ESPN Stats and Info recently broke down some early season statistics from a few of the SEC running backs.
The article outlined how LSU's Leonard Fournette averaged 12 yards per carry last weekend against Auburn, how Georgia running back Nick Chubb has 11 consecutive 100-yard rushing games and how Alabama's Derrick Henry is the best second-half rusher in the SEC so far this season.
Which made the Pac-12 blog wonder how Pac-12 running backs are stacking up at this point in the season.
With UCLA vs. Arizona on the docket this weekend, that seems like a good place to start.
Arizona's Nick Wilson has averaged 144.7 rushing yards per game this season (Pac-12 best) while UCLA's Paul Perkins has averaged 143 rushing yards per game this season (second to Wilson). Nationally, that puts those two as the sixth- and seventh-best rushers this season, respectively, with Chubb being the only SEC back to have rushed for more yardage so far this season.
Though Wilson and Perkins have both impressed through three games, they've gone about it in different ways. Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez has mainly used Wilson between the tackles (81 percent of his runs have been between the tackles), but when Wilson does run outside the tackles he has averaged 11.9 yards per carry. Perkins, on the other hand, is used about 50-50 inside and outside of the tackles.
"I don't know why nobody brings his name up when you talk about the best backs in the conference or the best backs in the nation," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "Now, I understand. I think the running back at Utah is a monster. I think the young kid up in Oregon is extremely good. I think our young guy is really good also. USC has a group of guys that are good. But all [Perkins] does is every single week, pick up blitzes, run the ball extremely well, drag tacklers, make big plays. ... For whatever reason, he's one of those guys that flies under the radar, but when you watch the film as a football coach you say, 'Man, this guy is good.'"
Since the start of last season, Perkins has accumulated 2,287 yards from scrimmage, which is the third most of any active player nationally. The two players in front of him? Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott (2,451 yards) and yet another Pac-12 running back, Utah's "monster" as Shaw called him, Devontae Booker (2,289 yards).
Booker's numbers this season haven't been earth-shattering, but considering how one-dimensional the Utes' offense is at times, it's pretty impressive he has been able to rack up 345 rushing yards and convert on 64 percent of his third-down rushing attempts. This weekend Booker will face an Oregon run defense that is giving up 140 rushing yards per game, but the truth in that number is that teams haven't had to rush as much against the Ducks because their pass defense has been so porous.
Michigan State had great success running the ball against Oregon in Week 2. The Spartans' Madre London and LJ Scott combined for 179 rushing yards, 128 of which came after contact. That's good news for Booker considering he led the Pac-12 in rushing yards after contact in 2014.
Ducks running back Royce Freeman will also have a chance to make a big statement in the Utah-Oregon game. The Utes' defense is allowing just 106 rushing yards per game this season, and they're one of four teams in the country that have yet to give up a rushing touchdown. Against the Spartans' stout run defense Freeman rushed for 92 yards, but the Ducks only accounted for 123 yards overall on the ground, which isn't a good total for Oregon -- since 2009 the Ducks are 2-7 when rushing for fewer than 150 yards.
This weekend will be a good litmus test for the Pac-12 with so many good conference games. But it'll also be a great litmus test for several Pac-12 running backs who are trying to make their names known as the league's best running back.