Vilardo: SuperWest Loaded with Exceptional Running Backs

Among those rushers are four of the top five active career rushing leaders in college football

Posted on October 28, 2022

  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

We are seeing some good rushing performances both by individuals and teams in the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences this season.

In fact, the SuperWest is filled with solid running back play, and the numbers back it up. Among the top five active career rushing leaders, four of them are in our footprint.

Air Force is once again leading the nation in rushing offense with 336.8 yards per game. Over five wins, the Falcons have run for 416.8 per game while being limited to 203.3 in their three losses.

Last week, Boise State held Air Force to just 3.5 yards per carry, a drop from its 5.67 yards average on the season. 

Oregon is fifth in the nation averaging 244.6 yards on the ground per game. Even in the lone loss for the Ducks against Georgia, when it seemed not a lot went right for UO, they still ran the ball 31 times for 140 yards.

It is the most rushing yards Georgia has allowed all season and the Ducks are one of just two teams to top 100 yards on the ground against Georgia this season (Missouri is the other with 102).

On third and short this season (1 to 3 yards to go), Oregon has been particularly good converting on 84.6 percent of their run attempts, the third-best mark in the nation. 

Oregon is running the ball for 6.0 yards per carry in games played outside of Eugene this season, the fourth-best road mark nationally.

Bo Nix runs the ball against Stanford | Andy Nelson/Associated Press

Bo Nix ranks 13th nationally among QBs this season with 54.6 rushing yards per game. His eight TDs on the ground are tied for the fourth most in the nation among quarterbacks. 

The adage is that a good ground game travels well. UCLA is proof of that this season. The Bruins have rushed for 207.9 yards per game, the 19th-best mark in the country.

On the road, that figure is 217.5 yards per game, the ninth-best rushing mark away from home this season. The Bruins’ 6.8 yards per carry away from the Rose Bowl is the best mark in the nation.

UCLA has converted on 77.3 percent of their third and short rush attempts, the sixth-best mark in the nation. 

The top conversion rate on third and short in the nation resides with USC and their 92.9 percent success rate.

Individually Travis Dye has carried the ball 10 times this season in third and short situations and has collected a first down for the Trojans on all 10 tries.

Among players nationally with at least eight carries in that situation, he is the only one who is perfect on the season. 

California has a number of freshmen performing at a high level this season, one of them being Jaydn Ott. He has the second-highest single-game rushing performance of the season with his 274-yard performance against Arizona.

Cal RB Jaydn Ott | Cal Athletics

While a large chunk of his season output came against the Wildcats, Ott is still third nationally among freshmen this season with 618 rushing yards. Ott is one of just five players in the nation with multiple runs of 70+ yards this season.

Zach Charbonnet has put together some explosive runs season as well with three of them covering at least 40 yards from scrimmage. The UCLA senior is seventh in the nation with 127.7 yards rushing per game.

He is currently going for 7.16 yards per carry which leads the nation among qualifying players. Charbonnet’s splits this season have been identical at home or on the road as the back is running for 127.8 at home and 127.5 on the road. 

One player whose splits has not been identical is George Holani, who has run for 132.7 yards per game in Boise State’s three home games this season, the eighth-best mark in the nation.

When the Broncos have played on the road his average dips to 50.3 yards per game.

Boise State RB George Holani | Steve Conner/AP

In BSU’s four wins this season he is running for 116.3 per game while he has only mustered 42.0 yards per game in the Broncos two losses.

That is a far less surprising stat for sure but magnifies the importance of the run game for Boise State.

It bares out in the team stats as well, as they are going for 203.6 in wins and just 105.0 as a team in the two losses.

Oregon State has had a solid rush attack this season averaging just under 200-yards per game at 194.9, the 33rd-best mark in the nation.

The Beavers have done with a committee approach as three ball carriers have gone over the 300-yard mark on the season with freshman Damien Martinez leading the way with 517 yards on the season.

Martinez has run for 289 yards in OSU’s last two games. The Beavs also have been productive on those third and short rush attempts with a conversion rate of 71.4 percent, tied for the 18th-best rate in the nation. 

Beaver freshman RB Damien Martinez | Amanda Loman/AP

Fresno State shares that 18th sport with Oregon State.

The Bulldogs have gotten good rushing production this season from Jordan Mims who is rushing for 92.1 yards per game including a 165-yard outburst on 26 carries against New Mexico last week. 

Xavaian Valladay is the national leader with 3,923 yards in his career. Travis Dye has run for 3,758 yards during his time at Oregon and now USC, third in the nation.

Just behind Dye is Nevada’s Toa Taua who has totaled 3,570 yards in his career. 

Team third-and-Short Rush Success Rate

National RankTeamSuccess Rate
18Fresno St71.4%
18Oregon St71.4%
29Air Force70.0%
35Boise St68.4%
73Utah St60.9%
109New Mexico50.0%
129San Jose St30.0%
131Colorado St16.7%

—More from Stephen Vilardo—