How many of CFB's all-time best running backs hail from the SEC?
The SEC produces great running backs year in, year out. How many of those SEC greats deserve to be recognized as college football greats is an ongoing debate.
Bleacher Report recently ranked its all-time top 16 running backs in college football. For much of the list, the SEC was noticeably absent until Bo Jackson was named No. 6 all-time. Five spots later, Herschel Walker closed out Christopher Walsh’s list at No. 1:
To give an idea of how good Herschel Walker was, consider that he led Georgia to the national championship and finished third in Heisman Trophy voting as a freshman. His 1,616 rushing yards set an NCAA freshman record that stood until 1996.
Walker went on to finish second for the Heisman in 1981, when he had a career-best 1,891 rushing yards before finally winning the award in 1982. He’s the only player in history to finish in the top three in Heisman voting after each of his three college seasons.
Not many people – besides Auburn fans – are going to argue with Walsh having Walker at No. 1. A bigger question for SEC fans is which conference legends belong in the discussion for the sport’s all-time best. Here is Bleacher Report’s full 16:
16. Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma)
15. Jim Thorpe (Carlisle)
14. O.J. Simpson (USC)
13. Jim Brown (Syracuse)
12. Ron Dayne (Wisconsin)
11. Earl Campbell (Texas)
10. Marcus Allen (USC)
9. Doak Walker (SMU)
8. Charles White (USC)
7. Red Grange (Illinois)
6. Bo Jackson (Auburn)
5. Tony Dorsett (Pittsburgh)
4. Archie Griffin (Ohio State)
3. Ricky Williams (Texas)
2. Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State)
1. Herschel Walker (Georgia)
The list covers more than 100 years of football, with Thorpe’s career going back to 1907. When Saturday Down South previously ranked the SEC’s all-time best running backs, Darren McFadden came in at No. 3. One has to wonder if an up-and-down NFL career has kept McFadden from being in the same conversation as college football’s all-time greats outside the SEC.
Peterson vs. McFadden is an interesting comparison as they played in two of the same three seasons (2005-06). McFadden has an advantage in career rushing yards (4,590 yards to 4,041 yards) while also throwing seven touchdown passes as a wildcat quarterback. Peterson has one more rushing touchdown (42 to 41). Injuries limited Peterson’s career to 31 games, a reason Walsh put him on the list.
What do you think, SEC fans? Would McFadden, Billy Cannon, Kevin Faulk or any other SEC running back make your top 16 over someone on the Bleacher Report list?