In under two weeks, two former Georgia Bulldog running backs will meet on opposite sides in Super Bowl LIII. Both Todd Gurley and Sony Michel have been keys in helping their respective teams reach the Big Game, and both young runners have made their school proud. A few college football programs have produced some of the NFL’s top running backs over the past several years, and these are the current best running back schools, all of which have a decent claim as “RB U”.
Gurley, Michel, and Nick Chubb arguably make up three of the best ten current running backs in the league, so Georgia takes the No. 1 spot in RB U rankings because they are an elite, top-heavy bunch. Knowshon Moreno is no longer in the NFL, but he was a very good producer for the Broncos after getting selected 12th overall in 2009, including in Peyton Manning-led offenses in 2012 and 2013. Currently, all three of Gurley, Michel, and Chubb could be perennial 1,000-yard rushers for the next decade.
Solely in terms of draft status, Alabama is hard to top for running back success. Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson were drafted in the first round; Derrick Henry, T.J. Yeldon, and Eddie Lacy were drafted in the second round; and Kenyan Drake was drafted in the third round—all since 2009 (and all but Ingram were drafted in 2012 or later). Richardson unfortunately did not work out in the NFL, and Lacy is now out of the league, but they both had some success. Ingram, Henry, and Drake have all played at high levels as starters for extended stretches, while Yeldon is a versatile contributor.
DeMarco Murray is retired, but he had a ton of success throughout his career, including a single-season Cowboys record 1,845 rushing yards in 2014. Adrian Peterson is still going strong, so he qualifies for helping Oklahoma’s case despite getting drafted all the way back in 2007. Joe Mixon is one of the most talented all-around running backs in football, Samaje Perine has played well when given opportunities, and Damien Williams emerged as a star down the stretch for the Chiefs this season.
LSU is similar to Alabama with the draft prospects they’ve sent to the NFL in recent years, and they make it three SEC schools in the top five for RB U consideration. Leonard Fournette had the look of a potential star coming out of school, but he hasn’t quite lived up to the No. 4 overall pick yet—though there’s still time. Stevan Ridley and Jeremy Hill have both had 1,100-yard, nine-plus-touchdown seasons. Spencer Ware has excelled in Kansas City when he’s been healthy, and Alfred Blue has been a solid contributor in Houston. Derrius Guice, who had his rookie season wiped out by a knee injury, might end up being the best of the bunch if the Redskins center their offense around him.
Wisconsin always has a powerful running game, and they’ve produced successful NFL running backs the last few years. Melvin Gordon has become one of the best players at the position since entering the league in 2015, and he has college teammate Derek Watt opening rushing lanes in front of him. Meanwhile James White and Corey Clement are both Super Bowl heroes, so the Badgers have really been representing. Montee Ball held the FBS total touchdown record until Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds broke it; Ball was a second-round pick of the Broncos in 2013 but had off-field issues and appeared in just 21 NFL games.