A week into bowl season, we have already seen some dynamic football being played. As the bowl season continues, we will see more breakout players, particularly in the running back department.
With rushing quarterbacks in Cam Newton and Denard Robinson making plays, some running backs seem to be flying under the radar. Yes, we all know about LaMichael James, but what of Jordan Todman, or Daniel Thomas? These and others will be ranked as we go through the 70 main running backs in the bowl games.
70. Alex Singleton, Tulsa—Third in rushing yards on his team with 391, Tulsa concentrates mostly on the pass, so he will see very little action.
69. Anthony Elzy, North Carolina—Johnny White's injury and Shaun Draughn's ineffectiveness mean Elzy needs to step up. He played well against Duke but that's been it so far.
68. Vince Davidson, Ohio—His yards per carry average of 3.9 and barely 500 yards on the year are not going to cut it, and his lackluster performance against Troy proved that.
67. DuJuan Harris, Troy—Shawn Southward is the one over the 500-yard mark, but Harris stepped it up against Ohio. Still not a good rushing team, though.
66. Mike Trumpy, Northwestern—This team's good at grooming running backs over three to four years, so he could end up being in the top 20 when he's a senior, as he's only a freshman now.
65: Mustafa Greene, NC State—Same situation as Northwestern; did not play very well, but only a freshman so he has time.
64: Jeffery Demps, Florida—Started strong but missed three late games and hasn't rebounded yet.
63: Vincent Smith, Michigan—Played okay on very limited touches, since everything goes through Denard Robinson.
62: Joseph Banyard, UTEP—After a great game against Tulsa, he did nothing in the bowl game against BYU. Not sure what happened there.
61: Chris Thompson, Florida State—An all-or-nothing type back. Has rushes of 83 and 90 yards in a game, as well as a game with eight rushes for 12 yards.
60: De'Vion Moore, Missouri—Using three running backs interchangeably just tells me none of them are good enough to be the featured guy.
59: Cierre Wood, Notre Dame—Has played okay since Armando Allen's injury, but no 100-yard games despite having sole possession of the top spot.
58: Davin Meggett/Da'Rel Scott, Maryland—Scott was great his sophomore year, but disappeared after that. Neither will break open a game.
57: Keola Antolin, Arizona—Started the season off well enough, but struggled badly in his last three games, averaging 3.2 yards/carry.
56: Moise Plancher, South Florida—Nearly 750 yards and 4 touchdowns is good enough, but for a fifth-year guy you would expect more.
55: Darriet Perry, Florida Int'l—Which Perry will we see, the one who ran for 186 yards against Troy, or the one who struggled for 53 yards on 16 carries against Middle Tennessee State?
54: Baron Batch, Texas Tech—Had a great game against Missouri, but Texas Tech is a pass-first school, and I don't see that changing against Northwestern.
53: Washaun Ealey, Georgia—Could either break out or shut down. Kentucky certainly felt the former from him.
52: Thomas Merriweather, Miami (OH)—A good running back, but he's only broken out in the past few weeks, and wasn't even part of the game plan before that. Miami (OH) has the lowest rushing totals of bowl eligible teams.
51: JJ Di Luigi, Brigham Young—A solid bowl outing against UTEP nearly puts him in the top 50.
50: Jamie Harper, Clemson—Andre Ellington could probably have made it onto the top 35, but he's still injured, and Harper hasn't been great.
49: Eddie Wide/Matt Asiata, Utah—Both were non-factors against Boise State, and weren't all that great in the regular season either.
48. Marcus Coker, Iowa—Iowa's backup running back has shown promise in a couple starts, but he's not Adam Robinson.
47: Noel Devine, West Virginia—Noel Devine was great his sophomore and junior years, but he just completely shut down after the first three games this year. Possibly the most disappointing season of any football player.
46: Darren Evans, Virginia Tech—Has been consistently okay this season.
45: Damien Berry, Miami (FL)—Struggled down the stretch, but has had a few great games this season.
44: Jonathan Williams, ECU—Fairly consistent week to week, but with as bad a defense as ECU has, he'll need a big game.
43: Phillip Tanner, Middle Tennessee—Pretty even with Williams. Can break for 100 yards, but doesn't often.
42: Jared Hassin, Army—For a team as run-focused as the Black Knights, you would expect the top running back to have much better stats.
41: Evan Royster, Penn State—Good running back who had an off year and struggled down the stretch.
40: Adonis Thomas, Toledo—Launched himself near the top 40 after being a non-factor the first half of the year with a good finish.
39: Ronnie Weaver, Central Florida—Had a good middle of the year, didn't play much at the start and end; could he hang with an SEC team?
38. Michael Ford, LSU—Good from the little we've seen of him. Stevan Ridley is easily a top-25 running back here but was ruled ineligible for the Cotton Bowl; LSU's backfield is supposedly deep, and they better hope it is.
37: Alexander Teich, Navy—Had a pretty good year, but I think it was more due to Ricky Dobbs and the option offense than Teich.
36. Robbie Rouse, Fresno State—The first 1,000-yard rusher on here. He struggled in his bowl game after missing the last regular game of the season.
35: Vick Ballard, Mississippi State—The Bulldogs are hoping his last game against Ole Miss was an anomaly.
34: Alex Green, Hawaii—Destroyed the WAC, but struggled out of conference.
33: Kendrick Hardy, Southern Miss—Only a freshman, yet is playing like he's been here before. Points off for not doing much against Louisville.
32: Dion Lewis, Pittsburgh—Take out the great game against Cincinnati and he had an average year after being amazing as a freshman.
31: Delone Carter, Syracuse—Put him against a good defense, such as Boston College, and he could shut down despite multiple 100-yard games.
30: Tauren Poole, Tennessee—Not very consistent, but when he's on he has big games.
29: Derrick Locke, Kentucky—Started off great, then got injured. Could have an amazing game against Pittsburgh, so look past statistics on this guy.
28: Doug Martin, Boise State—Boise State's offense is dynamic enough that there are games where he's not used often. If let loose he can break for 150 yards, as we saw against Utah.
27: Asher Clark, Air Force—Perhaps an under-the-radar back, he squeaked over the 1,000-yard mark while averaging nearly six yards a carry.
26: Ed Wesley, TCU—TCU has a very good running game, but Wesley himself has had a rough month on the field. They'll need their number one option to return to how effective he was earlier in the year.
25: Jay Finley, Baylor—Finally got moving in the second half of the season, including a 250-yard game against Kansas State. Not flashy, but gets Baylor the yards they need.
24: Dan Herron, Ohio State—Finally got hot with great games against Minnesota and Michigan. Has been good most of the season for the Buckeyes, though not great.
23: DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma—A workhorse and a very solid running back. Was set to put him in the top 20, but no 100-yard games since October hurts him; peaked early.
22: Stepfan Taylor, Stanford—Which one will show up? The one in the middle of the year was a top-10 running back in the country, while the one we saw against Arizona State and California was questionable. Nonetheless, he can still get touchdowns even on off games.
21: Michael Dyer, Auburn—Somewhat splits time with Onterrio McCaleb, otherwise stats would be far better. How much of his yardage is due to his ability and how much is due to Cam Newton shifting defenses and Gus Malzahn's genius? More probably comes from the latter.
He may not be all that flashy, but he gets the yardage when it counts. He's a tough running back that went unheralded along with the rest of the Michigan State team. He was a non-factor in their one loss, which could very well be the difference-maker.
If Alabama's defense does the same, then there could be trouble.
Even if he was active the first two games of the year, he still may not have cracked the 1,000-yard mark. A disappointing follow-up season and splitting time with Trent Richardson doesn't help much on this ranking.
Yes, I'm sure many Alabama fans will shout about how I dare keep him off the top 10, but he was absolutely not a top-10 running back this year. He was good, but that's all. At least he's ranked over his competition.
Obviously, this is not Chad Spann
Now, you may be thinking that you haven't heard of him, but Northern Illinois has had its share of great running backs, namely Garrett Wolfe. Nearly 1,400 yards and 22 touchdowns is worthy of a great spot, but he did struggle down the stretch, including a 17-carry, 54-yard performance against Miami (OH).
Anthony Allen has been great for a Georgia Tech offense that hasn't had much to cheer about otherwise. He actually had more touchdowns as a freshman, but was able to pass the 1,000-yard mark this year.
He had two great games against Duke and Georgia to wrap up the season, and he only had one bad game earlier in the year.
Everyone's saying that the Washington-Nebraska game will be a blowout. Honestly, they're probably right, but what they're forgetting is that the two running games are arguably dead even, with two solid runners jumping over a thousand yards with one huge game, while otherwise having some off games.
The first of these two is Roy Helu, Jr., whose thousand-yard performance was helped by a 307-yard outing against Missouri. He had a nice game against Oklahoma, as well as one of the best yards-per-carry averages in the country.
The second of these two is Washington running back Chris Polk. He finished the year with 284 yards against Washington State, though he did nothing against Stanford. A workhorse who has done what he can to help Jake Locker, though it doesn't help that Washington isn't that great of a team.
No Getty pictures tells me that Line is way under the radar. Must be the conference, as 1,391 yards and double digit touchdowns are hardly under-the-radar numbers.
He ran for 139 yards against TCU; that in itself tells you all you need to know about him.
Powell may have been just alright in the bowl game, but during the regular season he was great. Despite missing a game—two if you count his zero yards on few carries against West Virginia—he's destroyed whatever teams have been in his way.
Back-to-back 200-yard rushing performances is an impressive feat, even if one of the opponents was Memphis.
His bowl performance against Navy nearly launched him into the top 10. People think of Ryan Lindley and Vincent Brown when they think San Diego State, but as Navy learned, you cannot forget about Hillman.
He had 228 yards against Navy and Missouri, but is kept off the top 10 by two mediocre performances against TCU and Utah.
Hard to believe this guy is only a freshman. Had a solid game against Auburn in the SEC Championship Game.
He's had a few bad outings this season, such as against Clemson and the first Auburn matchup, and that keeps him from getting in the top 10.
The best college running back you never heard of. After seeing next to no playing time in A&M's three losses (11 combined carries), they began handing him the ball, and boy did he run with it. In his final six games, he ran for 100 yards in each, and finished over the 1,000-yard mark despite playing as infrequently as he did.
Wrapping up the year with a 223-yard performance against Texas helps as well.
Another team that focuses almost solely on the run, and it shows through with Harris' prominence. He's been a workhorse this year, and although he's lost a step from last year, he finished his season with six straight 100-yard rushing games.
An injury caused him to miss the game against Syracuse, which is a shame, but he should be ready for Nevada.
Already showing the makings of a star, sophomore Knile Davis finished the season hot en route to an 1,183-yard season, finishing the year with four straight 100-yard rushing games. He didn't see much playing time in the first half of the season, but when he was handed the reins he made it count.
Yes, Ohio State has Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron, etc., but Arkansas has the running back advantage here.
Leshoure became nearly a household name after putting up 330 yards at Wrigley Field against Northwestern. Yes, you read that right, he put up 330 yards! Needless to say, that's a record for Illinois. He finished the season with about 700 yards in his last four games.
He had games where he struggled, such as against Purdue, but as Northwestern learned, if you let him loose, it's game over. He'd land on the top five if he didn't seem to have better rushing performances when his team loses (sans the 330-yard one).
I picked on the dual and triple running back systems a lot earlier, and that's because for most, they haven't worked effectively. Wisconsin's three-pronged attack is an example of a three-headed monster done right. John Clay started off the season great, with James White and Montee Ball backing him up.
After a few games, White and Clay split carries, and in a couple games both got 100 yards. Once Clay went down due to injury, Ball stepped in, and in the final three games, both running backs ran for 100-plus yards each time.
At least one player ran for 90 yards in every game. Could TCU stop just John Clay? Probably. Can they stop all three? Surely one will break through and have a big game. If this slide was on rushing attacks rather than starting RBs, Wisconsin would be top-three.
Thomas is a hard runner for Kansas State who struggles a bit against tough defenses, but who has no problem running roughshod over weaker ones. He started and ended the season with 230-plus yard rushing games en route to a just-about 1,500-yard season.
I expect a huge game against Syracuse from him.
After a very good sophomore year, Todman broke out and had an amazing junior year. He carried the UConn team to a Big East title, and ran wild against nearly every team he faced. He ran for over 1,500 yards despite missing a game; that's not an easy feat no matter how many carries you get.
Yes, much of Nevada's dynamic offense goes through Colin Kaepernick, but it would not be nearly as good as it is without Vai Taua. In his third season over the 1,000-yard mark, second over 1,500, Taua destroyed everyone that came in his path, whether they were in-conference or out-of-conference opponents.
Harris and Taua are going to make that bowl game an amazing rushing display.
So long as you give Hunter 20 carries, he'll guarantee 100 yards. Oklahoma State has one of the most dynamic offenses in the game, and while much of it is in the passing game and Justin Blackmon, the running game is just as great.
Kendall Hunter's 1,516 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns are among the best in the league, and his performances include a 201-yard game against Nebraska.
There's no question in my mind that Oregon's LaMichael James is the most dominant collegiate running back in the game right now.
A Heisman finalist and the leading rusher this year, he has brought the Oregon program to the BCS National Championship Game, where he will be able to showcase his talents across America.