Three of the Best College Running Backs Ever

With NFL teams pondering over their selections for the upcoming 2006 NFL Draft, I thought I would help them truly understand the seasons put together by the University of Southern California’s Reggie Bush and LenDale White. To see the true significance of what they were able to accomplish this past season, I am going to compare their statistics to the statistics of the best single-season rushing performance in college football ever, Barry Sanders’ 1988 season with the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

During the 1988 season, Sanders broke all-time rushing records in college football across the board and finished the year up by winning the Heisman trophy (beating another Trojan, Rodney Peete). His statistics speak for themselves as Sanders finished the 1988 season with 2,628 yards and 37 touchdowns.

While it is clear that the statistics Sanders compiled in the 1988 season blow away the statistics of Bush and White this season, the fact that Bush and White were forced to share the same backfield has to be factored into my comparison. Bush finished the season with 1,740 yards and 16 touchdowns, while White finished the season with 1,302 yards and 24 touchdowns. Of course, these numbers are impressive on their own, but if it is taken into consideration how many fewer carries each player received because they shared a backfield, the numbers begin to shine a lot stronger.

In Sanders’ 1988 season, he rushed the ball 344 times, completely blowing away Bush’s 200 carries and White’s 197 carries on the season. Using the average yards per carry and average carries per touchdown statistics, I worked out the seasons Bush and White would have had if they each carried the ball 344 times and stayed right on their average.

With 344 carries of his average rush (8.7 YPC) and his average carries per touchdown (12.5), Bush’s season statistics work out to equal 2,993 yards and almost 28 touchdowns. The season White (6.6 YPC, 8.2 CPT) would put together would equal out to 2,270 yards and 42 touchdowns.

If Bush had earned that many carries, we may have seen our first 3,000-yard rusher, and if White had earned that many carries, we may have seen the single-season record for touchdowns being broken. Of course, people are going to argue that neither of these players could have kept up their averages with that many carries, but I say, why not? They managed to keep up these averages over the course of a season in which they wore a huge bull’s-eye for being the #1 ranked team in the country.

If you want to take it one step further, throw in the receiving statistics where Bush averaged 12.9 yards per reception with 37 receptions and 2 touchdowns, and White averaged 15.6 YPR with 14 receptions and 2 touchdowns. Sanders finished his 1988 season with a YPC average of 5.6 yards on 19 receptions and 0 touchdowns.

Am I trying to say that Reggie Bush and LenDale White are better than Barry Sanders? Not at all. They have a lot to prove on Sundays before anyone should be making a statement like that, but I just think people should understand that they deserve all of the hype they are getting and more of it.

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