two or more yards in the fourth. Coker gets better in the fourth, but not by much. Well, again, this doesn't tell the whole story. One of the most difficult things to figure out through statistics is context. Ball has had very few carries in the fourth. Comparing everyone's carries per quarter (obviously blowouts for Ball have helped) looks like this:

Carries/Q

Q1

Q2

Q3

Q4

Ball

49

24

40

12

Burkhead

30

30

33

37

Coker

48

41

30

26

This may seem like no big deal, but think about that. Burkhead increases his average YPC from Q2-Q4 even as his carries increase. Ball has higher YPC in the 4th, but the stats size makes it skewed. With only 12 carries in the fourth quarter this year, his average gets to be high with one long run -- a 21 yard gash at that. He is still a great back, but I like that Rex has had his most carries in the fourth quarter. Again, Coker seems to start huge, but go down in production overall as the game progresses. What does it all mean? It’s hard to say. All I know is that Burkhead has to shoulder much of Nebraska’s offense and either close out games (Washington) or bring Nebraska back (Ohio State). The coaches want the ball in his hand and he seems to respond to that.

 

Add to all this Burkhead’s all-everything attitude. So far he has lined up as RB, FB, WR, QB, KR and PR. I understand some of that is gimmicky, but it points out his versatility. If the writers and coaches were to release their All-B1G team right now, he’s not the #1 back, it’s Ball, and I can’t necessarily knock anyone for that, but I think it’s a little shortsighted to think it’s a landslide victory. Burkhead is a throwback to the "do what it takes" roles of the old days, and I think he’s really been the Husker's shining light so far as we’ve entered B1G play. He has extremely good vision, and he has stepped up as a leader on a team that has struggled to find an offensive identity. He’s the cog in a potent rushing offense that will determine whether or not the Huskers make it to Indy.

 

Bottom line, the B1G has some excellent backs including both Coker and Ball, and I would be extremely hard-pressed to say that Burkhead is the best of the bunch, but if I was putting together a team, I would have to choose Rex. He has played with intensity all season despite having very little experienced depth behind him, he is a great character guy and well-spoken, and he has an entire rap song written about him. With that said, let the, "WHAT! HOW CAN YOU SAY _______ ISN’T THE BEST RB IN THE B1G!!! OMG!!!!!!"

 

 

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Off Tackle Empire

You must be a member of Off Tackle Empire to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Off Tackle Empire. You should read them.

Join Off Tackle Empire

You must be a member of Off Tackle Empire to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Off Tackle Empire. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker