As part of a new series, we're taking power rankings from macro to micro. Instead of looking at the best teams that are dominating the college football landscape, we're focusing on something more specific in this series.
This week, we're looking at the running back position. Sure, it's been "devalued" in the NFL, and to a lesser extent in college football, but you can't win games at any level without a productive attack to keep defenses honest.
This isn't a look at the top NFL draft prospects nor a preview of tailback rankings you'll see from scouts. It's simply a look at the best at the position in CFB. Without further ado, on to the rankings:
1. Todd Gurley, Georgia
Yes, he's suspended for another two games, but he's still the best player at the position. Some think he's Marshawn Lynch-esque, and that's a pretty good comparison to draw at this point in his career. The junior has great size at 6-foot-1, 226 pounds and is equally adept at hitting the hole between the tackles or bouncing things out and turning the corner. A three-down runner, Gurley still leads Georgia in rushing and averages a ridiculous 8.2 yards per carry on the season even though every defensive player gears up to stop him every single play. The most underrated part of his game? Probably his role as a receiver and blocker in the passing game.
2. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
How explosive is Gordon? His scoring runs this season have been from an average of 30 yards outside the goal line (he leads the country in scoring by the way). He has a chance to set numerous school, conference and FBS records, but the most impressive part of his game is how he's developed into a complete back by really improving as a pass-catcher. He's carried Wisconsin, even with a former safety playing quarterback.
3. Tevin Coleman, Indiana
If you think leading the country in rushing yards per game automatically puts you atop the power rankings, you'd be wrong, but there's no denying how good Coleman has been this season. He has just 12 negative yards, total, while running the ball 135 times as the heart and soul of a Hoosiers offense that is down to -- roughly -- its ninth-string quarterback. Teams know what's coming, but Coleman has still delivered.
4. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
The Cornhuskers star might be higher on Heisman Trophy ballots than he is on this list, and he's deserving of the recognition in the race for the award. He leads the country in rushing but has been an important part of the Nebraska passing game as well on screens and play-action passes. The offense is built around him, and for good reason, because he's an all-around outstanding player. He's a tick behind Gordon in scoring but does lead the country in all-purpose yardage.
5. Duke Johnson, Miami
The ACC might not get much love nationally, but Johnson sure should. He exploded on national TV against a good Virginia Tech defense for 249 yards in his last outing, and it was the exclamation point on a year in which he's improved with each game. Considering the circumstances he's faced this season -- he's trying to take pressure off a freshman quarterback with some fresh-faced receivers -- it's been an impressive run for Johnson. His speed gets the attention on big plays, but his quickness making cuts and a knack for making the first defender miss is what earns him a place high on this list.
6. Devon Johnson, Marshall
If you can name anybody off the Thundering Herd, chances are high it's quarterback Rakeem Cato. Get to know Johnson's name. He's having a more impressive season than the Heisman candidate from his own team. A former tight end (yes, that's what he played last season), Johnson has been a revelation for the Marshall offense and has bailed the team out quite a bit. He's second in the country in rushing and fourth in scoring while averaging 9.1 yards per touch. All that while playing at 240-plus pounds and learning a new position? Yeah, that's good.
7. David Cobb, Minnesota
Cobb deserves recognition just for carrying the Gophers to a position where making the Big Ten title game is actually realistic this year. He's a workhorse back who leads all Power Five teams in carries (211 going into Week 10) and is seventh in yardage. He's jumped onto a lot of NFL radars this year, and you can see why when he carries the ball.
8. Royce Freeman, Oregon
Freeman, a true freshman tailback who starts in the nation's most productive backfield, might not be well-known, but that should change. He's built like a hammer and can deliver a big, tackle-breaking hit if needed, but his burst and speed are what really vault him onto this list. As much as the offensive line's improving health has fueled a rise to the No. 5 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings, the development of Freeman as the lead back has played a key role for Oregon, too. After showing plenty of potential, he really took off after the loss to Arizona and has exceeded 100 yards and two TDs all three games since.
Dak Prescott gets much of the credit for the Bulldogs' rise to the top spot in the rankings, and deservedly so, but Robinson showed why he's the real deal against Kentucky last week. That's not the first time he's come up big, though. He was a key part of the Sept. 20 win over LSU by rushing for 197 yards against the Tigers' vaulted defense in Baton Rouge. Most impressive? He has just five carries that went for negative yards this season, and they cumulatively resulted in a loss of just 17 yards.
10. Devontae Booker, Utah
The Utes are bowl eligible for the first time in three years largely because of Booker's exploits. He's a hard runner who can destroy teams between the tackles but has enough burst to bounce things outside for the big play. He's a solid pass-catcher and has really carried the team by racking up tough yards, picking up key third-down conversions and helping the offense navigate inconsistent quarterback play. When you need three yards, it's tough to find a better option for the job than Booker.