According to the preseason annuals, this year's All-American running backs were largely believed to be coming out of a pool of players that included Darren Sproles, Carnell Williams, Walter Reyes, Anthony Davis and Cedric Benson. But if there's any justice, postseason first-team All-American honors should go to two players - one whose picture accompanies this story.

"> According to the preseason annuals, this year's All-American running backs were largely believed to be coming out of a pool of players that included Darren Sproles, Carnell Williams, Walter Reyes, Anthony Davis and Cedric Benson. But if there's any justice, postseason first-team All-American honors should go to two players - one whose picture accompanies this story.

">

J.J. Arrington - The Case for All-American Honors

<p><em><small>J.J. Arrington against UO<br>Photo: Michael Pimentel/GoldenBearSports.com</p></em></small> <p class="txt">According to the preseason annuals, this year's All-American running backs were largely believed to be coming out of a pool of players that included Darren Sproles, Carnell Williams, Walter Reyes, Anthony Davis and Cedric Benson. But if there's any justice, postseason first-team All-American honors should go to two players - one whose picture accompanies this story.</p>

Coming into the 2004 college football season, most preseason All-American attention for California focused on quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Geoff McArthur. Both players had outstanding seasons in 2003 and with the Bears picked in the top 10, both players figured to play prominent roles in the team's success.  Yet perhaps the Golden Bear offensive player making the strongest case for All-American honors is tailback J.J. Arrington.  Early this season, his performances were eclipsed by off-the-chart performances by fellow conference runners -  USC's Reggie Bush and UCLA's Maurice Drew. Nationally, Oklahoma freshman Adrian Peterson quickly established himself as a Heisman Trophy frontrunner and a recent series of strong games by Texas' Cedric Benson have solidified his preseason first-team All-American credentials.  Oklahoma State's Vernand Morency has been near the nation's leading rushers all season and has been a key weapon for a top 20 Cowboy team and Kansas State's Darren Sproles, who just passed the 1,000 yard mark last week, was on the shortlist of preseason Heisman hopefuls.

Arrington, a 5-11 senior from North Carolina, is set to break the school single season rushing record in the 9th game of the season, and a strong case can be made that he's having one of the finest seasons of any running back in the country.

While most running backs' effectiveness are determined by two measures -  yardage and touchdowns - let's broaden the criteria a little bit. Let's look at how well a running back performs in his team's most important games; how consistent he is; the extent to which he engages in shameless stat-padding; and how key he is to his team's success in critical moments.

To narrow down the number of running backs who are considered - we'll cull runners listed among the NCAA's top 30 rushers who are playing for teams that have been ranked at some point during the season. There's nobody having a ridiculous 200-yard-a-game season who would merit inclusion. Narrowing the list would also exclude USC's Reggie Bush; Bush is averaging just over 60 yards a game as running back. Most of the damage he's done this season has been as a return specialist and he's likely to earn All-American honors there.   For the purposes of this exercise, we'll consider Arrington, Peterson, Benson, Morency, Sproles and Louisiana Tech junior Ryan Moats.

First, let's look at how each player has done so far this year:

  Att. Yds. TD Avg. YPG
Arrington, California 184 1294 12 7.0 161.75
Moats, Louisiana Tech 220 1441 15 6.5 160.11
Benson, Texas 242 1438 17 5.9 159.78
Peterson, Oklahoma 239 1373 9 5.7 152.56
Morency, Oklahoma St. 227 1346 12 5.9 149.56
Sproles, Kansas St. 208 1096 9 5.2 121.78

Effectiveness in important games   

In games against their three toughest opponents, Peterson, Arrington, and Benson had the strongest games.  By taking a look at how each player performed in games against it's three highest rated teams (according to the Sagarin Ratings including games through last weekend), the idea is to see if a player rises to the occasion of a big game or ends up playing a secondary role.  Peterson had his two biggest games of the seasons against Oklahoma's two toughest opponents - the only runner of the six to have a 200-yard game. In the Texas A&M game, Peterson was upstaged by teammate and 2003 Heisman Trophy winner Jason White who threw for 292 yards and five touchdowns.  Arrington had a 112-yard game against a USC team that hasn't yielded a 100 yards to any other runner this season. He was named Pac-10 player-of-the-week for his effort against Arizona State.   Benson's 92 yards against Oklahoma was his best in three games against the Sooners. His five-touchdown performance against Oklahoma State was impressive, but the star of that game was Longhorn quarterback Vince Young who threw for 278 yards and ran for 123. Morency had three good games but they all game in Cowboy losses. 

How Arrington fares:  Against two of Cal's top three opponents (USC and Oregon State), Arrington's strong performances were eclipsed by even better performances by teammate Aaron Rodgers. But far from being a shrinking violet, he's had strong games within the context of the offense - and in Cal's games against its fourth and fifth toughest opponents, Oregon and UCLA, Arrington gained 188 yards and 205 yards and was the Golden Bears' dominant weapon.  In this category, he might be slightly behind Peterson, slightly ahead of Benson.

Arrington   Benson   Moats
Opponent At-Yds-TD   Opponent At-Yds-TD   Opponent At-Yds-TD
USC 21-112-0   vs. Oklahoma 23-92-0   vs. Auburn 3-0-0
Arizona St. 30-188-1   vs. Oklahoma St. 23-141-5   vs. Tennessee 21-97-1
Oregon St. 22-108-1   vs Texas Tech 38-168-1   vs. Miami 14-81-0

 

Morency   Peterson   Sproles
Opponent At-Yds-TD   Opponent At-Yds-TD   Opponent At-Yds-TD
Oklahoma 17-93-2   Texas. 32-225-0   Oklahoma 13-34-1
Texas 20-100-1   Oklahoma St. 33-249-1   Texas A&M 20-61-0
Texas A&M 28-111-1   Texas A&M 29-101-1   Texas Tech 18-83-2

Consistency

One key element for any outstanding running back is consistency. While it's fine to put up big numbers against hapless opposition, a good back will also find a way to be productive when facing good teams.  By looking at a running backs two best and two worst games of the season, the idea is to get an idea of how solid a running back is - if a runner has a bad game or two, that ought to affect his chances for postseason honors.    Both Peterson and Arrington have run for more than 100 yards in each game this season. Peterson's accomplishment is impressive in that he came off the bench for several games. Two of this 100-yard games were skin-of-the-teeth affairs. In one other game, he reached the 100-yard mark by getting a lot of fourth-quarter carries against a team that was well behind, in the other he passed the century mark late in the fourth quarter. Arrington, Benson, and Morency have been solid all season long - although Morency's 261-yard game against UCLA is a significant outlier.  Moats and Sproles both benefit from two games against some very hapless run defense, most notably Louisiana-Lafayette's.

How Arrington fares:  A strong case could be made that Arrington's the most consistent back in the country. His per-game average isn't skewed by a couple of 250+ yard games against weak opponents.  Cal's running back depth allows them to comfortably use the 2nd and 3rd string in the event that the game gets out of control.  Arrington hasn't really had any extremely close calls during his season-long string of 100-yard games.  Against a schedule that's statistically considered one of the ten toughest in the country, Arrington's averaged less than five yards a carry just once (4.9 vs. Oregon St.). Both Benson and Peterson have averaged less than five yards a carry on three different occasions this year.

Arrington   Benson   Moats
Opponent At-Yds-TD   Opponent At-Yds-TD   Opponent At-Yds-TD
UCLA 29-205-2   Rice 20-189-1   Nevada 33-257-3
Arizona St. 30-188-1   Arkansas 29-188-1   La. Lafayette 34-257-1
Oregon St. 22-108-1   Oklahoma 23-92-0   Auburn 3-0-0
USC 21-112-0   Colorado 32-141-2   Miami 14-81-0

 

Morency   Peterson   Sproles
Opponent At-Yds-TD   Opponent At-Yds-TD   Opponent At-Yds-TD
UCLA 29-261-2   Oklahoma St. 33-249-1   La. Lafayette 38-292-1
Tulsa 29-184-1   Texas 32-225-0   W. Kentucky 42-221-1
Oklahoma 17-93-2   Bowling Green 16-100-1   Oklahoma 13-34-1
Texas 20-100-1   Texas A&M 29-101-1   Fresno St. 11-37-0

Shameless stat-padding

This is a difficult classification - there's no easy way to tell if a team's simply salting away a victory or if it's merely trying to pad stats. For example, against Oregon State, California was up 35-7 when Arrington got a few handoffs which helped bring his yardage total for the day to over 100.  He did end up sitting out for much of the 4th quarter. Likewise, Peterson had less than 30 yards going into the 4th quarter when Oklahoma had a 28-10 lead over Kansas.  The Sooners kept handing Peterson the ball, and he ended up getting his 100. What you would look for is obvious cases when the opposition is outclassed, but a team continues to give the ball to its starting runner even though the game is well in hand.

While none of the six runners had any games that would obviously qualify as instances of shameless stat-padding, Peterson did receive quite a bit of publicity for his seventh consecutive 100-yard game against Kansas, although whatever contribution he made was immaterial to the game's outcome.  The heavy sledding that afternoon was provided by White, who threw for 389 yards and four touchdowns.

Big games in the early season can attract headlines - West Virginia's Kay-Jay Harris ran for more than 300 yards in a game game early in the season and made it, albeit ever so fleetingly, onto the Heisman short list.  During the two early-season games Cal had against softer opposition, Arrington average more than 11 yards a run, but had 16 carries in both games. Benson's four 180+ yard games came early in the season against Baylor, Rice, North Texas, and Arkansas - to date only North Texas has a winning record.

How Arrington fares:  Arrington hasn't loaded up on cheap yards against bad teams. His recent big games have against teams with 0 or 1 loss in conference play that are fighting for bowl bids. Aside from the Kansas game, Peterson hasn't gratuitously piled up yards in blowout situations. Even his two touchdowns late in a 31-7 win over Oregon have to be treated carefully, because he was the backup running back at the time. Benson's best games have come against the worst teams on Texas' schedule.

Value to Team

In addition to how well a player does against quality competition, it should also be noted when a player has his best games and how big is his impact. One measure is conference Player of the Week honors - usually such honors go to players who not only played big key roles for their team that week, but stood out among their peers. This would also tend to downplay the effect of a player having a good statistical game, but being overshadowed by a teammate who might have been more effective. While the methodology for choosing conference Player of the Weeks is hardly scientific, it does provide a basis for comparison. While four of the backs that are being compared all belong to the same conference, other players in other conferences may face stiffer competition from quarterbacks and receivers.

In each case where a player won conference Player of the Week honors, the team won. While Arrington, Peterson, and Moats have both won conference Player of the Week honors twice.  Peterson's came in Oklahoma's two biggest games of the season - Texas and Texas A&M. Arrington's game against UCLA and Arizona State - both teams were one-loss teams fairly deep into the season when Cal played them. Morency's game came against UCLA, while Benson's came against a Rice team that's 3-6 this season.

How Arrington fares:  Ideally, a running back's best games would come against his best competition. That's certainly the case with Peterson and Arrington. Benson had a very good game against Oklahoma State last Saturday (23-141-5), but was obscured by the breakout performance of his teammate Young, and Jason White's play (19 of 35 for 292 yards and 4 TDs, including a late game-winner) in Oklahoma's come-from-behind win against Texas A&M. Peterson and Benson did suffer from the opportunity to not run against UCLA or Louisiana-Lafayette.

Arrington   Benson   Moats
Opponent At-Yds-TD   Opponent At-Yds-TD   Opponent At-Yds-TD
POW -10-16 vs. UCLA 29-205-2   POW - 10-2 vs. Rice 34-188-3   POW 9-7 vs. Nevada 33-257-3
POW -10-30 vs. ASU 30-188-1         POW 10-3 vs. La.-Laf. 34-257-1

 

Morency Peterson Sproles
Opponent At-Yds-TD Opponent At-Yds-TD Opponent At-Yds-TD
POW - 9-6 vs. UCLA 29-261-2 POW 10-9 vs. Texas 32-225-0 POW 9-20 vs. La.-Laf. 38-292-1
POW 10-30 vs. Oklahoma St. 33-249-1

Summary:  With still a couple of games left in the season, there's still opportunity for other running backs to put themselves in the All-American picture.  Michigan freshman Michael Hart has run for 1160 yards and has three consecutive 200-yard games, but the best opponent of the three was a fast-falling Purdue team. Northwestern's Noah Herron has had a very consistent season, but it's very difficult for someone who doesn't play for a top 20 team, someone who doesn't have flashy highlights, or someone that doesn't have ridiculous numbers to get recognition. 

Of the six running backs compared - Adrian Peterson makes a good case for being the top dog. He's played his best in important games - the game against Texas standing out - he's had a consistent season, hasn't piled up a lot of yardage in meaningless situations, and it doesn't hurt that Oklahoma's ranked #2 in the country.  Much of what applies to Peterson can also be applied to Arrington.  Arrington's played well in games of greater significance to his team, but coming into this season he was largely unheralded and many people have just recently become aware of him. Benson's been known for years and the fact that he's had four consecutive 1000-yard seasons and chose to return for his senior year of football will register with some people.  Benson has also had legal issues during his time at Texas - the extent to which this plays into All-American voters' minds can't be determined.

From a yards per game basis, Arrington's slightly ahead of Benson. But as Cal has sustained its run in the nation's top 10, Arrington along with Aaron Rodgers have two of college football's most potent weapons. The Bears have generally started each game by establishing the run - and with the spate of injuries to its top four receivers, Arrington's importance to the offense has increased. Opposing defenses are still gearing up to stop him, and they haven't been successful in doing so all season.  Whether he's grinding away at defenses for five and six yards a pop, breaking open long gains or getting first downs or touchdowns in short-yardage situations, Arrington has excelled in all facets.    

By any measure, J.J. Arrington is having one of two best seasons of any running back in college football this year.  With a few games left in the season, and against the 50th, 61st, and 80th ranked run defenses in the country, there's ample reason to believe that he'll be able to keep up his current pace. If he succeeds in doing so, he'll firmly establish himself as a first-team All-American.

More Arrington

Not only is Arrington on pace to smash the school's single-season record, he's also on pace to have one of the all-time great seasons in Pac-10 history.

Pac-10 Top Single Season Rushing Totals

  Year Att. Yds. Avg.
Marcus Allen, USC 1981 403 2342 5.8
Ricky Bell, USC 1975 357 1875 5.3
Charles White, USC 1979 293 1803 6.2
Charles White, USC 1978 342 1760 5.1
O.J. Simpson, USC 1968 355 1709 4.8
Steven Jackson, OSU 2002 319 1690 5.3
Rueben Mayes, WSU 1984 258 1637 6.3
Trung Canidate, Ariz. 1999 253 1602 6.3
Marcus Allen, USC 1980 354 1563 4.4
Corey Dillon, UW 1996 271 1555 4.4
(13) Chuck Muncie, Cal 1975 228 1460 6.4
(24) J.J. Arrington, Cal* 2004 184 1294 7.0
J.J. Arrington 2004 pro-rated 253 1778 7.0

*Through nine games

Pac-10 Single Season Highest Average Gain per Rush Record

Highest Avg. Gain/Rush (Min. 200 Attempts)      
  Year Att. Yds. Avg.
Reuben Mayes, WSU 1984 258 1637 6.3
J.J. Arrington, Cal* 2004 184 1294 7.0

*Through nine games. (Note: Even if Arrington had 16 carries for no gain, which would bring him to the 200 carry mark, his per-carry average would be 6.47, which would still be well ahead of the current record.)

California Top 5 Single Season Rushing

  Year Att. Yds. Avg.
Chuck Muncie 1975 228 1460 6.4
J.J. Arrington* 2004 184 1294 7.0
Adimchinobe Echemandu 2003 238 1195 5.0
Russell White 1991 241 1177 4.9
Joe Igber 2002 241 1130 4.7

*Through nine games


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Coming into the 2004 college football season, most preseason All-American attention for California focused on quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Geoff McArthur. Both players had outstanding seasons in 2003 and with the Bears picked in the top 10, both players figured to play prominent roles in the team's success.  Yet perhaps the Golden Bear offensive player making the strongest case for All-American honors is tailback J.J. Arrington.  Early this season, his performances were eclipsed by off-the-chart performances by fellow conference runners -  USC's Reggie Bush and UCLA's Maurice Drew. Nationally, Oklahoma freshman Adrian Peterson quickly established himself as a Heisman Trophy frontrunner and a recent series of strong games by Texas' Cedric Benson have solidified his preseason first-team All-American credentials.  Oklahoma State's Vernand Morency has been near the nation's leading rushers all season and has been a key weapon for a top 20 Cowboy team and Kansas State's Darren Sproles, who just passed the 1,000 yard mark last week, was on the shortlist of preseason Heisman hopefuls.

Arrington, a 5-11 senior from North Carolina, is set to break the school single season rushing record in the 9th game of the season, and a strong case can be made that he's having one of the finest seasons of any running back in the country.

While most running backs' effectiveness are determined by two measures -  yardage and touchdowns - let's broaden the criteria a little bit. Let's look at how well a running back performs in his team's most important games; how consistent he is; the extent to which he engages in shameless stat-padding; and how key he is to his team's success in critical moments.

To narrow down the number of running backs who are considered - we'll cull runners listed among the NCAA's top 30 rushers who are playing for teams that have been ranked at some point during the season. There's nobody having a ridiculous 200-yard-a-game season who would merit inclusion. Narrowing the list would also exclude USC's Reggie Bush; Bush is averaging just over 60 yards a game as running back. Most of the damage he's done this season has been as a return specialist and he's likely to earn All-American honors there.   For the purposes of this exercise, we'll consider Arrington, Peterson, Benson, Morency, Sproles and Louisiana Tech junior Ryan Moats.

First, let's look at how each player has done so far this year:

Effectiveness in important games   

In games against their three toughest opponents, Peterson, Arrington, and Benson had the strongest games.  By taking a look at how each player performed in games against it's three highest rated teams (according to the Sagarin Ratings including games through last weekend), the idea is to see if a player rises to the occasion of a big game or ends up playing a secondary role.  Peterson had his two biggest games of the seasons against Oklahoma's two toughest opponents - the only runner of the six to have a 200-yard game. In the Texas A&M game, Peterson was upstaged by teammate and 2003 Heisman Trophy winner Jason White who threw for 292 yards and five touchdowns.  Arrington had a 112-yard game against a USC team that hasn't yielded a 100 yards to any other runner this season. He was named Pac-10 player-of-the-week for his effort against Arizona State.   Benson's 92 yards against Oklahoma was his best in three games against the Sooners. His five-touchdown performance against Oklahoma State was impressive, but the star of that game was Longhorn quarterback Vince Young who threw for 278 yards and ran for 123. Morency had three good games but they all game in Cowboy losses. 

:  Against two of Cal's top three opponents (USC and Oregon State), Arrington's strong performances were eclipsed by even better performances by teammate Aaron Rodgers. But far from being a shrinking violet, he's had strong games within the context of the offense - and in Cal's games against its fourth and fifth toughest opponents, Oregon and UCLA, Arrington gained 188 yards and 205 yards and was the Golden Bears' dominant weapon.  In this category, he might be slightly behind Peterson, slightly ahead of Benson.

 

Consistency

One key element for any outstanding running back is consistency. While it's fine to put up big numbers against hapless opposition, a good back will also find a way to be productive when facing good teams.  By looking at a running backs two best and two worst games of the season, the idea is to get an idea of how solid a running back is - if a runner has a bad game or two, that ought to affect his chances for postseason honors.    Both Peterson and Arrington have run for more than 100 yards in each game this season. Peterson's accomplishment is impressive in that he came off the bench for several games. Two of this 100-yard games were skin-of-the-teeth affairs. In one other game, he reached the 100-yard mark by getting a lot of fourth-quarter carries against a team that was well behind, in the other he passed the century mark late in the fourth quarter. Arrington, Benson, and Morency have been solid all season long - although Morency's 261-yard game against UCLA is a significant outlier.  Moats and Sproles both benefit from two games against some very hapless run defense, most notably Louisiana-Lafayette's.

:  A strong case could be made that Arrington's the most consistent back in the country. His per-game average isn't skewed by a couple of 250+ yard games against weak opponents.  Cal's running back depth allows them to comfortably use the 2nd and 3rd string in the event that the game gets out of control.  Arrington hasn't really had any extremely close calls during his season-long string of 100-yard games.  Against a schedule that's statistically considered one of the ten toughest in the country, Arrington's averaged less than five yards a carry just once (4.9 vs. Oregon St.). Both Benson and Peterson have averaged less than five yards a carry on three different occasions this year.

 

Shameless stat-padding

This is a difficult classification - there's no easy way to tell if a team's simply salting away a victory or if it's merely trying to pad stats. For example, against Oregon State, California was up 35-7 when Arrington got a few handoffs which helped bring his yardage total for the day to over 100.  He did end up sitting out for much of the 4th quarter. Likewise, Peterson had less than 30 yards going into the 4th quarter when Oklahoma had a 28-10 lead over Kansas.  The Sooners kept handing Peterson the ball, and he ended up getting his 100. What you would look for is obvious cases when the opposition is outclassed, but a team continues to give the ball to its starting runner even though the game is well in hand.

While none of the six runners had any games that would obviously qualify as instances of shameless stat-padding, Peterson did receive quite a bit of publicity for his seventh consecutive 100-yard game against Kansas, although whatever contribution he made was immaterial to the game's outcome.  The heavy sledding that afternoon was provided by White, who threw for 389 yards and four touchdowns.

Big games in the early season can attract headlines - West Virginia's Kay-Jay Harris ran for more than 300 yards in a game game early in the season and made it, albeit ever so fleetingly, onto the Heisman short list.  During the two early-season games Cal had against softer opposition, Arrington average more than 11 yards a run, but had 16 carries in both games. Benson's four 180+ yard games came early in the season against Baylor, Rice, North Texas, and Arkansas - to date only North Texas has a winning record.

  Arrington hasn't loaded up on cheap yards against bad teams. His recent big games have against teams with 0 or 1 loss in conference play that are fighting for bowl bids. Aside from the Kansas game, Peterson hasn't gratuitously piled up yards in blowout situations. Even his two touchdowns late in a 31-7 win over Oregon have to be treated carefully, because he was the backup running back at the time. Benson's best games have come against the worst teams on Texas' schedule.

Value to Team

In addition to how well a player does against quality competition, it should also be noted when a player has his best games and how big is his impact. One measure is conference Player of the Week honors - usually such honors go to players who not only played big key roles for their team that week, but stood out among their peers. This would also tend to downplay the effect of a player having a good statistical game, but being overshadowed by a teammate who might have been more effective. While the methodology for choosing conference Player of the Weeks is hardly scientific, it does provide a basis for comparison. While four of the backs that are being compared all belong to the same conference, other players in other conferences may face stiffer competition from quarterbacks and receivers.

In each case where a player won conference Player of the Week honors, the team won. While Arrington, Peterson, and Moats have both won conference Player of the Week honors twice.  Peterson's came in Oklahoma's two biggest games of the season - Texas and Texas A&M. Arrington's game against UCLA and Arizona State - both teams were one-loss teams fairly deep into the season when Cal played them. Morency's game came against UCLA, while Benson's came against a Rice team that's 3-6 this season.

:  Ideally, a running back's best games would come against his best competition. That's certainly the case with Peterson and Arrington. Benson had a very good game against Oklahoma State last Saturday (23-141-5), but was obscured by the breakout performance of his teammate Young, and Jason White's play (19 of 35 for 292 yards and 4 TDs, including a late game-winner) in Oklahoma's come-from-behind win against Texas A&M. Peterson and Benson did suffer from the opportunity to not run against UCLA or Louisiana-Lafayette.

 

  With still a couple of games left in the season, there's still opportunity for other running backs to put themselves in the All-American picture.  Michigan freshman Michael Hart has run for 1160 yards and has three consecutive 200-yard games, but the best opponent of the three was a fast-falling Purdue team. Northwestern's Noah Herron has had a very consistent season, but it's very difficult for someone who doesn't play for a top 20 team, someone who doesn't have flashy highlights, or someone that doesn't have ridiculous numbers to get recognition. 

Of the six running backs compared - Adrian Peterson makes a good case for being the top dog. He's played his best in important games - the game against Texas standing out - he's had a consistent season, hasn't piled up a lot of yardage in meaningless situations, and it doesn't hurt that Oklahoma's ranked #2 in the country.  Much of what applies to Peterson can also be applied to Arrington.  Arrington's played well in games of greater significance to his team, but coming into this season he was largely unheralded and many people have just recently become aware of him. Benson's been known for years and the fact that he's had four consecutive 1000-yard seasons and chose to return for his senior year of football will register with some people.  Benson has also had legal issues during his time at Texas - the extent to which this plays into All-American voters' minds can't be determined.

From a yards per game basis, Arrington's slightly ahead of Benson. But as Cal has sustained its run in the nation's top 10, Arrington along with Aaron Rodgers have two of college football's most potent weapons. The Bears have generally started each game by establishing the run - and with the spate of injuries to its top four receivers, Arrington's importance to the offense has increased. Opposing defenses are still gearing up to stop him, and they haven't been successful in doing so all season.  Whether he's grinding away at defenses for five and six yards a pop, breaking open long gains or getting first downs or touchdowns in short-yardage situations, Arrington has excelled in all facets.    

By any measure, J.J. Arrington is having one of two best seasons of any running back in college football this year.  With a few games left in the season, and against the 50th, 61st, and 80th ranked run defenses in the country, there's ample reason to believe that he'll be able to keep up his current pace. If he succeeds in doing so, he'll firmly establish himself as a first-team All-American.

Not only is Arrington on pace to smash the school's single-season record, he's also on pace to have one of the all-time great seasons in Pac-10 history.

*Through nine games

*Through nine games. (Note: Even if Arrington had 16 carries for no gain, which would bring him to the 200 carry mark, his per-carry average would be 6.47, which would still be well ahead of the current record.)

*Through nine games

©Copyright 2004, TheBearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.

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