Scan the list of the NCAA’s rushing leaders and you’ll find a “Who’s Who” of the best backs from all around the nation – except for the SEC.
No SEC player ranks among the top 20 in rushing yards in the nation. If that situation continues through the end of the season, it will be the first time since 1974 that no SEC back makes the top 20.
As of today, the top 20 has six rushers from the Pac-12, four from the Mountain West, three from Conference USA, two independents, two from the American Athletic and one each from the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12.
The SEC’s current rushing leader, Kentucky’s Benny Snell, sits 22nd with 897 yards. Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson (868 yards), Georgia’s Nick Chubb (867) and Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald (801) also are in the top 40.
The lack of SEC players in the top 20 isn’t necessarily an indication that the conference is slipping. Multi-back attacks (Chubb and Sony Michel at Georgia, Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough at Alabama) have limited the opportunities for individual rushers to compile big numbers. Injuries, as in the case of Rawleigh Williams III at Arkansas, Kamryn Pettway at Auburn and Derrius Guice at LSU, also have played a part.
Whatever the cause, though, it’s unusual.
Not since 1974, when Walter Packer of Mississippi State led the pack with 994 yards – the last time no rusher in the conference reached 1,000 – has the SEC been shut out of the top 20.
The SEC almost missed the top 20 last season before Guice climbed up the standings with a late-season surge. With 782 yards so far, Guice has even more ground to make up this year.
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The conference’s best bet to break into the top 20 may be Chubb. That’s because the Bulldogs will appear in the SEC championship game and – fans in Athens hope – could add one or even two games in the College Football Playoff to their schedule. If they do, and Chubb stays healthy, he has a strong chance to make the top 20, while climbing to second on the conference’s all-time yardage list behind Georgia legend Herschel Walker.
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