If you really love what you do, you do not and will not get encapsulated by the numbers. Instead of worrying about being an entry in a record book, you wonder what you can do for your team win. Whether it’s by way of passing to the left or running up the middle because there’s a soft spot in the D-Line.
At the end of the day – win or lose – college football is a game of numbers. And in two states cases – Georgia and Oklahoma – they’re running games electrified the NCAA.
The work horses that dominated the 2014 NCAA football ground game stems in the South. A southern state known for the Coca-Cola headquarters and exploitation of Atlanta housewives – Georgia.
Nestled within a state of pop culture lies three universities that destroyed the running game in 2014 – Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech and UGA. Alone, the “big three” accumulated 12,714 rushing yards. That’s equivalent to running 7.2 miles. The last time a single state was represented by three schools in the ground game: Oklahoma in 2008 (Oklahoma State, OU and Tulsa).
The Peach State found prosperity last season in the run game thanks to the running back arsenals of Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech and UGA. Both GA Southern and GT ranked 1st and 2nd in yards per game, total TDs and total yardage for the season, while Georgia clipped the 12th and 13th spots in the respected categories.
Let’s face it: Georgia Tech was a freak show in 2014. Eight RBs rushed over 200 yards and within the same group, three tallied over 900 yards – a feat unaccomplished by a majority of their FBS peers. Justin Thomas led the Yellow Jackets rush attack with 1,086 yards and 8 TD, followed by Synjyn Davis, who registered 924 yards and 9 end zone trips. If I continued to move down Georgia Tech’s RB depth chart, then you’ll get bored.
Eagles soar. That’s exactly what the Eagles of Georgia Southern did last year in the run game. They amassed 4,573 total rushing yards, while tacking on a nation’s best 55 rushing TDs. Carried on the legs of Matt Breida (1,494 yards, 17 TDs) and Kevin Ellison (1,108 yards, 12 TDs), Georgia Southern took no prisoners, regardless of opponent.
On a per-game basis, the program ran for 381.1 yards per game – nearly 40 more than in-state foe, Georgia Tech.
The scandal involving Todd Gurley left Georgia’s student-body – and a majority of media – a bitter taste in UGA’s backfield. Without hesitation, Nick Chubb took that sting out. He accounted for 1,574 rushing yards and 14 TDs. Although Gurley remained benched for a chunk of the season and Chubb deemed a suitable replacement, Sony Michel also contributed. Granted, his stats un-match those of his colleagues, but come crunch time, he delivered.
A few states west of Georgia lies Oklahoma.
Since Barry Sanders held the limelight for OK State ages ago, the state of Oklahoma has seen its share of running back phenoms. In 2008, Okies witnessed three schools – OU, Oklahoma State and Tulsa – showcase their power on the ground. With the likes of OK State’s Kendall Hunter, OU’s tandem of Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray, and Tulsa’s Tarrion Adams, these programs ranked no lower than 13th (with exception of OU occupying 20th in yards per game) in team rushing.
Honorable Mention: the Armed Forces
Dating back to 2005, Navy, Air Force and Army almost always find solace in the top 15 when it comes to running the ball. No other D-I program boasts back-to-back top 15 finishes – for a decade’s worth. It’s hard to extract the better institution, because Navy, Army and Air Force always produce good running backs. In 2012, Army RB Trent Steelman accrued 1,248 yards and 17 TDs. The same year, Airman Cody Getz posted 1,248 yards and crossed the goal line 9 times. And when discussing Midshipmen, one can’t overlook Keenan Reynolds (2012: 649 yards, 10 TDs).
The state of Georgia quietly stole the show last season in the backfield. It’s not unheard of for a state to have multiple schools dominate in one sport, but what Georgia and Oklahoma (and the Armed Forces institutions) experienced, solidified their programs as powerhouses on the watch list.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports