James White, Melvin Gordon form Big Ten's best backfield duo

This is the first piece in our position-by-position look at the best tandems in the Big Ten this season. Today it's best offensive backfield duo.

The best: Wisconsin

The duo: RBs James White and Melvin Gordon

The reasoning: White (5-foot-10, 195), a senior, has rushed for 2,571 yards and 32 TDs in his career despite never being the featured back at Wisconsin. Heck, he wasn't the featured back in high school, either. He shared carries with Giovani Bernard (a second-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in the [2013 NFL Draft](/share/page/site/nfl-com/) in high school at powerhouse Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas and has played second fiddle to Montee Ball and/or John Clay in his first three seasons in Madison. White should be the starter this fall, but again will share carries; he has 422 carries in his career (an average of 10.8 per game) and has just four games with as many as 19. One positive about sharing carries: He has had less wear-and-tear than most other backs with his yardage stats. White has good speed and can turn the corner, and he also is a tough between-the-tackles runner. White has shown some promise as a receiver out of the backfield, but that facet of his game remains a concern.

With Ball in the NFL, White now will share carries with Gordon (6-1, 207), a sophomore. Gordon ran for 621 yards last season, but 328 of those yards came in two games (UTEP and Nebraska in the Big Ten title game). He's a physical runner with a burst and may have more upside than White. Gordon had just one game with as many as 10 carries last season and has to show he can handle an increased workload; that shouldn't be a problem. Former Badgers coach Bret Bielema said last season that Gordon had the most talent of any back he'd coached at Wisconsin, and Gordon should show it this fall. Barring injury, expect his carries to increase from last season's 62 to around 165 or so this season.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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