Ranking the SEC’s top 10 running backs in the BCS era

Arkansas v LSU

Related BCS Ranking:

As physical as the SEC can be, it’s no surprise that the conference has produced great running backs throughout the years. From Kevin Faulk to TJ Yeldon, the SEC has seen talented players in the backfield during the BCS era and Saturday Down South looks at the 10 best.

Here are the 10-best SEC running backs of the BCS era:

1. Darren McFadden, Arkansas (2005-07)
Rush stats: 785 carries, 4,590 yds, 41 TDs
Receiving stats: 31 catches, 304 yds
The lowdown: With the only nickname that could rival Carnell ‘Cadillac’ Williams, Darren ‘Run DMC’ McFadden comes in at No. 1 on our list. Whether it was running, receiving or even passing in Arkansas’ infamous ‘Wild Hog’ formation, McFadden could do it all for Arkansas. He was named a consensus All-American in both 2006 and 2007 and nearly surpassed 5,000 total yards from scrimmage by the end of his collegiate career. McFadden was able to lead Arkansas to the SEC Championship game in 2006 and finished runner-up in the Heisman Trophy voting twice. His 1,830 rushing yards in 2007 are the second most of any SEC running back. Injuries have plagued him in his NFL career, but Run DMC was truly special during his time with the Hogs.

2. Trent Richardson, Alabama (2009-11)
Rush stats: 540 carries, 3,130 yds, 35 TDs
Receiving stats: 68 catches, 730 yds, 7 TD
The lowdown: Trent Richardson only got a starter’s share of the load during the 2011 season after splitting many of the reps with Mark Ingram in the two years prior. But even when he was primarily the backup at Alabama, many considered him the more talented runner of the duo and for good reason. At 5-foot-11, 225 pounds, Richardson was short and compact, but extremely powerful as a runner. It was almost always necessary that multiple tacklers were needed to bring him down. In his one full year as a starter, Richardson didn’t disappoint with 1,679 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. He finished 2011 with more than 2,000 total yards from scrimmage and capped off his incredible season as a consensus All-American and a national championship.

3. Kevin Faulk, LSU (1995-98)
Rush stats: 856 carries., 4,557 yds, 46 TDs
Receiving stats: 53 catches, 600 yds, 4 TDs
The lowdown: When talking about Kevin Faulk, I think the best question to ask is ‘What LSU record does he not hold?’ Chances are, if you name a rushing record, he probably has it for the Tigers. He totes the schools record for most career rushing yards (4,557 yards), career rushing touchdowns (46), and 1,000-yard seasons (3), among others. His career caught the beginning of the BCS era, but that’s good enough for us. Faulk’s magical career puts him in our Top 3.

4. Shaun Alexander, Alabama (1996-99)
Rush stats: 727 carries, 3,565 yds, 41 TDs
Receiving stats: 62 catches, 798 yds, 8 TDs
The lowdown: With the bevy of talented running backs Alabama has put out in recent years, you may forget about arugably Alabama’s best running back in Shaun Alexander. His final two seasons fell in the BCS era and the all-time leading rusher in Bama history put together a great senior campaign that ultimately fell short of the Heisman because of an ankle injury. Although he failed to become the first Alabama player to win the Heisman Trophy, he still was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year in 1999.

5. Mark Ingram, Alabama (2008-10)
Rush stats: 572 carries, 3,261 yds, 42 TDs
Receiving stats: 60 catches, 670 yds, 4 TDs
The lowdown: Ingram’s Heisman season in 2009 was his only 1,000-yard season as he finished with 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns. He became Alabama’s first-ever Heisman Trophy winner and he helped Alabama win the 2009 national championship. His career was a table-setter for the Crimson Tide and their recent string of dominant running backs that followed.

RELATED: Ranking the SEC’s running backs for 2014

6. Cadillac Williams, Auburn (2001-04)
Rush stats: 741 carries, 3,831 yds, 45 TDs
Receiving stats: 45 catches, 342 yds, TD
The lowdown: If we’re ranking names, Carnell ‘Cadillac’ Williams tops the list, but his game wasn’t too bad either. Williams still stands second in Auburn history only to Bo Jackson in career rushing yardage, and he still holds the record for the most touchdowns scored. Williams seemed like he was either injured or always sharing the spotlight with Ronnie Brown, and he helped Auburn to an undefeated season in 2004.

The list of accomplishments for Carnell ‘Cadillac’ Williams is extensive. Despite splitting time with fellow Auburn great Ronnie Brown, Williams finished second in school history in career rushing yards behind only Bo Jackson and is the record holder with 45 rushing touchdowns. Williams was an integral part of Auburn’s undefeated season in 2004. Most importantly, he has one of the best nicknames in college football.

7. Anthony Dixon, Mississippi State (2006-09)
Rush stats: 910 carries, 3,994 yds, 42 TDs
Receiving stats: 56 catches, 449 yds, 4 TDs
The lowdown: At 6-foot-1, 235-pounds, Anthony Dixon was a bruising back to say the least. He rumbled and tumbled his way to nearly 4,000 career rushing yards at Mississippi State while carrying the ball an astounding 910 times – good for second most in SEC history only behind Herschel Walker. Dixon was an absolute workhorse for the Bulldogs and shouldered much of the offensive firepower for Mississippi State during his time with the team between 2006-09. He’s may not come to mind as quickly as some of the other names on this list, but Dixon’s numbers are some of the best rushing stats in SEC history.

8. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina (2010-12)
Rush stats: 555 carries, 2,677 yds, 38 TDs
Receiving stats: 74 catches, 767 yds, 3 TD
The lowdown: After one of the most impressive freshman seasons by a running back (1,197 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns), Lattimore was primed to be one of the SEC’s great tailbacks. Unfortunately, injuries hampered his sophomore and junior seasons, but he was a game-changer when he was on-the-field. Despite his injury-shortened time at South Carolina, Lattimore holds the Gamecocks rushing record with 38 touchdowns. Lattimore was named a first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC in 2010.

9. Knowshon Moreno, Georgia (2007-08)
Rush stats: 498 carries, 2,734 yds, 30 TDs
Receiving stats: 53 catches, 645 yds, 2 TDs
The lowdown: When you think about Knowshon Moreno, speed, elusiveness and all-out hustle immediately come to mind. His career was relatively short, starting for Georgia only two years after redshirting in 2006, but Moreno quickly established himself as one of the best backs in college football. Perhaps even more so than his devastating cuts and jukes, Georgia fans will remember Moreno for how he helped make Georgia a contender again, along with quarterback Matthew Stafford. Although, it never hurts to look back on how he hurdled those poor defenders. Moreno finished his Georgia career fifth in UGA history with 2,734 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns.

10. TJ Yeldon, Alabama (2012-current)
Rush stats: 382 carries, 2,342 yds, 26 TD
Receiving stats: 20 catches, 314 yds, 1 TD
The lowdown: Some may disagree with this pick since Yeldon still has at leas one more year at Alabama, but the junior tailback is on pace to be one of the most prolific running backs in Crimson Tide history. He’s eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards in his first tow seasons even while backing up Eddy Lacy in 2012. He only needs only 1,156 yards to break Shaun Alexander’s school record for career rushing yards and 17 touchdowns to break Mark Ingram’s school rushing touchdown record. If Yeldon stays healthy, these records are very attainable. This time next year, Yeldon may very well be considered the best running back in Alabama history.

RELATED: 2014 SEC Top 100 Countdown: No. 18 TJ Yeldon

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  • Ridiculous! Alabama bootlicking. Most of the best running backs in the BCS era played at Alabama? NO WAY!!! Yeldon better than Gurley? Come on man!

    • Agreed! This is a ridiculous list.

    • Yeldon and Gurley are 1A and 1B, in my opinion. I think that Yeldon’s consecutive 1,000 yard seasons, especially as a true freshman backup is very impressive. He’s on pace to break several Alabama rushing records by the end of this season. But if you think Gurley is better, I don’t blame you. He’s incredible and will no doubt be one of the best in the past 20 years if he stays healthy. I appreciate you reading, however. What would your list look like?

      • Not like this one. That’s for sure. Alabama has not had 4 out of 10 of the best running backs in the Conference during the BCS era. Sorry….. I contend the Heisman winner Ingram wasn’t close to the best football player that year. Richardson was a better RB than Ingram. But I digress. Ron Brown at Auburn would be on my list. Lattimore was a great back and had some great games (beat UGA’s butt single handedly) but, he didn’t have a great career? He would have barring injury? This is my opinion I know. But the Alabama “Love Fest” with Fbaum and McElroy etc is sickening. There is a bunch of talent other than them. But it seems that’s all we hear? OBTW I’m not an Auburn fan. Many feel this way.

        • Looking back, I probably put Lattimore a little high considering his career did suffer b/c of injury. And Yeldon aside, I think Alexander, Ingram and Richardson are all top 10. I mean, excluding the lone SEC running back that won the Heisman from 1998-2013 seems crazy to me. Brown was a beast. And there’s other guys too : Deuce McAllister, Peyton Hillis, Darby, and more that were outstanding.

        • Give me a break! Ronnie Brown, are you kidding me! He does not belong anywhere close to that list!

      • Noooo. Darren McFadden is outright number 1. And I’m an LSU fan lol. I would like to know where Joseph addai was or Steven Ridley or Jeremy Hill.

    • Gurley – 387 carries, 2374 yds and 6.1 per carry

      Yeldon – 382 carries 2343 yes and 6.1 per carry

      Looks pretty close to me!

      • Gurley – 53 receptions, 558 yards, 33 total touchdowns (and he missed 3 games last season);

        Yeldon – 31 receptions, 314 yards, 27 total touchdowns.

        The comparison is not close. Gurley is clearly the better back. Not to mention the fact that Yeldon has been known to fumble the ball.

        • This is a list of best running backs, not best receivers or best all purpose players.

          receptions have nothing to do with how good a running back you are.

        • \But if you do want to make the reception argument

          TJ yeldon averaged 5 yards more per catch.

        • @ dsjj251, that is one of the most illogical arguments I have ever heard. The ability to catch the ball out of the backfield is, and has always been, a factor when rating the ability and productivity of a running back. Please refrain from making stupid comments in the future. Thanks.

          Oh, and yes, Gurley IS the better back. The comparison is not close for those of us who actually know the game of football.

      • Compare Georgia’s O line vs. Alabama’s O line….

        You can bet Bama had better players on their O line to block for Yeldon… Just something I doubt people are taking into account…

  • This is a pretty solid list. I think D-Mac is the clear number 1. I think Peyton Hillis and Felix Jones deserve to be in the conversation for being in the top 10, because they were both sharing carries with each other and D-Mac and still put up great seasons.

  • I’d throw Deuce McAllister in there, certainly above T.J. Yeldon. & Knowshon Moreno. His career stats match up with all these guys not name McFadden or Faulk.

  • No Tre Mason? He only had 17 TDs of his record setting 22 TDs and 1,289 yards out of his 1,621 yards against SEC competition. He also ran against four top 10 teams and five top 10 defenses. Not to mention in his 3 year career where he was only a 3 year starter managed to run for 2,979 yards on 516 carries for 32 t

  • There’s a lot of good players not on here that are better than the ones on here. Felix Jones was better than several on here.

  • This list was poorly made. Putting Trent Richardson at #2 is a little much. And not even including Deuce McAllister is even worse.

  • TJ at #10? What idiot put him three spots down from Dixon?

    How does Dixon beat Ronnie Brown? Yes, his stats were higher, but he was ALL they had, while Brown split time with Cadillac.

    War Eagle!

  • Arguments aside, just LOOK at that list and be proud of the SEC.

    Picking 10 is incredibly difficult.

    My Auburn first, then my state, then my conference. Go SEC!

  • At least nobody’s trying argue with D-Mac at #1. Bama having 4 of the 10 is outrageous. I’d replace one of them aside from Alexander with Gurley, or Mason–probably Yeldon. Hopefully Alex Collins will be on this list before long!

    • Yes to DMAC, but how does his running partern, Felix Jones not rate a top 10 finish? 2,954 yards rushing (more than 8-10, plus 7.6 YPC), 383 receiving yards and 1,744 kickoff return yards (4 TDs from them).

      • Totally agree. I think he’d be higher than #10 and deserves it more than Moreno, Lattimore, even Ingram. This list is all out of sorts anyway.

  • It is tough to choose just 10, but I would throw out Travis Henry. He holds the school records for yards rushing (3,078), rushing attempts (556), and 100-yard performances (14).

  • Shocked Derrick Henry didn’t make the list.

  • Insane. Yeldon is great but no where near Gurley overall and the numbers prove it.

  • All of this Bama hate. The only one you can argue is yeldon. Mark is the only SEC back in the BCS era to have a heisman. Trent was better than Mark, and Shaun is unquestionable. The only thing that makes me place TJ above Gurley is that TJ was a back up his freshman year, while Gurley has been the man since day 1. Still, if it were me, id have McAllister on the list, replacing Moreno. If the BCS lasted a few more years there’d be even more Bama hate because Yeldon and Henry are gonna both put up huge numbers in their careers. Ronnie Brown? Give me a break, no logic can rationalize him deserving a spot.

  • These lists are absolutely atrocious. Travis Henry and Travis Stephens not being included on this particular terrible list is a ridiculous.

  • Geez, people. How about counting the number of rings all your supposedly-better running backs have? What’s surprising is that Eddy Lacy isn’t on here.