In a conference steeped in tradition when it comes to producing elite running backs, the SEC’s top two teams—Alabama and LSU—have assembled a stable of talented backs that are rivaled by few teams across the country.
The Tide and the Tigers represent the SEC’s top two rushing offenses from last season, and both teams have the firepower necessary to finish atop that category once again at season’s end.
Each can send at least three backs onto the field with little, if any, dropoff—but which team has the edge with respect to having the better group of rushers?
Alabama junior Eddie Lacy has gotten off to a slow start, but the 6’, 220-pounder is an experienced back with 14 career touchdowns under his belt.
He’s flanked by three freshmen—T.J. Yeldon, Dee Hart and Kenyan Drake—with Yeldon already making a name for himself after his 111-yard debut performance against Michigan. (h/t, Lafe Peavler, B/R).
Alabama’s unit took a hit with the season-ending injury suffered by junior Jalston Fowler—a versatile 6’1”, 242-pound hammer and the team’s second leading rusher this season—in last weekend’s 35-0 win over Western Kentucky (h/t, Alex Scarborough, ESPN).
Meanwhile, Les Miles returns four players—juniors Alfred Blue, Michael Ford and Spencer Ware plus sophomore Kenny Hilliard—that spearheaded last season’s run to an undefeated regular season and an SEC title.
Nick Saban may have the brightest future star in freshman sensation Yeldon, but any one of the quartet available at Miles’ disposal are equally capable of stepping up and being the Tigers’ No. 1 back.
The biggest knock on the Tigers group is that only one of its backs (Ware, who has 22 career receptions) has proven to be a threat as a receiver out of the backfield.
The Tide’s group appears to be more versatile while LSU gets the edge in depth and experience.
While there is a ton of football to be played before the Nov. 3 clash between last season’s BCS national title game participants, the stars appear to be aligned for another mega-hyped showdown between top two teams in the USA Today Coaches Poll—and each squad’s backfield weapons will play a huge role in determining the winner of that game.
The true answer to this question may not come until after that meeting, but for now— with Lacy’s slow start and Fowler’s injury, those factors may ultimately tip the scales in this battle towards the Tigers.