Herschel Walker vs. Nick Chubb: The Edge Goes to the Young Dawg and I Can Prove It
Folks, we need to talk.
There won’t ever be another Herschel Walker. His potent combination of size, speed and vision intersected perfectly with a glorious reign of Georgia football that brought the program’s most recent national championship. You can’t make this kind of My-God-a-Freshman stuff up.
But that doesn’t mean Herschel can’t ever be caught. And that doesn’t mean Nick Chubb isn’t about to do it. And I’m not just talking about the streak of 100-yard games. To be sure, when all of the other records in the book read, “Herschel,” this one falling doesn’t mean much. But it’s not going to be the last one to fall. It will be the first of many.
Herschel Walker vs. Nick Chubb
Nick Chubb is closing in on Herschel Walker. Either that, or he’s already passed him…depending on how you look at it.
Through 17 games, Herschel Walker racked up 2,646 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns on 480 touches. Seventeen games may seem arbitrary, but in terms of games played, that’s the largest sample we have for Nick Chubb. Over that stretch Chubb has accounted for 2,146 yards (500 fewer yards than Herschel) and 20 rushing touchdowns (1 fewer than Herschel) on 290 touches (190 fewer touches than Herschel). Herschel’s got a decisive edge, but Chubb, who logged just 31 total carries over his first five career games while sitting behind All-Universe running back Todd Gurley, is tracking Herschel undeniably well.
And the touchdown data through 17 games is incredibly close.
Unfortunately for Chubb, this 17 game period includes Herschel’s record-setting day vs. Vanderbilt.
But there are two grounds on which one could make the case for Chubb besting Herschel already in his career.
On a per-carry basis, Chubb takes the edge. Chubb is averaging 7.4 yards per carry—that’s more than 34% higher than the 5.5125 yards per carry average Herschel displayed over his first 17 career games. Further, Chubb is scoring on 6.9% of his rushing attempts. Through 17 games, Herschel was scoring on 4.38% of his runs. Put another way, Chubb’s first 290 career rushing attempts have yielded 2,146 yards and 20 TDs. Herschel’s first 310 attempts (the closest end-of-game tally, which came after his 12th game) resulted in 1,766 yards and 17 TDs.
If we project out Nick Chubb’s current rate of production, he should log 3,552 rushing yards (906 more than Herschel) and 33 rushing touchdowns (12 more than Herschel) on his first 480 carries.
And Chubb is already more productive as a receiver than Herschel Walker was over the course of a three-year career. Chubb has hauled in 21 passes for 250 yards and three scores. Walker accounted for 243 yards three touchdowns over his entire career at Georgia.
What’s the Ceiling for Young Chubb?
So where will Chubb end up?
We’d be foolish to calculate the rest of his career based on his 17-game sample. After all, nearly 30-percent of those games came with him coming off the bench. The more accurate set of games is his current 12-game streak of 100+ yards. His average statistical line for the last 12 games (rushing totals only): 21.6 carries for 16.17 yards and 1.5 touchdowns. Assuming Georgia makes it to a bowl game each of the next two seasons and just one SEC Championship game, Chubb will have 23 games left in his career. If those figures hold he’ll tack on an additional 3,684 rushing yards and 35 TDs. His projected career totals with those calculations included: 5,830 career rushing yards and 55 TDs.
That would bring him 571 yards and three scores beyond Herschel Walker’s current school records. Admittedly, that would come over the course of seven extra games (school records don’t include bowl games, though my data above did include the 1981 Sugar Bowl) but it would also come on significantly fewer carries. Walker logged 994 career rushing attempts. These Chubb projections would include 786 carries. At the end of the day, actual carries matter more to production than the number of games played.
But What About the Game?
The game has changed over the past three decades. You can’t argue against that. But you also can’t make a concrete argument for how the current game favors Nick Chubb. I’ll be the first to admit that defenders were more gifted at one-on-one tackling in the early 1980’s. But the size, strength and speed of defenses have improved tremendously as well.
In 1982, Herschel Walker faced a stout Clemson defense one year removed from a consensus national championship. That Tigers defense featured 26 defensive linemen and linebackers with an average weight just north of 230 pounds. The average weight of Alabama’s defensive line and linebackers this Saturday will be 259 pounds. And those guys aren’t slow. In 1982, Clemson had just two defenders heavier than 265 pounds. Alabama’s got 12 players listed heavier than 270 on its defense. And again, those guys can move.
And Chubb has played against tough opponents. As a freshman, he faced off against five teams that finished the season ranked by the AP (#15 Clemson, #14 Missouri, #22 Auburn, #8 Georgia Tech, #24 Louisville). As a freshman, Herschel Walker played just one team, #9 Notre Dame, who finished the season ranked by the AP. Who knows how the final AP Poll will shake out this year, but Georgia has current #13 Alabama and #25 Florida on its schedule as well as a bid at an SEC Championship Game that would surely feature a ranked opponent and a potential Bowl appearance against a ranked foe. Further, Tennessee, Missouri, Auburn and Georgia Tech have spent time ranked and could theoretically sneak back up (though that seems unlikely for some schools). Herschel Walker played two teams that finished 1981 ranked. In total, Herschel Walker played against a total of six teams (over a three-year career) that finished the season ranked by the AP. Assuming Alabama doesn’t tank and fall out of the rankings, this will be Chubb’s sixth such game and he’s not even to the middle of his sophomore season.
So, unless we work on the assumption that college football has radically regressed over the past 30 years, one can’t make an argument for Herschel facing stiffer defenses.
Further, you can’t begin to tell me that Georgia’s offense is more beneficial to Nick Chubb statistically than it was to Herschel Walker. In 1980, Herschel’s freshman season, Georgia ran 766 offensive plays. A whopping 40.5% (310 rush attempts) were Herschel Walker carries. For comparison’s sake, last year Georgia ran 876 plays. Chubb racked up 219 carries—or 25% of the plays. So far this year, 29.8% of all Georgia plays have been Nick Chubb runs. That’s a sizeable increase, but as a sophomore Herschel carried the ball 410 times—more than 47.3% of Georgia’s 865 offensive plays.
That’s all I got/
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