The college football season is in the middle of Week 4 this afternoon, but the top two Heisman Trophy candidates have already played their games. Leonard Fournette and the LSU Tigers played Syracuse on the road, while Nick Chubb and Georgia hosted Southern. Both teams remained undefeated with wins this afternoon with LSU improving to 3-0 and Georgia boasting a 4-0 record.
Now that the two have played their Week 4 games and are continuing to distance themselves from the rest of the Heisman contenders, which running back is currently the better running back between the two?
First of all, let’s take a look at the statistics that the two running backs have put up so far this season. Keep in mind that Chubb has played one more game than Fournette has.
Nick Chubb: 71 Carries, 599 Yards, Six TD’s, Three Receptions, 37 Yards, One TD
Leonard Fournette: 73 Carries, 631 Yards, Eight TD’s, Two Receptions, 16 Yards
Those numbers look eerily similar, although thinking back to the fact that Chubb has played on more game it shows that Fournette has had bigger performances. That may be the case, but Chubb has had to deal with other running backs taking carries away from him. Mark Richt has given carries to Sony Michel, Brendan Douglas and Keith Marshall this season, which has to be taken into consideration.
Looking at the yards per carry average shows that Fournette averages 8.6 yards per carry, while Chubb rounds out with 8.4 yards per carry.
ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit made a bold statement about Fournette today during the Syracuse game. He said that Fournette was the most physically imposing running back that he has seen in college football since current Minnesota Vikings’ superstar Adrian Peterson when he played for the Oklahoma Sooners.
— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) September 26, 2015
Chubb has also impressed quite a few media members and made a bit of history today for the Bulldogs. He tied Herschel Walker’s record for 12 straight games with 100 yards or more on the ground. That feat is something that the Georgia running back has on his side during this entire debate.
Nick Chubb just tied Herschel Walker's @FootballUGA record with 12-straight 100-yard rushing games. Pretty, pretty, pretty good.
— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) September 26, 2015
Another thing to factor into this debate is the quarterback play of both the Georgia and LSU offenses. Georgia’s Greyson Lambert is among the hottest names in the nation at the quarterback position and has played extremely well and consistently given the Bulldogs a legitimate aerial attack. LSU, on the other hand, has seen starting quarterback Brandon Harris throw for under 100 yards in two separate games and total just two touchdowns.
What does that show? It shows that Chubb and the Georgia ground game has a much better balance and defenses are forced to focus on taking away the passing game too. LSU, on the other hand, has no real passing threat and opposing defenses are focusing on shutting Fournette down each and every play.
Both of these running backs are going to be starters in the NFL at some point in the next few seasons. They both have the talent to become superstars at the next level as well.
How great would a Fournette vs Chubb #SEC title game be??
— Danny Kanell (@dannykanell) September 26, 2015
All of that being said, it’s time to pick which running back is the better player at this point in the season.
Fournette has to be the choice due to all of the statistics and factors favoring him. It is impossible to predict what kind of numbers Chubb would have if Richt was giving him all the carries. LSU has been forced to make Fournette their workhorse and despite opposing defense clamping down on him he has still found ways to dominate every week and live up to the expectations.
This is in no way saying that Chubb is anything less than a superstar, it is simply putting the factors together and seeing that Fournette has put up better numbers against tougher situations.
Chubb still has plenty of time to cut the deficit between himself and Fournette over the rest of the season and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Richt use Chubb more as they get into SEC play. They will not face each other in the regular season, but Kanell is right in saying that seeing them go head-to-head in the SEC Championship game would be extremely entertaining.
Expect to see these two guys finish at the top of the Heisman Trophy standings at the end of the season and to be each others primary competition and motivation for the remainder of the year.