Dick Harmon: How would BYU's Taysom Hill, Jamaal Williams have fared in a conference?
Matt Gade, Deseret News
Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams have only briefly been together in the same college football backfield, but their impact during BYU's 2013 season was unique.
There’s never been a pair like this in Provo.
Hill and 18-year-old Williams became BYU’s first 1,000-yard rushing duo, finishing the regular season just 9 yards apart: Hill gained 1,211 yards, and Williams rushed for 1,202.
There have only been three such 1,000-yard combinations in major college football this season. Besides Hill and Williams, there are Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon (1,466) and James White (1,337) and Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch (1,775) and Cameron Stingily (1,007).
That is how unique such a feat is.
Playing for an independent, Hill and Williams will not appear in a conference ranking of rushers. But because Hill ranks 18th in the NCAA and Williams is 20th, it is easy to see that they would rank high in almost any accounting of a conference notation, whether it be the Mountain West, Pac-12, Big 12 or whatnot.
Not so fast, some might argue.
Hill and Williams may not have had such success if they’d played in one of the major conferences. Well, we’ll never know.
The only qualifier we might put in place if we do a projection is BYU’s strength of schedule. Hill and Williams faced the nation’s 32nd-toughest schedule to date, according to Jeff Sagarin, whose respected algorithms appear weekly in USA Today.
While Sagarin has Utah’s strength of schedule No. 1, it is interesting to note that the Cougars and Utes played tougher schedules than everybody in the Top 10 expect Stanford and Arizona State.
Williams and Hill faced a tougher schedule than Alabama (48th), Missouri (41st), Baylor (62nd), Ohio State (61st), Wisconsin (46th), Oklahoma State (432rd) and Michigan State (60th).
So, perhaps a plug-in to a conference rack of rushers would be OK, albeit, an impossible statistical certainty of performance.
For instance, if they were in the Mountain West, they’d likely rank second and third behind Bibbs Kapric of Colorado State, who gained 1,572 and ranked No. 6 in the NCAA. Heading into the bowl season and league playoffs, they’d be ahead of the league's No. 2 rusher, Kasey Carrier of New Mexico (1,122 yards). But in the defensive-challenged MWC, where Utah State led the league in total defense, I’d wager Hill/Williams would have gained far more yards than they actually did.
In the Pac-12, they’d rank behind a bevy of outstanding backs, including the nation’s No. 2 rusher, Washington’s Bishop Sankey (1,775); No. 5 rusher, Ka'Deem Carey of Arizona (1,716); and the No. 8 rusher, Tyler Gaffney of Stanford (1.488). Williams and Hill might rank fourth and fifth in that league.
In the Big 12, who knows? This was a tough run defense league. With no playoff, the Big 12 is done. Hill had a record day against Texas, a team ranked then and now. Statistically, Hill and Williams might be the top two rushers in that league, ahead of Big 12 leader Lache Seastrunk of Baylor. At 982 rushing yards, he was not a 1,000-yard guy.
It is interesting to note that when Hill ran for 259 yards against Texas on Sept. 7, he gained 21.3 percent of his season total that night.
As for game averages, Hill averaged an impressive 100.9 yards per game. If you take away sacks and losses (minus-227), his gross total yards gained by rush was 1,438; Williams only lost 23 yards this season.
Another note about their teammate on the other side of the ball, BYU leading tackler Uani Unga. He’d have finished atop the league standings of about every conference in the NCAA. Unga’s 136 total tackles heading into a bowl game rank No. 3 in the NCAA.
Just projecting. Just for fun.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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