Virginia Tech vs. Alabama: Which Program Has Nation's Best Backfield?

Justin CocchiolaCorrespondent IAugust 20, 2010

ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 05:  Quarterback Greg McElroy #12 of the Alabama Crimson Tide takes the snap from William Vlachos #73 against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Georgia Dome on September 5, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Virginia Tech-Alabama opened up the 2009 college football season in Atlanta.

Both teams came in with stout defenses and questions on offense. Alabama's offense was further along in September than Virginia Tech's, and it showed in the fourth quarter.

However, we might not have known at the time that we were watching a matchup between two of college football's greatest running backs: Mark Ingram and Ryan Williams.

Neither back had "arrived" until that game. The Hokies were concerned because their star from 2008, Darren Evans, had a torn ACL and was going to miss the entire season.  Ingram was coming off a year in which he backed up Glen Coffee.

In 2008, Ingram had 728 rushing yards and led the team with 12 rushing touchdowns.  Williams had spent the 2008 season on the bench with a redshirt.

Alabama had the advantage at that position going into last year's game, and Ingram didn't disappoint. He rushed for 150 yards and scored two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving.

Williams played well in his first collegiate action. He rushed the ball 13 times for 71 yards and two scores, and many thought he should have been given more carries.

However, that was last year. What about this season? 

These two teams aren't scheduled to meet, but could in postseason play. But who has the better overall running game?

If you look at Alabama, it has the reigning Heisman trophy winner in Ingram and a solid backup in Trent Richardson. Richardson rushed for 751 yards and eight scores last season in reserve duty.

The Hokies have Williams and Evans as their one-two punch. 

Both are 1,000-yard rushers, and both set the school mark for most rushing yards by a freshman in a single season. However, Williams also set the school rushing record for the most single season rushing yards in his freshman year, an impressive feat considering Virginia Tech's history at that position.

If you compare Williams and Ingram's numbers from last year they're very similar.  Take a look below and decide who is who:

Player A: 293 carries for 1,655 yards and 21 TD's; 16 catches 180 yards 1 TD

Player B: 271 carries for 1,658 yards and 17 TD's; 32 catches 334 yards 3 TD's

Player B is Ingram, who had better overall numbers, which led to him winning the Heisman. But these two guys were very close statistically speaking, and both teams had successful seasons.

Williams didn't receive any votes for the Heisman, which is kind of hard to believe.

However, both backs should be better in 2010, and that is partly because they have support in the backfield.  Not much will change for Alabama, which will have Ingram and Richardson back for consecutive years, but Virginia Tech can't wait to see their duo of Williams and Evans play in the same backfield for the first time in regular season play.

So back to that great question, which team has the better running backs? 

Virginia Tech will field two 1,000 yard rushers, and Alabama will field a Heisman trophy winner.  And the depth doesn't end there for these two teams.  Both have guys in waiting that would have seen a tremendous amount of playing time this year at just about any other school.

Virginia Tech's David Wilson and Alabama's Eddie Lacy are both potential superstars like the guys ahead of them.

Overall, I give the nod to Virginia Tech.  It's hard to argue against them because of two-record setting backs in the same backfield. 

Both teams have good quarterbacks, good offensive lines, and a good receiving corps which should do nothing but contribute to the success of the ground game.

But, it's all talk right now.  The season starts in a couple of weeks and these players will answer the question for us or make it more difficult to come up with a definitive response.

Either way, I'd love to see these two teams meet up in the National Championship come January.


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