When the Mississippi State season started, many people wondered if LaDarius Perkins could be a workhorse, and they wondered how Derek Milton, Josh Robinson and Nick Griffin would do for the Bulldogs as well. That narrative has changed as Perkins has taken over the starting role, and dominates the yardage on the ground for the Bulldogs.
Coming into the season, everyone felt Eddie Lacy would be ready to take over for Trent Richardson, who took over for Mark Ingram. The fact of the matter is, Alabama has a factory at the running back position, and the team has not seemed to miss a beat. One name that has jumped into the conversation is T. J. Yeldon, the freshman who is chasing Lacy for the team lead in yards and touchdowns.
The first thing that jumps out in this matchup is the apparent depth that Alabama has at running back . Lacy has 570 yards on the season, and Yeldon has 565 yards. The two have combined for 13 touchdowns on the ground. A third running back, Kenyan Drake has picked up 159, at an average of 7.6 a carry, and four touchdowns, scoring every 5.2 times he carries the ball.
Lacy's best game came against Missouri where he ran for 177 yards and accounted for 33 percent of the Tide's offense. Yeldon has gone over the 100-yard mark on three occasions this season, and he has racked up his yardage on 16 fewer rushing attempts than Lacy this season.
In all, the Tide averages 219.4 yards on the ground per contest, a stat which ranks them 20th in the nation, and the Alabama running backs have found pay dirt on 18 occasions.
In contrast, the Mississippi State rushing attack has averaged 180 yards per game, which ranks 49th in college football. Perkins has been the source of most of this attack, rushing for an SEC-leading 724 yards on 125 attempts. Perkins, who is averaging over 100 yards per game, has found the end zone eight times, scoring once in every 15.5 carries. His rushing touchdowns have accounted for 24 percent of all Mississippi State touchdowns.
The real question for the Bulldogs may not be how Perkins plays against the nation's number one rushing defense, but it might be can the other Bulldog backs contribute. In many ways, the lack of contribution from Derrick Milton, Josh Robinson and Nick Griffin could be considered disappointing. Many expected this group to split time on the field, and while Perkins would probably serve as the main running back, few expected him to have 52 more carries than the combined efforts of the backup group. In fact, if you add the carries of Dak Prescott and Tyler Russell to the mix, Perkins still has more carries. In fact, the whole team has only rushed eight more times collectively than Perkins.
Milton has scored two touchdowns, and he has picked up 178 yards on 26 carries. Robinson has one rushing score and 166 yards on 34 carries, and Griffin has picked up 88 yards on 13 carries. Prescott, a player who could be a wildcard in the game, is second on the team in rushing touchdowns with three.
When it comes to the passing game, neither team has their running backs play a major role. Perkins has ten catches for 91 yards, and Yeldon leads the Alabama backfield in receiving with seven catches for 94 yards.