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2012 CFN Preview - Unit Rankings, RBs
Wisconsin RB James White
Wisconsin RB James White
Posted Aug 24, 2012

CFN 2012 Preview Unit Rankings from top to bottom - Running Backs

Preview 2012 - Unit Rankings

Running Backs

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2012 CFN Preseason Rankings 
1 to 5 | 6 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50
51 to 60 | 61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 124 

CFN 2012 Unit Rankings
- Offenses | Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers | Offensive Lines
- Defenses | Defensive Lines | Linebackers | Secondaries | Special Teams  
- 2011 Unit Rankings | 2010 Unit Rankings

Note: This is based on talent, returning starters, and skill. It’s not necessarily based on what the final total offense statistics will be.

1. Wisconsin
There are other excellent running back situations among the top 25 teams, but the threesome of Montee Ball, James White and Melvin Gordon should be something truly special. Consider it a major disappointment if they don’t combine for over 3,000 yards and 40 scores. The Badgers could have three 1,000-yard rushers if everything breaks right. Without Russell Wilson there will be even more of an emphasis on a ground game that’s going to be among the most dominant in college football. Ball is a talent, but it still takes a big effort from the entire offense to crank out 3,298 yards and 48 scores.

2. Arkansas
Arkansas finished 81st in the nation in rushing, but that was because the passing game did most of the heavy lifting. The ground game averaged 4.3 yards per carry with 25 touchdowns and was effective when it had to be. With Knile Davis coming back and at least three great options to lighten his work, this is one of the nation’s most loaded backfields in college football. From the 226-pound Davis to the 231-pound Ronnie Wingo to the 213-pound Dennis Johnson to the 240-pound Kody Walker, the Hogs are huge. They can pound away with big back after big back to wear teams down.

3. LSU
For what LSU does this could be the deepest and most talented backfield in the country. There might not be any one true killer, but there are six backs who can all hit and can all be productive when given the chance. Considering there won’t be the rushing production at quarterback like there was with Jordan Jefferson under center, this group will get even more work. The formula worked last year. Keep pounding away on teams with big back after big back. Just when it seemed like a defense could figure out one thumper, in came another with fresh legs. Anyone under 215 pounds need not apply.

4. Oregon
Only at a school like Oregon can a team lose James to the NFL, and Lache Seastrunk and Tra Carson to transfers, yet still be in great shape in the backfield. Kenjon Barner is poised to make the most of his feature role, with a ceiling of 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns well within reach. Thomas will continue to build on his debut, vexing opposing defenses with his speed and unique versatility. The only way the Ducks might get in trouble is if Barner is lost for any length of time. It remains in doubt whether or not there’s another 25-carry-a-game back on the roster.

5. USC
Talk about irony. The team coming off the NCAA most wanted list, USC, benefits from the program, Penn State, about to go on it. The signing of Silas Redd is a transformational get for head coach Lane Kiffin, giving the Trojans two terrific and experienced 1,000-yarders to complement the high-flying passing attack. And do not forget about Curtis McNeal, a revelation in 2011 who’ll pop off a game-changer every so often. The pair will learn to share, potentially hurting each player’s individual numbers. However, the whole on the ground will almost certainly be greater than the sum of the parts now that the Trojans have beefed up their running game.

6. Oklahoma State
The Cowboys ran for 159 yards per game and cranked out 2,062 yards and 36 touchdowns averaging 5.3 yards per carry. The numbers might not be the same with so many replacements on the offensive line and with teams loading up to slow down Joseph Randle, but the backfield will once again get terrific production. The passing game might be the shining star of the Oklahoma State offense, but the 1-2 rushing punch in Randle and Jeremy Smith is every big as devastating. The passing game helps set up the run, but these two are great at taking advantage of their opportunities.

7. TCU
The TCU backfield rotation will be among the best in the Big 12. There’s not a ton of power, but there’s quickness to burn and veteran options to play around with. No, TCU wasn’t as productive last year with 2,712 yards compared to the 3,415 from 2010, but the 38 touchdowns weren’t bad. Chalk up the difference to even more from the passing game, but Matthew Tucker and Waymon James will once again combine for well over 1,500 yards. TCU was the only team in college football to return three players who ran for 700 yards or more, but with Ed Wesley gone there are still two left. There’s never any reason to not have a fresh back in with so many good runners able to crank out five-to-seven yards a crack.

8. Michigan 
It’s a terrific situation for the Michigan backs. Denard Robinson is the lead dog runner while Fitzgerald Toussaint is the main tailback, but there are several good backs who’ll step in and work as role players and can produce when they get their chances, while Stephen Hopkins is a good option whenever more power is needed. It would’ve been nice if 2013 top running back recruit Ty Isaac was on the way next year instead of changing his mind to USC, but the future, and the present, are both bright.

9. South Carolina
With Connor Shaw a talented running quarterback and with great depth, Marcus Lattimore doesn’t have to carry more of the workload than he’ll absolutely have to. The ground game should be terrific and should hit the 2,500-yard mark without a problem, and if Lattimore really is Lattimore again then the sky is the limit. If he’s back to norm, he’s an elite back who can carry the team on his back to big things. Fortunately, Kenny Miles and Brandon Wilds can crank out big yards when they get the opportunity.

10. Texas
The talent is undeniable and the potential is there for a fantastic rotation. If Joe Bergeron can stay healthy and is as good as he’s been over the offseason, and if Malcolm Brown can be just a little bit stronger, all of a sudden the Longhorns are loaded with one of the most talented and deepest backfields in the country. Now the promise and potential have to equal production. Just when it seems like Brown is a special talent with transcendent skills, in comes Johnathan Gray. Bergeron could carry the ground game by himself and there are several more decent talents who can work in the rotation.

10 is high in the unit ranking number.

Army Ind 8.5
Georgia Tech ACC 8.5
Air Force M-West 8
Alabama SEC 8
Auburn SEC 8
California Pac-12  8
Clemson ACC 8
Fresno State M-West 8
Michigan State Big Ten 8
Navy Ind 8
Nebraska Big Ten  8
North Carolina ACC   8
Stanford Pac-12  8
Temple Big East 8
UCLA  Pac-12  8
Utah   Pac-12  8
Vanderbilt SEC 8
Arizona Pac-12  7.5
Arizona State Pac-12  7.5
Baylor Big 12 7.5
Boston College ACC 7.5
Connecticut Big East 7.5
Florida SEC 7.5
Houston C-USA  7.5
Iowa State Big 12 7.5
Kansas State Big 12 7.5
Mississippi State SEC 7.5
Nevada M-West 7.5
Notre Dame Ind 7.5
Ohio State Big Ten 7.5
Pitt Big East 7.5
Southern Miss C-USA  7.5
Texas A&M SEC  7.5
Tulsa C-USA  7.5
Virginia   ACC 7.5
Colorado State M-West 7
Florida State ACC   7
Georgia SEC 7
Kansas Big 12 7
Miami   ACC   7
Missouri SEC  7
NC State ACC 7
Oklahoma Big 12 7
Tennessee SEC 7
Texas Tech Big 12 7
Virginia Tech ACC 7
Washington   Pac-12  7
Boise State M-West 6.5
Cincinnati Big East 6.5
Illinois Big Ten 6.5
Indiana  Big Ten 6.5
Kentucky SEC 6.5
Maryland  ACC 6.5
Ole Miss SEC 6.5
Oregon State Pac-12  6.5
Purdue Big Ten 6.5
Rutgers  Big East 6.5
South Florida Big East 6.5
Tulane C-USA  6.5
Wake Forest ACC 6.5
Washington State Pac-12  6.5
West Virginia Big 12 6.5
Buffalo MAC 6
BYU Ind 6
Colorado   Pac-12  6
East Carolina C-USA  6
Iowa Big Ten 6
Louisville  Big East 6
Marshall C-USA  6
Minnesota Big Ten 6
Northwestern Big Ten 6
Penn State Big Ten 6
San Diego State M-West 6
Syracuse Big East 6
Toledo MAC 6
Duke ACC   5.5
Eastern Michigan MAC 5.5
FIU Sun Belt 5.5
Middle Tennessee Sun Belt 5.5
North Texas Sun Belt 5.5
Northern Illinois MAC 5.5
Ohio   MAC 5.5
Rice C-USA  5.5
UL Monroe Sun Belt 5.5
UNLV M-West 5.5
Utah State WAC 5.5
WKU Sun Belt 5.5
Wyoming M-West 5.5
Akron MAC 5
Arkansas State Sun Belt 5
Ball State MAC 5
Bowling Green MAC 5
Central Michigan MAC 5
Florida Atlantic Sun Belt 5
Hawaii M-West 5
Kent State MAC 5
Louisiana Tech WAC 5
Memphis C-USA  5
New Mexico   M-West 5
San Jose State WAC 5
South Alabama Sun Belt 5
Texas State WAC 5
Troy Sun Belt 5
UL Lafayette Sun Belt 5
Western Michigan MAC 5
Idaho WAC 4.5
Massachusetts MAC 4.5
New Mexico State WAC 4.5
Miami Univ. MAC 4