LaMichael James over Montee Ball


Montee who? We have LaMichael. I’m not very interested in Montee Ball’s 32 rushing touchdowns, because touchdowns are an overrated statistic. There are some people saying that Montee Ball will be a bigger factor than LaMichael James, but I just don’t buy it. James averages 7.4 yards per carry, but Ball’s almost-as-insane 6.4 YPC just doesn’t measure up to James’s efficiency.

This statement may seem obvious and remarkably un-profound, but there are many college football fans who believe Ball is the better back. I formulated a very rudimentary RB efficiency statistic that combines fumbles, touchdowns, and yards per carry to make a basic, box-score efficiency statistic. James has an RB score of 86.2, while Ball has a score of 81.4.

While Wisconsin backup James White is a quality running back, I wouldn’t say that he’s a better player than Ducks backup Kenjon Barner. The former star returner has a 74.0 basic efficiency score, while White checks in at a solid 59.1. With De’Anthony Thomas’s five touchdowns and 8.3 yards per carry thrown into the mix, it’s easy to see that the Ducks have the better rushing offense.

That’s not to knock Montee Ball, but I don’t really care if he came in 4th in Heisman voting or was close to breaking the record for most touchdowns in a season. He’ll never be better than James, and I ignored the offensive line factor; the Ducks will have to face those powerful big uglies Monday.

This Rose Bowl is going to be about strength against speed, and there’s no better way of looking at that when examining both running backs and defenses (that analysis will come soon).

I’m looking at how both teams’ run defense and comparing it to their respective abilities to gain yardage on the ground. The Ducks average 6.5 yards per carry, which is truly astonishing given the fact that they run it 45.3 times per game, and they allow a meager 3.6 yards per carry for a difference of 2.9 YPC in their favor.

The Badgers, on the other hand, average 5.5 yards per carry and give up 3.9 yards per rushing attempt. Wisconsin is able to effectively stop the run and are great at running the football themselves, but their +1.6 doesn’t nearly match the Ducks proficiency and efficiency. Oregon’s ground attack is simply unmatched, and their average of 6.5 yards per carry is 0.7 higher than the three teams tied for second in the nation. 6.5 is certainly a huge number, and it truly has a lot to do with LaMichael James’s ruthless execution. And hey, possessing one of the better run defenses in the league only helps.

Look, Wisconsin is one of the best teams out there at running the football, and they have an amazing running back in Montee Ball. However, I just  don’t get why people think he’s better than LaMichael. Oregon has the advantage on the ground in the Rose Bowl, and I expect James to be the biggest factor for Oregon, at least, in this game.

You can follow me on Twitter @SorianoJoe and Autzen Zoo @Autzen_Zoo.