I’m here for it.
That is, the running back battle between Kylin Hill and Benny Snell that we’re going to see play out Saturday night. I’m not just saying that because both rank among the top 13 Power 5 rushers in America, though that certainly helps. The fact that both Snell and Hill have gotten off to fantastic starts in 2018 is perhaps why both are clearly, um, confident heading into this weekend.
Snell made headlines because of something that he’d say before basically any game, even if the opposing team had a couple All-Americans on the defensive line like Mississippi State has in Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat.
As expected, this quote made it back to Mississippi State:
Benny Snell looking forward to next weekend's big game against Mississippi State: "I'm going to run on any team. This offense don't fear nobody." https://t.co/vcG50W3Gta
— Ben Roberts (@BenRobertsHL) September 15, 2018
Hill had a response for Snell’s claim that “he’s going to run on any team:”
And of course, a few hours later, Snell clapped back:
You a clown over the internet! I show up in real life.
— Mr SNELL YA LATER👋🏾 (@benny_snell) September 17, 2018
The irony of course is that so far, this is just an internet beef. When Hill and Snell line it up Saturday, it won’t be a Twitter war of words. It’ll just be two talented running backs against two successful defenses.
Oh, and I’m just assuming there will be a little extra juice from everyone involved when either back gets a touch.
Snell’s “I’ll run on any team” comment will gain even more legitimacy if he puts up some big numbers against MSU. Through 3 games, the Bulldogs rank 13th in FBS against the run having allowed just 85 rushing yards per contest. They surrendered just 2.5 yards per carry and they’re one of 6 Power 5 teams that has yet to allow a rushing touchdown. In addition to Sweat and Simmons, the likes of Leo Lewis, Chauncey Rivers and Kobe Jones have all been a big part of that effort.
This will be the best challenge for Snell and the MSU defense. Unless you count 75 yards on 15 carries against Murray State as being stopped — don’t forget he also had that pop pass that’ll go down as a passing touchdown — then nobody has really stopped Snell since, well, when he was inexplicably ejected in the Music City Bowl last year.
But if we’re talking real, actual containment, Snell rushed for at least 90 yards or had 5 yards per carry (excluding the Music City Bowl) in each of the last 8 games he played.
Ironically enough, the last time he failed to accomplish that feat was against Mississippi State last year. That was when Snell had just 18 yards on 7 carries, which marked his worst single-game output since he recorded his first carry in Week 3 of his true freshman season in 2016. As a result, MSU rolled to a 45-7 victory.
Hill, then a true freshman, received just 2 carries in that game. Needless to say, the only way Hill gets 2 carries Saturday is if the lower body injury that deterred him against Louisiana last week flares up. If Hill runs like the back who earned SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors after a career day against Kansas State, it might be he who comes out saying “he can run on any team.”
I mean, it’s hard not to be confident running behind an offensive line like this:
FULL SLAB… pic.twitter.com/WxIOH91LwH
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) September 20, 2018
Granted, that was Louisiana. Saturday will be a different task.
Historical narratives aside, Kentucky hasn’t exactly been a slouch defending the run, either. The Wildcats rank No. 40 in FBS against the run having only allowed 2 rushing scores. And overall, they rank No. 22 in scoring defense with an SEC road win under their belts.
With that in mind, maybe Saturday doesn’t wind up being Hill and Snell trading touchdowns. Maybe both defenses will take the trash talk to heart and it’ll be up to dual-threat quarterbacks Nick Fitzgerald and Terry Wilson to do the heavy lifting.
But in a conference where running backs are king, Hill and Snell have the makings of 2 of the SEC’s best. They could easily finish the season ranked 1-2 in carries given how good they’ve been and how they’re featured in their respective offenses. Maybe we’re even talking about two guys who will battle for first-team All-SEC honors.
Shoot, Snell and Kentucky came into the year saying he was the nation’s best back. If he can turn laugh emojis into shocked MSU faces, he’ll take a mammoth step in the right direction. And if Hill can outshine Snell, the sophomore’s rapidly rising stock will soar to new heights.
Here’s hoping that come Saturday, Snell and Hill both show up in real life looking like their dominant selves.