Note: While this is about RBs only, it does include any receiving and passing EPA they might have accumulated, so think of this as a strictly positional list moreso than a "rushing" list. Just imagine how you'd feel if you placed a Super Bowl prop bet on Frank Gore and then he had a performance like this, and while were on that subject, here's the link if you're interested in betting on the Super Bowl. When we're done, I'll break it down a little further.
#10: Robbie Rouse (Fresno State) vs. Colorado (+16.0 EPA)Perhaps the most amazing thing about Rouse's appearance on this list is that it came in a game where his QB, Derek Carr, threw for 300 yards and 5 TDs. Rouse still shined, breaking Fresno State's career rushing record in possibly the best game of his career. He had 9 carries for 144 yards and 2 TD on the ground. He also had 4 catches for 42 yards and 2 TD. In total, 186 yards and 4 TD on just 13 offensive touches. That's pretty amazing. Fresno State rolled to a 69-14 win over what we can only technically refer to as a PAC-12 school.
#9: De'Anthony Thomas (Oregon) vs. Tennessee Tech (+16.4 EPA)Sometimes matchups are made just to breed highlights. This is one of those matchups. Thomas was solid on the ground but didn't rack up huge numbers (though 4 EPA is nothing to sneeze at). He was particularly dangerous through the air that day - the 2nd best receiving effort by a RB this season (Miami Redhawks' Dawan Scott had the best against Akron but failed to make this list due to a mediocre rushing performance). Thomas had a field day against FCS competition: 3 rushes for 62 yards and 1 TD; 3 catches for 73 yards and 1 TD. 6 touches, 135 yards, 2 TD. I know that doesn't seem all that mind-blowing, but let's look at the 6 touches more individually:
Touch #1: 2nd and 10, 59 yards out: 59 yard TD rush.
Touch #2: 1st and 10, 58 yards out; 8 yard reception.
Touch #3: 2nd and 2, 50 yards out; 49 yard reception (fumbled, recovered by Oregon for a TD).
Touch #4: 1st and 14, 16 yards out; 1 yard run
Touch #5: 2nd and 13, 15 yards out; 1 yard run
Touch #6: 1st and 10, 16 yards out: 16 yard TD catch.
So, on 6 touches, not only did he have a ton of yards, he also had 2 TDs and directly led to the team scoring a 3rd TD. Pretty outstanding afternoon.
#8: Kerwynn Williams (Utah State) vs. Louisiana Tech (+16.8 EPA)This was a pretty amazing game that I was lucky enough to have watched via ESPN's web service. I was stunned that no TV network picked it up, as it was the de facto WAC title game, and it delivered on my high expectations with an OT battle that saw USU come out on top. Williams was the biggest reason USU won the game and ultimately the conference. He carried the ball 20 times for 162 and 2 TD. He also had 4 catches for 125 and 1. That's 24 touches, 287 yards, 3 TD. He had another TD called back due to a penalty. Enjoy this performance:
#7: Kasey Carrier (New Mexico) vs. Texas State (+18.4 EPA)
New Mexico won this game 35-14. They completed just one pass. How does that happen? You need a big ground game, and the Lobos got just that from Kasey Carrier: 23 carries for 191 and 4 TD. Now that I've let everyone know about Dri Archer, Carrier might be the best RB who remains completely unknown to most FBS fans. He had 1544 yards and 15 TDs this year. It's time to take notice.
#6: Benny Cunningham (Middle Tennessee State) vs. Georgia Tech (+18.8 EPA)
Is this the day the Paul Johnson era jumped the shark? Possibly. Hopefully, if you're anyone on their schedule that still has working knees. Tech has had its share of embarrassments in recent years, but few stung quite like getting blown out at home by a middle-of-the-pack Sun Belt team. Cunningham led the charge with 27 carries for 217 and 5 TD. Add in his single catch and he touched the ball 28 times and gained 229 yards, for 5 TD. That's a huge day. Now consider it came with a Sun Belt team playing against what we were led to believe was a BCS-conference defense, and it's even more impressive. No non-BCS RB had a better game against BCS competition all year. Here you can watch Riley Skinner gush over Cunningham's performance (and by gush, I mean wake up just a little after the certain boredom from the symphony of missed tackles he'd just witnessed on the Plains):
#5: Kenneth Dixon (Louisiana Tech) vs. Idaho (+21.3 EPA)17 carries for 232 and 6 TD. 12 players caught passes for the Bulldogs that day, but Dixon actually wasn't among them. Dixon's 6 TD set a school record and he'd go on to lead the FBS with 28 scores on the year. Oh, and he's a freshman.
#4: Stefphon Jefferson (Nevada) vs. Hawaii (+22.0 EPA)31 carries for 170 and 6 TD, plus 3 catches for 76 and 1 TD led Nevada to a 69-24 win over the Warriors. Jefferson's 7 TD tied an NCAA record (Rashaun Woods, Marshall Faulk, and Arnold "Showboat" Boykin were the others to score 7 times against a major college team). Jefferson wasn't this efficient all year, getting most of his 2053 yards via a boatload of touches and his EPA doesn't stand up the way you'd expect from a 2000 yard gainer. But against Hawaii, Jefferson was every bit the elite player his counting stats would lead you to believe he was.
#3: Montel Harris (Temple) vs. Army (+23.4 EPA)Montel sees you, Stefphon, and he is not impressed. Harris also scored 7 TD in a game, tying the aforementioned record. And he had more yards, too. 36 carries for a whopping 351 yards. Harris was so dominant Temple attempted just 4 passes in the 63-32 win. His yards and TD marks both set Big East records.
#2: Kenjon Barner (Oregon) vs. USC (+25.9 EPA)I'm going to venture a guess here that I haven't researched: this is the greatest RB performance ever against a team ranked #1 in the preseason. Perhaps I'm wrong, but it is rare to see a media darling so eviscerated by a conference opponent. Of course, Oregon is no slouch, especially when it comes to the ground game. Barner had 38 carries for 321 and 5 TD, plus 2 catches for 26. 40 touches, 347 yards, 5 TD. I know that seems inferior to Harris' day, but certain circumstances worked in Barner's favor: he had 11 carries that went 10 yards or more - becoming the only RB in the last 7 years to accomplish that. Oregon had 8 TD drives that covered at least 75 yards - meaning Barner was consistently starting with low EPA when the runs can earn more relative value. He also had remarkably little in the area of negative rushes. Enjoy the tape:
#1: Ka'Deem Carey (Arizona) vs. Colorado (+27.2 EPA)Nobody rushed for more yards in a game this year than Carey's 366 against the Buffs, and thanks to his doing so on just 25 carries, no one truly challenged him in our EPA standings. His 366 established a PAC-12 record, and mixing in his receptions, he finished with 27 touches for exactly 400 yards and 5 TD. Truly amazing. Sadly, I found no good video to watch.
Other performances of note:
- Dri Archer had performances #11 and #12 on the list, as well as #20, but didn't crack the top 10.
- The SEC's best game came from Auburn's Onterrio McCalebb (+12.7) against Alabama A&M - just #47 overall.
- The SEC allowed not one of the top 50 rushing performances of the year. So much for the death of the SEC narrative.
- The Big Ten's top performance goes to Wisconsin's James White (+15.0), #16 overall, against Minnesota. If you're looking for Le'Veon Bell, you're forgetting that EPA measures, more than anything, efficiency. Getting 200 yards is really neat, but if it takes you 50 carries to get there, it's far less impressive.
- The ACC's best game came from Giovani Bernard against Virginia Tech (+13.8, #28 overall).
- As mentioned earlier, Miami (OH)'s Dawan Scott had the #15 best performance of the year, and that was with a negative rushing performance. Scott had one carry for one yard. He had 11 catches for 208 and 2 TD, the best receiving performance of the year by a RB.
Brent Blackwell compiles the NEPA rankings for cfbtn.com. Follow Brent on Twitter by mashing the pretty button below. Follow @brentblackwell