Top 5 Most Underrated Running Backs in College Football

Tim Lewis@timdlewiContributor IOctober 6, 2011

Top 5 Most Underrated Running Backs in College Football

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    We've heard plenty about LaMichael James, Ray Graham, Marcus Lattimore and Trent Richardson for the 2011 college football season—and rightfully so.

    And while all four of the aforementioned running backs rank among the top eight nationally in yards per game, there's a handful of others that deserve some early season recognition.  

    Let's take a look at five fairly under the radar running backs that are starting to make a name for themselves on a national level. 

5. Eric Stephens, Texas Tech (JR)

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    Eric Stephens ranks 13th in the country with 117 rushing yards per game (5.4 yards per carry) to go along with seven touchdowns.

    Stephens entered the season with high expectations after a breakout sophomore campaign, and has not disappointed early.

    In the Red Raiders home opener, Stephens ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns, including a 46-yard scamper.

4. Robbie Rouse, Fresno State (JR)

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    Robbie Rouse ranks 12th in the nation with 120 yards per game (4.5 yards per carry) to go along with four touchdowns.

    Rouse leads the nation with 133 carries through five games and had his breakout game versus Nebraska during the second week of the season.

    Facing a highly-ranked Cornhuskers defense, Rouse carried the ball 36 times for 169 yards while chipping in three receptions for 28 yards.

3. Robert Turbin, Utah State (JR)

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    Robert Turbin ranks 10th in the nation with 122 yards per game (6.7 yards per carry) to go along with nine touchdowns.

    Tubrin broke out in Week 2 with 180 yards on just 18 carries while scoring two touchdowns in a blowout win over Weber State.

    The following week Turbin scored four touchdowns in heartbreaking overtime loss to Colorado State, 35-34.

2. Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State (SO)

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    Ronnie Hillman is the only true sophomore on the list and ranks second in the country with 151.5 yards per game (6.2 yards per carry) to go along with eight touchdowns.

    Hillman loves playing in front of the home crowd as he combined for 380 yards rushing and six touchdowns in the Aztecs' first two home games.

    He also proved he could do it against the big boys, carrying the ball 21 times for 109 yards in a loss at Michigan.

1. Cierre Wood, Notre Dame (JR)

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    It's pretty hard to be considered underrated while playing for Notre Dame, but with two future first-round draft picks in WR Michael Floyd and LB Manti Te'o grabbing all the headlines in South Bend, Cierre Wood has successfully managed to fly under the radar in 2011.

    Wood ranks 14th in the country with 116.8 yards per game (5.7 yards per carry) to go along with five touchdowns through five games.

    He had his breakout game last week against Purdue, running for 191 yards on just 20 carries, including a 55-yard touchdown.

    Wood earns the top spot on our list based on the competition he has faced through the first five weeks of the season, as the Irish schedule ranks as the fifth most difficult schedule so far in 2011.

    Wood is built like your prototypical NFL running back (6'0", 215 lbs) and may entertain thoughts of entering the NFL Draft early if he continues to have games like last week against the Boilermakers.