Top Auburn Running Backs, 2012 Edition


It has been three years since I took a look at the top Auburn Running backs. With Onterio McCalebb calling it a career at Auburn, I thought it was time.

After taking a close look, I realized it was past time.

I had originally ranked the Best Auburn Running Backs after 2007 season, spurred by an online poll I had run across. When Ben Tate finished his Auburn career two years later I updated the list. While this was expected to be a pro forma look at the standings, there was an impact that I had completely forgotten…Cam Newton.

Updated Rankings

The 2007 list covers the basic methodology. The goal is to balance peak seasons with great games and steady careers. Sine 2007, I’ve included non-rushing touchdowns in the totals and made sure proper credit was given for having multiple appearances on a list.

Lets look at the list. [Records highlighted in bold]

Running Back Career RY Career APY Career TD Season RY Season APY Game RY Season TD Score Old Score
Bo Jackson 4303 4892 45 1786 1859 290 17 170.11 152.97
Carnell Williams 3831 5084 46 1307 1718 204 17 123.15 119.19
James Brooks 3523 4496 30 1314 1800 226 12 110.51 103.99
Joe Cribbs 3368 4561 36 1205 1336 250 16 100.64 100.07
Stephen Davis 2811 3178 34 1263 1355 246 17 89.26 86.98
Ben Tate 3321 3843 24 1362 1606 184 10 69.82 75.06
Brent Fullwood 2789 3758 24 1391 1512 207 10 65.84 70.96
Rudi Johnson 1567 1637 13 1567 1637 249 13 64.27 67.73
Ronnie Brown 2707 3390 30 1008 1189 224 14 61.87 64.44
Onterio McCalebb 2589 4485 29 810 1323 148 10 53.57
Kenny Irons 2186 2430 17 1293 1459 218 13 48.50 53.95

I left Kenny Irons in as the former number 10 in order to show where Onterio McCalebb fit in the grand order of things. Onterio passed Kenny to make the list with a lot of all-purpose-yards and turning many of those into touchdowns. I never thought of Onterio as a top ten running back but four solid years and versatility goes a long way.

Other Notes:

  • While normally scores decrease from one ranking to the next as people are pushed down the lists, the top five back all rose. This is due to getting deserved credit for repeat excellence.
    • Bo Jackson has four of the top rushing games of all time: 2nd, 3rd, 7th, and 8th. Adding credit for those games gave Bo a massive bump in his score. Let’s face it, we don’t need lists to reaffirm Bo Jackson’s position as Auburn’s Best Running Back.
    • Carnell Williams has the 3rd and 5th best seasons for All-Purpose-Yards.
    • James Brooks has the 2nd and 4th best seasons for All-Purpose-Yards.
    • Joe Cribbs is 5th and 6th on the season touchdown list.
    • Stephen Davis is 2nd and 8th on the season touchdown list.
  • As mentioned last time out, Curtis Kuykendall set the record for most rushing yards in a game on November 24, 1944, running for 307 yards. He did it on 33 attempts and got 4 touchdowns.
  • The record for most non-passing touchdowns? Cam Newton with 21.

Which brings up an interesting situation.

Measuring Cam Newton

Like Tucker Frederickson in the 1960s, Cam Newton was a great college football player. As he was Auburn’s quarterback for his Auburn career, he doesn’t belong on the list of the best Auburn running backs.

That said, Cam Newton does hold the record for most rushing touchdowns at 20 plus a receiving touchdown he earned on a trick play. In fact, he has a few Auburn season marks:

  • 3rd in rushing yards per season with 1473, behind only Bo Jackson and Rudi Johnson.
  • 8th in all-purpose-yards in a season with 1515.
  • 10th in career touchdowns with 21, even with only one season under his belt.

In fact, if you calculated his score, Cam would have been 7th on the list with a score of 66.16, right behind Ben Tate. He definitely replaces Rudi Johnson as the best single season wonder in the running back list.

The impact to the list is that Cam raised the bar to get into any season top ten list and raised the season touchdown record from 17 to 21. In fact, if Cam wasn’t clearly a QB, he’d be on the list and Onterio would be off of the list.

To get a fuller picture of Cam’s impact on Auburn’s record book, you need to take a larger look at quarterbacks.

Maybe another day.

Fixing the Bowl System


The bowl system in college football is broken. Attendance is down this year, many teams lose money when they attend, and there is a perception that there are too many games. When we look at the causes of this problem, they are very simple:

  • The 12 Game Schedule: The addition of a 12th game without increasing the requirement to play in a bowl has both increased and diluted the pool of teams.
  • The BCS: Even before the playoff, the BCS has hurt the bowl system. Only one game impacts the National Championship now. This is good, but it hurts all the other games.
  • ESPN: This may be mean, but having games drag out over 3 weeks for “Capital One Bowl Week” really hurts things. Having to take additional days off from work to attend bowl games is going to drop attendance in games that aren’t as compelling.

This can’t be fixed with just one change. Let’s look at one fix that would go a long way.

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Looking More Closely at ESPN’s Conference Rankings


I’ve been following ESPN’s college football conference rankings all year. I like them because they try to balance the impact of the top teams in the polls against the computers. When looking at the final results, I started thinking.

Is their logic sound?

When they started talking about the number of teams ranked in the top 25, I realized that there is an unfair comparison taking place. The SEC has 14 teams while the Big 12 only has 10 teams.

Of COURSE the SEC has more ranked teams.

When I look at the final AP poll of the regular season, there is a 6-2 count of teams in favor of the SEC. However, if you weight the count to normalize 14 teams down to 10 teams, you get 4 teams. (technically 4.3 teams but you can’t have a fraction of a team)

Since the Big 12 only has two ranked teams, there would likely be very little impact to the conference rankings. When I look at Sagarin’s conference rankings, the Big 12 and the SEC are the closest together so it wouldn’t take much to give the SEC the overall lead.

As for the Pac 12, it trails the SEC in both the computer and the polls and since they have only four teams ranked, discounting the SEC isn’t likely to make the difference.

Even though there currently would be no difference doesn’t mean that the method isn’t flawed.

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Separation of Sport and School


Recently the University of Florida announced that they were planning to cut their Computer Science program. This is a travesty for education and the university, but this is not the point of this post.

Steven Salzburg contributed an article to Forbes titled University of Florida Eliminates Computer Science Department, Increases Athletic Budgets. Hmm. He raised several important points and then ruins the article with this paragraph,

Meanwhile, the athletic budget for the current year is $99 million, an increase of more than $2 million from last year.  The increase alone would more than offset the savings supposedly gained by cutting computer science.

He then throws in, Now, I’m not saying that UF has chosen football over science, but with the headline and the above paragraph, that is exactly what everyone is reading. If you read the comments, he does state that the title might be unfair, but the title has not changed and the comment is unlikely to be read by most.

Here are the important facts that are glossed over:

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Fixing the BCS


I blogged back in November about adding the simple rule of only allowing conference champions play in the BCS title game. That would have remedied the situation we had this year where LSU is the official SEC champion and Alabama is the National Champion.

There are several issues with what happened. They are:

  • Who is the real SEC champion? We have an official champion, but I feel the conference now has a split title.
  • Is the SEC really the best conference? By not beating another conference in the championship game, that is a fair question.
  • If only conference champions can play, who should LSU have played?

People can argue that the BCS achieved its goal of matching number one versus number two. Of course, that isn’t the true goal. That is just the means to the real end, identifying the best team in the nation and having a true National Champion.

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Adding One More BCS Rule


Right now, there are two debates raging about the BCS. The first is about streamlining the BCS system and only worrying about a title game. I’m torn on that idea, but really don’t care enough either way to debate at this time. The other is this nonsense about an all-SEC National Title game.

Keeping in mind that being an Auburn grad, I am very pro-SEC , let’s look at the sheer idiocy of this concept.

When matching two teams from the same conference with each other, you aren’t creating anything unique for the bowls. In fact, you are re-hashing a debate that has theoretically been settled. One team is the conference champion, the other is not. Do we really need another game that will bring the title of the conference champion into play? This is even more ridiculous when talking about conferences with either a full round-robin schedule or a Conference Championship.

Which bring us to the other issue, How can you be the National Champion when you aren’t even your Conference Champion?

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Ranking Ben Tate Among the All-Time Auburn Rushers


[Edit 2013-01-13: See the updated list including Onterio McCalebb, Cam Newton, and more accurate stats.]

A couple of years ago, I ranked the Top Auburn Running Backs. I thought I would revisit the topic since Ben Tate just completed a solid 2009 campaign and his career at Auburn.

This had been prompted by an online poll and I looked at the results of that poll in a second post. Feel free to look at it.  I’m focusing here on updating my rankings and sharing new thoughts.  I am including all relevant text and commentary from the original post in order try and keep key details together, like the methodology at the end of this post.

So let’s dive into the updated chart.  I used the old numbers and grabbed Ben Tate‘s stats from ESPN’s website.  I also didn’t drop Bostic even though he dropped out of the top 10 for comparison. Note that some numbers are different from before as I was able to get some better stats.

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