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Freshman duo can keep Alabama run going

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If BCS championship game star Eddie Lacy declares for the NFL draft, Alabama fans needn't worry about any drop-off in the running game next season.

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T.J. Yeldon rushed for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns as the other half of Alabama's tandem running-back system, including 108 yards and a TD against Notre Dame on Monday.

If Yeldon replaces Lacy in the featured role, Kenyan Drake is next man up to co-star. Drake averaged 6.7 yards a carry while running 39 times for 273 yards and five TDs this season, including a season-high 67 against Auburn.

Like Yeldon, Drake was a freshman.

Now imagine if Lacy comes back for his senior year after being named offensive player of the game for his 140-yard, two-touchdown performance against Notre Dame. He ran for 1,322 yards and 17 TDs for the season.

The stockpile of running backs at Alabama is reminiscent of the embarrassment of riches Nebraska enjoyed at the position while winning its three national titles in four years in the 1990s.

No doubt, Yeldon-Drake could be just as good in 2013 as duos Lacy-Yeldon in 2012, Trent Richardson-Lacy in 2011 and Mark Ingram-Richardson in 2010.

YOUR 2012 STAT CHAMPS: Alabama dominated the major defensive categories, ranking first in total defense (250 ypg), rushing defense (76.4 ypg) and scoring defense (10.9 ppg). Florida State had the top pass defense (161.9 ypg).

Team leaders in offense: Louisiana Tech in total offense (577.9 ypg) and scoring (51.5 ppg), Army in rushing (369.8 ypg) and Marshall in passing (365.1 ypg).

Individual leaders were Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey in rushing (148.4 ypg), Marshall's Rakeem Cato in passing (350.1 ypg), Baylor's Terrance Williams in receiving (140.9 ypg), and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel in total offense (393.5 ypg).

SPARTAN WORKHORSE: Remember when Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell carried the ball 44 times against Boise State? That was back on Aug. 31 in one of the opening-week showcase games.

It also was a precursor. Turns out no one had more rushing attempts in any game the rest of the season.

In fact, Bell's 382 carries for the season were 200 more than he had last season and the most in major-college football since Javon Ringer of, yes, Michigan State ran 390 times in 2008.

Bell had 35 or more carries in five games and accounted for 92 percent of Michigan State's rushing yards (1,793 of 1,942).

Bell, who has declared for April's NFL draft, ran for 3,346 yards and 33 touchdowns in 40 games.

YARDS IN BIG CHUNKS I: Georgia Tech's Orwin Smith finished his career with a per-carry average of 9.3 yards, best in Atlantic Coast Conference history for a running back with 1,000 yards.

Smith battled shoulder and ankle injuries this season and had only 9 yards on four carries against USC in the Sun Bowl.

YARDS IN BIG CHUNKS II: Nebraska's defense had a split personality. The Cornhuskers allowed an average of 258 yards in home games, ranking sixth in the country. They gave up 463 yards a game on the road or at neutral sites, ranking 91st.

The difference was big plays.

Of 13 opponent runs of 30 yards or longer, 12 occurred away from Lincoln.

TOUCHBACK TIME: The new kickoff rules produced the desired results.

Touchbacks in the BCS conferences, plus Notre Dame, increased from 23.4 percent in 2011 to 39.4 percent in 2012, according to STATS LLC.

The spot of kickoffs moved up from the 30- to the 35-yard line this season, and when a touchback occurred, the offense started at its 25-yard line instead of the 20.

The rule was changed in an attempt to prevent injuries. NCAA data indicated that players were hurt on kickoffs more than in other phases of the game.

UCLA's Jeff Locke led the nation with 76 percent of his kickoffs (68 of 89) going for touchbacks. He was among 22 kickers, compared with only two in 2011, who produced touchbacks on at least half of his kickoffs.

AP NEWS
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The Associated Press
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