Saturday's battle between the hedges in Athens between No. 6 LSU and No. 9 Georgia will feature two of the best running backs in the nation—Jeremy Hill for Tigers and Todd Gurley for the Bulldogs.
After missing the opener versus TCU and serving in a backup role against UAB in LSU's second game of the year, Hill has reemerged as the feature back in the suddenly resurgent Tiger offense. He rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns against Kent State and then a career-high 184 yards and three touchdowns against Auburn last week.
He's back and better than ever now that quarterback Zach Mettenberger has taken some pressure off of him by stretching the field.
Gurley has had that luxury throughout his career. The sophomore has rushed for 377 yards and four touchdowns this season after going for 1,385 and 17 touchdowns as a true freshman in 2012. Gurley's transition to college football was aided by Georgia's consistent ability to stretch the field behind quarterback Aaron Murray.
So, who has the edge at running back? Let's compare the two stars.
The edge here goes to Gurley, although both have proven to be bruisers during their young careers.
The 6'2", 232-pounder has a big frame, runs very well between the tackles and will run through defenders instead of running around them.
He possesses one of the most devastating stiff arms in college football and has a unique ability when he lowers his shoulder to bounce off defenders without losing much speed. His ability to stay north and south through contact turns what normally would be short gains to big ones.
That's a huge advantage for this Georgia offense, because head coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo know that any time they call Gurley's number, he can take it to the house no matter how he gets the ball.
That's not to say Hill doesn't have power. He does. But his game is a little different.
This is why Hill is a superstar.
While Gurley sometimes seeks out more contact than he probably needs, Hill's vision in traffic allows him to avoid that contact, which oftentimes leads to big gains.
Both players see holes before they develop, but once Hill gets in the hole is when he does the most damage. He recognizes what's going on in the second level before he even gets through the first, which is why you see him running around linebackers on virtually all of his runs of 10 or more yards.
Hill's vision is second to none in college football and is a big reason why he was able to hit the ground running and earn his way back up to the top of LSU's crowded depth chart at running back.
If you looked at the build of each of the two star running backs in Saturday's contest, you wouldn't think that either was a candidate for the track team.
You'd be wrong, though. In fact, one of Gurley's biggest attributes is his top-end speed.
The former track star from Tarboro, N.C., showed off his speed in his first game as a college player, taking a kickoff back 100 yards against Buffalo in 2011. He boasted a 4.4 40-yard dash in high school, per 247Sports.com, and ran track for Team USA in Europe during the spring and summer of 2011, according to his Georgia bio.
He's not just a big man, he's a burner who is incredibly dangerous in the open field.
Hill's closing ability is what makes him so good, particularly for a team like LSU that is more prone to playing conservative thanks to a stellar defense.
Last season for the Tigers, 490 of his 755 rushing yards came in the second half. That's a whopping 65 percent of his production on the ground coming when conditioning matters most and, oftentimes, when the opposing defense knows what's coming.
This season's splits have flip-flopped for Hill, as only 79 of his 351 yards have come on the second half. But considering LSU's rather forgiving schedule in games in which Hill has played in, that will likely change as the Tigers get into the meat of the schedule.
Gurley is more balanced, with 807 of his 1,752 career yards (46.1 percent) coming in the second half.
|Year||First Half||Second Half/OT|
|Todd Gurley 2012||209||168|
|Jeremy Hill 2012||265||490|
|Todd Gurley 2013||746||639|
|Jeremy Hill 2013||272||79|
So, who's the better running back?
Who's the better RB?
Gurley has more of a resume to examine because he won the job out of fall camp his freshman year, while Hill didn't find his way into the LSU lineup until midway through his freshman campaign in 2012.
Because he's been more consistent throughout his career, a slight edge in the running backs in Saturday's matchup goes to Gurley.
But deciding between Gurley and Hill is a "rich man's problem."
Luckily for college football fans, the two stars will be on display on the same field on Saturday afternoon between the hedges.