October 11, 2011

Oregon's James runs to top of power rankings

Rivals.com Power Rankings by Position: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ST
Coaches Power Rankings: Head Coach | Off. Coordinator | Def. Coordinator

The new No. 1 running back in the Rivals.com College Football Power Rankings may not get a chance to stay in the top spot for long.

Oregon's LaMichael James regained his status as the nation's No. 1 running back by rushing for 239 yards Thursday in a 43-15 rout of California, but he dislocated his right elbow early in the fourth quarter.

If James misses a substantial period of time, he almost certainly will end up getting passed in the power rankings, which measure the nation's top performers at each position.

"It was more painful knowing that I couldn't go out there and finish the game with my team – more than my actual elbow," James told reporters after the game. "I am happy for my team, the way they went out there and finished the game off strong."

James has rushed for 852 yards and eight touchdowns this season while averaging 9.0 yards per carry. After totaling just 121 rushing yards against LSU and Nevada in his first two games of the season, James has rushed for more than 200 yards in three consecutive games.

He is averaging 170.4 rushing yards per game, 20.5 yards per game more than anyone else in the nation. His latest outstanding performance helped him take over the top spot in the running back rankings from Alabama's Trent Richardson, who rushed for 107 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries Saturday in a 34-0 shutout of Vanderbilt.

There also is a change at the top of the defensive line rankings for a second consecutive week. Illinois end Whitney Mercilus moves to the top of that category after recording four tackles for loss, three sacks and two forced fumbles in a 41-20 triumph over Indiana that gave the Illini their first 6-0 start since 1951.

Mercilus has 10.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks through the first six games of the season. He also has forced four fumbles. Mercilus' 8.5 total sacks lead all FBS players, though Colorado State's Nordly Capi is averaging more sacks per game. Mercilus takes over the top spot from South Carolina's Melvin Ingram, who had one solo tackle and one pass breakup in a 54-3 rout of Kentucky.

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In the only other change at the top of the power rankings, Clemson's Chad Morris has taken over as the new No. 1 offensive coordinator. Morris, the offensive coordinator at Tulsa last season, has revitalized Clemson's offense by instituting a hurry-up, no-huddle attack that has sparked the Tigers to a 6-0 start.

Clemson has scored at least 35 points in five of its first six games, including a 36-14 victory Saturday over Boston College. The Tigers' 500 yards of total offense against Boston College were the most by a Clemson team in an ACC game since 2007.

Morris moved ahead of Auburn's Gus Malzahn, who had been atop the offensive coordinator rankings all season. Auburn has scored a total of 30 points in its past two games, including a 38-14 loss to Arkansas last week.

Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson, Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, Georgia tight end Orson Charles, Boise State offensive tackle Nate Potter, Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, Nebraska kick returner Ameer Abdullah, Alabama coach Nick Saban and LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis remained atop their respective positions.

The rankings put a special emphasis on recent performances while also taking career achievements into consideration. Our coordinator rankings exclude coordinators who don't call their own plays or signals.

Rivals.com Power Rankings by Position: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ST
Coaches Power Rankings: Head Coach | Off. Coordinator | Def. Coordinator

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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