2023 Best college running backs: Joel Klatt ranks the top 5

Take a look at the Heisman Trophy odds heading into Week 8 of the college football season, and you will notice there isn’t a single running back listed among the top-10 favorites.

Now, this isn’t to say that the running back position hasn’t been very strong this season because there are several outstanding backs throughout the nation, with a guy who I believe has been the best of the bunch residing in South Bend.

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As of Wednesday afternoon, there are 11 running backs in the FBS who have already rushed for 700-plus yards this season, and six backs who have already totaled double-digit rushing scores.

With that said, here is a breakdown of who I believe have been the top-five running backs in the country so far this season, counting down from five to one. 

5. MarShawn Lloyd, USC 
Class: Junior
Stats: 75 carries, 565 rushing yards, five rushing TDs

Lloyd leads all Power 5 backs with 7.5 yards per carry, but he’s only getting 10 carries per game so far. He only got eight carries in the Trojans’ 48-20 loss to Notre Dame. That has to change if USC wants to turn its season around and actually go out and win the Pac-12. This team is going to have to start developing the run game a little bit. Just trying to protect Caleb Williams is not getting it done. Give the ball to MarShawn Lloyd.

4. Bucky Irving, Oregon
Class: Junior
Stats: 71 carries, 520 rushing yards, five rushing touchdowns

This guy is averaging 7.2 yards per carry and has topped 85 rushing yards in four of the Ducks’ six games this season. He had 127 yards on the ground in that incredible game against Washington last weekend, although it came in a loss. I think he is really good. I love this guy.

3. Blake Corum, Michigan
Class: Senior
Stats: 96 carries, 546 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns. 

Corum leads the country with 12 touchdowns this season. When I watch him play, you can tell that he’s not quite 100 percent yet. The jump cut is not quite there, but it’s coming. At the end of the year, I think Corum is going to have a big season.

Blake Corum punches in his second TD of the half to extend Michigan’s lead vs. Indiana

2. Jonathon Brooks, Texas
Class: Sophomore
Stats: 108 carries, 726 rushing yards, six rushing touchdowns. 

Brooks has rushed for 726 yards through six games this season, which ranks fifth among Power 5 running backs. He also has more rushing yards than former Texas standout Bijan Robinson had at this point last season.

1 Audric Estime, Notre Dame
Class: Junior
Stats: 127 carries, 787 rushing yards, nine rushing touchdowns

I think Estime has been the best running back in the country so far this year. He is averaging 98 yards per game and 6.2 yards per carry. He is a big, strong back at 230 pounds. I think he has been outstanding.

Joel Klatt is FOX Sports’ lead college football game analyst and the host of the podcast “The Joel Klatt Show.” Follow him on Twitter at @joelklatt and subscribe to the “Joel Klatt Show” on YouTube.

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