Oregon’s 3-0 start to the 2012 season and No. 3 AP ranking is powered by the No. 4 rushing offense in the land, an attack that is solidly anchored by the best running duo in the country.
Senior RB Kenjon Barner and sophomore RB De’Anthony Thomas have combined for 552 yards and 10 scores in three games, making them the most productive rushing tandem in the FBS thus far this season.
A quantifying stat that makes this fact even scarier is that first, Thomas has a mere 13 carries (for 228 yards and four scores) meaning he’s arguably “under-utilized” and secondly, the Ducks also have a third Top 100 rusher (the only school with three in 2012) in freshman Bryon Marshall who has 189 yards and two scores on 37 carries.
The only other FBS (and non-BCS) duets that come close to the Ducks dynamic duo are Ball State’s Jahwan Edwards and Horactio Banks who have combined for 544 yards and seven scores and Louisiana Tech’s Tevin King and Kenneth Dixon who have hooked up 519 yards and seven TDs (in only two games).
The only BCS challengers are LSU’s Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue who have posted 573 yards and eight scores; but the firepower of this duo has been completely doused by Blue’s Week 3 knee injury which puts him out for at least four to six weeks.
Though others have come close to or exceeded Thomas’ and Barner’s yardage output, none has eclipsed their combined score-fest.
And when you add in No.3 rusher Marshall’s stats, it's lights out Irene.
The Ducks will need their top shelf ground assault and more tonight when they host No. 22 Arizona in what has suddenly become a clash betwixt two of the only five undefeated teams in the Pac-12.
Oregon’s tandem will square off with Arizona’s No. 57 ranked rushing defense that has given up, on average, 142 yards on the ground to the likes of Toledo, Oklahoma State and FCS South Carolina State.
What’s further compelling about this number is the fact that the Wildcats two FBS foes thus far this season (the Rockets and Cowboys) combine for an average of a No. 35 ranking in rushing offense thus far this season.
Breaking that down further, Arizona’s “D” gave up 161 yards of rushing in their win over Toledo, 200 yards in their win over Oklahoma State and 65 yards on the ground to FCS South Carolina State.
This all means that the Ducks double act could combine for a decisive knock-out punch in tonight’s late night headliner from the wild West Coast.
Moving forward, if Oregon manages to earn a fourth consecutive Pac-12 crown it’s likely the running game (a la Thomas and Barner) that will get them there.
To illustrate, from 2009-11 (the conference title run) the Ducks have ranked No. 6, No. 4 and No. 5 in rushing yards per game respectively vs. only No. 98, No. 39, and No. 68 in passing yards.
If Oregon manages to run the table in 2012, or even survive with one loss, you have to figure that either De'Anthony Thomas or Kenjon Barner will be on hand when the Heisman Trophy is handed out.