When you turn on the radio, television, or go online to hear about college football, it is all about passing the football. Sure you hear mentions about top running backs, but they are all but ignored when a Matt Johnson or Brandon Doughty throws for an insane amount of yards.
I am not going to deny that it is fun to watch the weekly shootouts with quarterbacks throwing for 500 or more yards, but give me a good running game and I am happy. Looking at the the Sun Belt Conference, it is clear that they believe the same thing.
Four of the top 25 rushing attacks in 2015 come from the Sun Belt Conference. Considering that the conference consists of 11 teams and there are 128 total teams in FBS football, that is an impressive total. Only the Mountain West Conference and the Big 12 have as many teams in the top 25 in rushing as the Sun Belt.
Of course you have the Georgia Southern in the top 10 nationally. The Eagles lead the nation in rushing yards per game at 385.6 yards per game. That is approximately 50 yards more per game than any other team in the nation. Georgia Southern's Matt Breida is tenth nationally with 1,158 yards on the season, but is second in the nation in yards per carry among qualified players with a 9.5 yards per carry average.
Appalachian State also breaks the into top 10 nationally with 254.9 yards per game on the ground. Arkansas State (233.4/#14) and Louisiana (210.6/#25) are also part of the four top 25 rushing squads.
Surprisingly, the Sun Belt also has four of the top 25 rushers in the nation. Breida (1,158/#10), New Mexico State's Larry Rose (1,290/#3), Appalachian State's Marcus Cox (991/#18), and Idaho's Elijhaa Penny (964/#22) are among the 25 players nationally with 950 or more yards on the ground.
Rose, only a sophomore, has been one of the most exciting players to watch in all of college football. His play alone has given a fan base a reason to come to New Mexico State games. He is currently on pace to break 1,700 yards as a sophomore.
Last year's Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year Elijah McGuire (749/#51) may be the most versatile running back in the country with his ability to affect the game in the run game, passing game, and special teams. Though he has not been able to rush for anywhere near the total he was hoping for this season, he is still on pace to break the 1,100 yard barrier for the second straight season. He is 124 yards from 3,000 for his career.
Brandon Burks (783/#46) of Troy, Michael Gordon (758/#49) of Arkansas State and Robert Lowe (717/#59) are also in the top 60 rushers in the nation.
One of the most amazing things to consider about the abundance of great Sun Belt running backs is that of the eight running backs in the top 60 nationally, only four are seniors. That means we get another year of McGuire, Cox, and Breida, and two more years of Rose at NMSU.
Currently in the NFL, there are seven running backs that played all or some of their career in the Sun Belt Confernece. Alfred Morris (FAU), Alonzo Harris (Louisiana), Benjamin Cunningham (MTSU), Lance Dunbar (UNT), Jamize Olawale (UNT), Bobby Rainey (WKU), and Antoino Andrews (WKU).
With this current group, it is not a stretch to think we could have 10 different Sun Belt running backs in the NFL within the next two years. That alone gives a significant reason to watch the Sun Belt run games in the final quarter of the season.