The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

November 28, 2012

No. 3 Georgia, No. 2 Alabama backfields come in 2s

— TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — That running back duo in the Southeastern Conference championship game has been punishingly effective all season.

Pick a team — No. 3 Georgia or No. 2 Alabama — the description fits.

Bulldogs freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall roll into Saturday's game with 1,858 combined yards and 22 touchdowns.

The Crimson Tide counters with Eddie Lacy, freshman T.J. Yeldon and their collective 1,848 yards and 24 TDs.

The stats hardly settle the debate of which tailback tandem is better.

"They've got two great running backs," Tide cornerback Dee Milliner said. "We've got two, three great running backs here."

Well, that's no help.

There's not an easy answer. Both backfield combinations have been terrific. If one player gets winded, the other goes in. One gets a little dinged up, no problem.

Fresh legs, and no rest for the weary defenses.

It has been Alabama's formula since Nick Saban arrived. The two-tailback system has flourished with 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and 2011 finalist Trent Richardson, and both gained 700-plus yards as freshmen.

Yeldon has already surpassed the first-season production of either of those two first-round NFL draft picks with 847 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Saban said the system is especially effective if the backs present defenses with different styles, like Gurley and Marshall.

"Todd is a little bit like our guys in a way," he said. "He's big, physical, can run inside, can run outside. He'll make you miss, but has power. Their second guy is a very, very good back in all those regards, but he's a very fast guy. There's a change of pace there that the players have to be aware of."

Gurley has been the most prolific of the bunch. He is second in the SEC with 1,138 yards while he and Lacy's 14 touchdowns are tied for tops among running backs. Lacy has 1,001 yards.

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