Amid the elevation of University Stadium in Albuquerque, which sits almost a mile above sea level, the top two rushers in FBS will go rush for rush against each other Saturday in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl (1 p.m. ET, ESPN).
The Arizona Wildcats' Ka'Deem Carey leads FBS with 146.4 rushing yards per game. Nevada Wolf Pack running back Stefphon Jefferson is second in the country with 141.9 yards per game. Carey was an AP All-American first-team selection (along with Wisconsin’s Montee Ball), and Jefferson was a third-team selection.
A big game could lead to the FBS rushing title for either player, so let’s break down the pair head-to-head:
Carey is tied with UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin for the FBS lead in rushes of at least 10 yards with 54.
Big-Play Rushes This Season
He leads the country -- all of FBS -- in rushes of at least 20 yards with 20. Carey also has ripped off eight runs of at least 30 yards this season. All of those tallies are much higher than those of Jefferson, who has 11 runs of at least 20 yards. Edge: Carey
Jefferson has had his number called time and again in coach Chris Ault’s pistol-style offense; his 341 rushes are the second-most this season in FBS behind Michigan State’s LeVeon Bell. Jefferson has six games when he has run the ball at least 30 times. That’s tied with Bell for the most such games in FBS. By comparison, the most rushes Carey has had in a game this season is 29. Edge: Jefferson
Getting first downs
Their first-down totals are nearly identical (86-85 in favor of Jefferson), but Carey’s rate gets the upper hand. Carey has picked up first downs on almost 31 percent of his rushes this season compared with 25 percent for Jefferson. Edge: Carey
Jefferson has converted almost half of his goal-to-go rushes into touchdowns (17 TDs on 35 rushes). Carey has been no slouch (13 TDs on 36 rushes), but his 36.1 conversion rate is lower than Jefferson's. Edge: Jefferson
With one more rushing touchdown, Carey will tie the school record for most in a season with 21. With 9 more rushing yards, Jefferson will set the Mountain West Conference single-season record, and with 30 more yards he’ll set the school single-season record. Edge: Even
Teammate rushing threat
Nevada’s pistol offense also has another rushing threat in QB Cody Fajardo, who averages 89.1 yards per game. Combined, Jefferson and Fajardo are rushing for 231.1 yards per game – the highest total by any teammate duo in FBS. Carey’s top rushing teammate is also his quarterback, but Matt Scott’s average of 44.1 yards per game is less than half of Fajardo’s. Edge: Jefferson
The bowl game itself will have to decide this one. The backs are similar even in their height (Jefferson 5-11 to Carey 5-10), weight (Jefferson 210 to Carey 197) and jersey. Both wear No. 25. As Carey told the Tucson Citizen, “It’s going to be show time between me and him. There’s the game, and then it’s me vs him. I think it’s two games in one.”