Two Western Athletic Conference teams, Boise State and Fresno State, appear ready to run the ball down the opponent's throat this fall. The Broncos and Bulldogs, who both finished last season among the nation's top 15 rushing football teams, each have a wealth of experience returning as they ready themselves to make a run at national prominence. Boise State and Fresno State are virtually tied for #2 among the top returning ground attacks, but Boise State's returning players are #1 in touchdowns with an amazing 47 while Fresno State is 2nd in that category with 35. The most depleted teams of last year's top 15 seem to be Navy and California. Minnesota and Northern Illinois are two other prominent ground games that return virtually intact from a season ago.
Top Returning Rushing Yards:
1. Northern Illinois 2,769
2. Fresno State 2730
3. Boise State 2,522
4. Oklahoma State 2,349
5. Michigan State 2,134
6. Minnesota 3,082
7. Rice 1,783
8. Virginia 1,777
9. Texas 1,595
10. Utah 1,400
Top Returning Rushing Touchdowns:
1.Boise State 46
2. Fresno State 35
3. Oklahoma State 28
4. Northern Illinois 25
5. Virginia 24
6. Texas 21
7. Minnesota 18
7. Michigan State 18
9. Louisville 17
10. California 15
A look at the key losses for last season's top 15 teams in the nation in rushing offense:
1. Rice 3372 30 TD's, lost RB Ed Bailey who ran for 1,021 yards and 12 touchdowns and QB Greg Henderson, who ran for 566 yards and 6 TD's. loses 47% of their rushing yards and 60% of their touchdowns. Rice returns players that account for 1783 yards and 12 touchdowns.
2. Texas 3590 yards and 41 TD's, lost RB Cedric Benson who ran for 1834 yards and 19 touchdowns and FB Will Matthews, who ran for 161 yards and 1 touchdown. Texas loses 56% of their rushing yards and 50% of their touchdowns. Returning Longhorns have 1,595 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns.
3. Navy 3,474 yards and 36 TD's, lost FB Kyle Eckel who ran for 1,147 yards and 11 touchdowns, RB's Eric Roberts, who ran for 409 yards and 2 scores and Frank Divis, who ran for 387 yards and 5 TD's and QB Aaron Polanco who ran for 980 yards and 16 TD's. Navy loses 84% of their rushing yards and 94% of their touchdowns. The Midshipmen return just 551 yards of rushing and 2 touchdowns.
4. Air Force 3,051 yards and 32 TD's, lost FB Dan Shaffer, who ran for 490 yards and 2 TD's and RB's Darnell Stephens, who ran for 451 yards and 8 scores, Anthony Butler, who ran for 413 yards and 3 touchdowns, Adam Cole, who ran for 315 yards and 5 TD's and Chris Holstege, who ran for 80 yards. Air Force loses 57% of their rushing yards and 56% of their rushing touchdowns. The Falcons' returning players have 1,302 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns
5. Minnesota 3,082 yards and 29 TD's, lost Marion Barber III, with 1,269 yards and 11 TD's. The Golden Gophers lost 41% of their rushing yards and 30% of their TD's. Returning players have 1,813 rushing yards and 18 TD's.
6. California 3,081 yards and 30 TD's, lost RB J.J. Arrington, who ran for 2,018 yards and 15 TD's, who accounted for 65% of their rushing yards and 50% of their rushing TD's. The Golden Bears return 1,063 yards of rushing offense and 15 TD's.
7. West Virginia 3,034 yards and 23 TD's lost QB Rasheed Marshall who ran for 861 yards and 4 touchdowns and RB Kay-Jay Harris, who ran for 959 yards and 10 TD's. The Mountaineers lose 60% of their rushing yards and 61% of their rushing touchdowns. Returning players for WV have 1,214 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns.
8. Louisville 3,005 yards and 47 TD's, lost RB's Eric Shelton, who ran for 938 yards and 20 touchdowns and Lionel Gates, who rushed for 373 yards and 7 TD's and QB Stefan LeFors, who ran for 333 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Cardinals lost 55% of their rushing offense and 63% of their touchdowns. Louisville returns 1,361 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns.
9. Virginia 2,914 yards and 34 TD's lost RB Alvin Pearman, who ran for 1,037 yards and 10 touchdowns. Virginia loses 36% of their rushing yards and 29% of their touchdowns. The Cavaliers return 1,777 yards and 24 rushing touchdowns.
10. Michigan State 2,862 yards and 22 TD's lost RB DeAndra Cobb, who ran for 728 yards and 4 TD's. The Spartans lose 25% of their rushing yards and 18% TD's, but return 2,134 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns to their offense this fall.
11. Northern Illinois 2,858 yards and 28 TD's, lost QB Joshua Halde, who rushed for 89 yards and 3 TD's. Northern Illinois returns 2,769 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns.
12. Oklahoma State 2,844 yards and 32 TD's lost RB's Seymore Shaw, who ran for 377 yards and 2 TD's and Greg Jones, who ran for 118 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Cowboys lose just 17% of their rushing yards and 12% of their rushing touchdowns. OSU returns 2,349 yards and 28 touchdowns.
13. Utah 2,833 yards and 36 TD's lost RB Marty Johnson who ran for 802 yards and 14 touchdowns and QB Alex Smith, who ran for 631 yards and 10 scores. Utah loses 51% of their rushing yards and 67% of their rushing touchdowns. The Utes return 1,400 rushing yards but just 12 touchdowns.
14. Boise State 2,758 yards and 49 TD's, Lawrence Bady accounted for 115 yards, and other ball carriers who picked up positive yardage such as Mark Onibokun and Calvin McCarty are gone. Thus, the Broncos lost 236 yards and 3 rushing touchdowns. The Broncos return 2,522 rushing yards and 46 touchdowns to their lineup this fall.
15. Fresno State 2,730 yards and 36 TD's, lost only Jamal Jones, who had -1 yards rushing. The Bulldogs return 2,731 rushing yards and 35 TD's.