Alabama and Clemson wouldn’t have reached this point in the season without elite offenses and production from several players. The running game has been a strength for both teams, and it creates an interesting look to break down where that production has come from.

The top three rushers for both teams are two running backs, splitting carries almost exactly 50-50, and a dual-threat quarterback. That’s Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough and Jalen Hurts for Alabama, while Clemson counters with Tavien Feaster, Travis Etienne and Kelly Bryant.

Here’s the total rushing production for both teams. We’ll look at the individual players in a moment:

Alabama (national ranking) Clemson
Rushing yards 3,184  (11th) 2,653 (29th)
Rushing attempts 531 (25th) 545 (20th)
Attempts per game 44.25 (22nd) 41.92 (32nd)
Yards per carry 6.00 (6th) 4.87 (34th)
Rushing touchdowns 36 (t-9th) 40 (t-4th)
Runs of 10+ yards 108 (4th) 74 (36th)

Now let’s take a look at Alabama’s top three rushers. You can expect Josh Jacobs, Alabama’s change-of-pace back, to have a role in this game, but we’ll just look at the top two running backs and the quarterback to try and keep this an apples-to-apples comparison.

Remember, quarterback rushing statistics also include negative yardage lost on sacks.

Damien Harris Bo Scarbrough Jalen Hurts Total
Rushing yards  906  549  768  2,223
Rushing attempts  110  108  137  355
Attempts per game  9.17  9.00  11.42  29.58
Yards per carry  8.24  5.08  5.61  6.26
Rushing touchdowns  11  8  8  27
Runs of 10+ yards  21  16  35  72

Here are Clemson’s top three rushers, also two running backs and quarterback Kelly Bryant. Remember that the Tigers played 13 games to Alabama’s 12:

Travis Etienne Tavien Feaster Kelly Bryant Total
Rushing yards  744  659  646  2,049
Rushing attempts  103  103  173  379
Attempts per game  8.58  7.92  13.31  29.15
Yards per carry  7.22  6.44  3.73  5.4
Rushing touchdowns  13  7  11  31
Runs of 10+ yards  16  14  27  57

And here’s the production of Alabama’s top three rushers compared with Clemson’s:

Alabama Clemson
Rushing yards 2,223 2,049
Rushing attempts 355 379
Attempts per game 29.58 29.15
Yards per carry 6.26 5.4
Rushing touchdowns 27 31
Runs of 10+ yards 72 57

Some takeaways:

  • In particular, the production of Alabama’s Harris-Scarbrough combo lines up similarly with Clemson’s Etienne-Feaster duo. The Tide’s runners have 1,455 rushing yards on 218 carries, averaging 6.67 yards per carry with 19 touchdowns. Clemson’s top two combine for 1,403 yards on 206 carries, averaging 6.81 yards with 20 touchdowns. That’s very similar production.
  • Clemson doesn’t have a back as big as Scarbrough or as explosive as Harris. Etienne, a true freshman, checks in at 5-10/200 while Feaster is 5-11/220 (about Harris’ size). They’re both very productive, but you might not notice the difference when they sub in and out, unlike you would when Alabama trades out its runners.
  • It’s not listed above, but none of the top RBs in this matchup is a huge threat in the passing game. Etienne has 5 catches for 57 yards while Feaster has 10 for 115. Alabama has used Josh Jacobs in the pass game quite a bit but Harris and Scarbrough have combined for 22 catches and 158 yards.
  • Of note is that Etienne is a true freshman. This will be the biggest game he’s ever played in. Feaster is a sophomore; he didn’t have a reception or carry in the national championship last year.
  • Bo Scarbrough had 16 carries for 93 yards and two touchdowns before an injury ended his game against Clemson last year. Harris had five carries for 24 yards in the loss.