Deadly Pair: The Best College Football RB Tandems of the Past Few Years
Great running teams always pop up across the nation.
And while the passing game has become the sexier and more common form of offense in football, a good running game can't be beat.
And while a 50-yard bomb from Peyton Manning to Marvin Harrison is exciting, nothing can beat a back breaking tackles on his way to a touchdown.
But what makes a running game great isn't just one back, its two. Sometimes the quarterback even gets involved.
A great running team is made through depth, and a 1-2 punch. A Batman and Robin, if you will.
And lately, the NCAA has been flurried with great combination backfields. So I saw it fit to make a ranking of the best in the past few seasons, and see how they look in comparison.
I rated these not just on statistics, but on consistency. I rated them on a wow factor. I looked at them through the backs that you could sit and say, "Wow, he could go the distance any time he has the ball."
And so, while there may be some that on paper may have been as good, these are the best on the field.
Exception 1: Adrian Peterson (2004)
Honestly, any player matched up with these two outstanding players would make a great tandem. At least on paper. But these two are my exceptions to rule, as they could honestly be paired with anyone.
Peterson: 339 attempts, 1,925 yards, 5.7 average, 15 TD.
Peterson dominated in Oklahoma throughout his career, but the 2004 season shines as his most dominant.
He guided the Sooners to wins over Oregon, Texas, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, and a Big XII title win over Colorado.
He also would be one of the only highlights for the Sooners after the BCS National Championship loss to USC.
Exception 2: Willis McGahee (2002)
McGahee: 282 attempts, 1,753 yards, 6.2 average, 28 TD
McGahee guided the Miami offense to huge wins over Florida, Florida State, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, and a Big East conference title win over Virginia Tech.
He was knocked out of the National Title game against Ohio State with one of the grisliest injuries ever seen on television, but almost wore a ring.
A controversial pass interference call on Miami would lead to an Ohio State win.
10: Kendall Hunter & Keith Toston (2008)
Hunter: 241 attempts, 1,555 yards, 6.5 average, 16 TD
Toston: 102 attempts, 686 yards, 6.7 average, 9 TD
The speedy duo fought and crawled through the overly competitive Big XII South back in the wild season of 2008.
These two would torch through the defenses of the Big XII, and watching them live was definitely a treat. While they were vastly underrated because of Oklahoma State’s nice passing game, they were a fun group to watch.
They would lead their Oklahoma State Cowboys to a huge win over No. 3 Missouri, and drop close losses to No. 1 Texas and No. 3 Oklahoma. They would then barely drop a close bowl game to No. 17 Oregon.
9: Ricky Dobbs, Vince Murray, and Marcus Curray (2009)
Dobbs: 315 attempts, 1203 yards, 3.8 average, 27 TD
Murray: 182 attempts, 971 yards, 5.3 average, 6 TD
Curray: 80 attempts, 585 yards, 5.3 average, 6 TD
The amazing Navy ground attack didn’t dally without Paul Johnson calling the shots.
Quarterback Ricky Dobbs makes this list (and he won’t be the first). Maybe it’s breaking the rules, but this counts as a tandem. Just more than a pair.
The Navy attack was more than a team could handle, as they could attack from the ground with ease.
After narrowly shocking No. 6 Ohio State in their own building, the ground game would lead to upsets of Wake Forest, No. 22 Notre Dame, a beating of Army, and a thrashing of favored Missouri in their bowl game.
8: The Georgia Tech Offense (2009)
Johnathan Dwyer: 221 attempts, 1,346 yards, 6.1 average, 14 TD
Josh Nesbitt: 279 attempts, 1,037 yards, 3.7 average, 18 TD
Anthony Allen: 61 attempts, 597 yards, 9.8 average, 5 TD
Roddy Jones: 53 attempts, 345 yards, 6.5 average, 3 TD
The Ramblin’ Wreck offense cruised through the slate of games that they played. Paul Johnson and his staff sure proved they could coach with the Triple Option at Georgia Tech.
Watching this team was absolutely amazing, as every running back that they had on the field seemed to be able to take it the distance.
Allen and his versatility, Dwyer’s bruising, Nesbitt’s run-and-gun, and Jones' speed made the Georgia Tech offense uncontainable.
The offense would lead to wins over Clemson, No. 22 North Carolina, Florida State, No. 4 Virginia Tech, and another win over Clemson for the ACC Championship.
And who says the Triple Option will never work?
7: Vai Taua, Luke Lippincott, and Colin Kaepernick (2009)
Taua: 171 attempts, 1,345 yards, 7.8 average, 10 TD
Kaepernick: 161 attempts, 1,183 yards, 7.3 average, 16 TD
Lippincott: 134 attempts, 1,034 yards, 7.7 average, 9 TD
After stumbling out of the gates, this Nevada squad made history by establishing three 1,000-yard rushers.
While Colin Kaepernick happens to be a quarterback, like I explained earlier, all this does is revamp the rushing game.
With a dual-threat quarterback, and two great runners, this team could be much higher.
But they didn’t show up in their toughest games. And flat out never showed in the bowl game.
An inspirational close loss to No. 6 Boise State was their biggest (moral) victory.
Still, this was a great rushing team.
6: James Davis & C.J. Spiller (2006)
Davis: 203 attempts, 1,187 yards, 5.8 average, 17 TD
Spiller: 129 attempts, 938 yards, 7.3 average, 10 TD
Clemson rolled into the 2006 season with a new face at quarterback, Will Proctor, and new starting running back, James Davis.
Following a breakout game over Florida Atlantic, the Tigers rolled over No. 9 Florida State, and two others. They would have been unbeaten, but a blocked extra point in overtime against Boston College prevented it.
The Tigers rolled up to Wake Forest. They faced a 17-7 deficit, and little-known tailback C.J. Spiller stole the show. The Tigers would then roll through Temple into a matchup with No. 13 Georgia Tech on national TV.
The Tigers got a visit from ESPN College Gameday for the first time school history.
A 200-yard game from Davis, a 100-yard game from Spiller, a couple power moves from Davis, and sweet jukes from Spiller, and the new tandem was formed.
Thunder and Lightning would roll through the rest of the year, but the Tigers couldn’t capitalize on the great tandem. They would drop their next four of five after the big win.
5: DeMarco Murray & Chris Brown (2008)
Brown: 217 rushes, 1,220 yards, 5.6 average, 20 TD
Murray: 179 attempts, 1,002 yards, 5.6 average, 14 TD
The 2008 Oklahoma Sooners’ squad shattered every record for offense that the NCAA had.
They became the most prolific and high-scoring offense in the history of the NCAA, and Murray and Brown were the biggest parts.
These two torched defenses: Brown with his bruising and Murray with his speed. They found paydirt more than any other tandem for the year, combining for 34 touchdowns.
They torched Chattanooga, Cincinnati, Washington and the top-rated defense of TCU.
They then ran wild on Baylor and Texas (however, they came just shy of the win against the hated Horns), and beat Kansas State, Nebraska, Texas A&M, crushed No. 2 Texas Tech and No. 12 Oklahoma State.
They guided the Sooners to the win in the Big XII title game, and then a game just shy of bringing a National Title against Florida.
4: Trent Richardson & Mark Ingram (2009)
Ingram: 271 attempts, 1,658 yards, 6.1 average, 17 TD
Richardson: 145 attempts, 751 yards, 5.2 average, 8 TD
These two ran over defenses and torched them for yard after yard.
Ingram would pound the football, and once the defense thought they could catch a break, Richardson would bust a big run.
I, at least, felt that these two were closer to equals that a 1-2 punch. Ingram only got the start because of being the eldest and more experience. Once Ingram leaves, there will be another Heisman for Alabama.
The Crimson Tide kicked off their season with a crushing win over No. 7 Virginia Tech, followed by blowout after blowout of top teams.
They ended their year with Ingram taking a licking against Auburn, but Richardson took over.
Ingram would return and control the SEC Championship game against Florida and cement his Heisman trophy-winning season.
The two then ran wild over Texas for the Crimson Tide’s National Championship.
3: Pat White, Steve Slaton, and Noel Devine (2007)
White: 197 attempts, 1,335 yards, 6.8 average, 14 TD
Slaton: 211 attempts, 1,051 yards, 5.0 average, 17 TD
Devine: 73 attempts, 627 yards, 8.6 average, 6 TD
The West Virginia Mountaineers attack was a force to be reckoned with in 2007.
Pat White was the most versatile quarterback the country had seen, and he had Steve Slaton who was more of a pass catcher and speedster backing him up.
Noel Devine would come in to a tired defense and use his skill to bust through. His 8.6 average is almost staggering.
The Mountaineers cruised through their schedule behind the hot three they held, until South Florida caught them napping.
They would cruise again until the season finale for the Big East title against Pittsburgh. The Panthers would hold the offense in check and get the upset win.
But West Virginia and their force would rebound with a pounding of Oklahoma in the Tostitos’ Fiesta Bowl.
2: Reggie Bush & LenDale White (2005)
Bush: 200 attempts, 1,740 yards, 8.7 average, 16 TD
White: 197 attempts, 1,302 yards, 6.6 average, 24 TD
“Helloooo everybody. Meet Mr. Bush.”
While this team is in scrutiny, and Reggie Bush may have been a cheater, this was still one of the greatest tandems. So I digress.
Between the offensive fire power of Matt Leinart, and the explosive skills of Bush and workhorse power of White, this team simple could not be stopped.
Bush would roll his way to a Heisman trophy with his swift moves and amazing skills, while White would get the ball at the goal line and score all the heavy touchdowns.
The Trojans would roll through all of their opponents throughout the regular season, leading to thrilling win over Notre Dame and highlight reel game for Reggie Bush against Fresno State: 23 carries, 294 yards, 2 TD, plus another 200-yard game against UCLA the next week).
But it would all lead to the National Championship game against Texas. White would score USC’s first three touchdowns, with Bush running in another to give USC a 38-26 lead with 6:42 to go.
But Vince Young would take over, and we all know how it turned out.
USC would be denied a national title, even though they were the most talented team in the land.
And these two would be my No. 1, but the scandal may have altered my standings.
1: Darren McFadden & Felix Jones (2007)
McFadden: 325 attempts, 1,830 yards, 5.6 average, 16 TD
Jones: 133 attempts, 1,162 yards, 5.6 average, 11 TD
And finally there you have it! McFadden and Jones are easily the best. McFadden would run over anyone and everyone that got in his way, and Jones would leave you in the dust.
These two had a great year the year before, but this one was their best. I mean, McFadden almost had 2,000 yards (although I’m pretty sure almost all of them were against South Carolina) and Jones still managed almost 1,200.
These two were the definition of fear of a touchdown every time they touched the ball.
They lead their team to a 7-4 record leading to a huge overtime upset of No. 1 LSU; however the Tigers would still make the National Championship game.
McFadden almost stole the hardware from Tim Tebow (and should have, but I digress) and walked out the best player in the land on his own.
So, there you go! So now, it’s open for debate. Like my order? Any changes?
Did I leave anyone off? Let me know what you think! Comments and likes appreciated.
And remember, who will be the breakout tandem for this year?