From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about records, the ones that have been broken, the ones that could be broken, and the ones that will never be broken. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our ”Broken Records” articles here.
They say that records are made to be broken, and that has nearly always been true, but because of the way players approach college football and a professional career beyond, there’s one Ohio State career mark that I don’t believe will ever fall. That OSU record is Archie Griffin’s career record for most rushing yards.
The primary reason for this has nothing to do with Griffin’s talent or the talent that walks through the Woody Hayes Athletic Center each year. Times have simply changed in a way that makes any approach to Griffin’s record seriously unlikely at best.
Griffin amassed 5,589 yards rushing on 924 attempts from 1972-75, scoring 26 touchdowns in those four seasons — many of his would-be scores were vultured near the goal line by Pete Johnson or quarterback keepers. Archie’s closest pursuer in the nearly half century since he last played has been J.K. Dobbins.
Dobbins racked up 4,459 on 725 carries from 2017-19, scoring 38 touchdowns. He averaged more yards per carry than Griffin (6.2 ypc, compared to Archie’s 6.0). While Dobbins played in only four fewer games than Griffin (42, to Archie’s 46), he still fell more than 1,100 yards shy of catching the two-time Heisman Trophy winner. If he had returned for his senior season rather than declaring for the NFL Draft, he had an excellent chance to set a new career school record.
Therein lies the rub.
Any running back at Ohio State who, like Dobbins, gets to within striking distance of Griffin’s mark in three seasons is likely going to receive a high draft grade. The lure of a lucrative NFL contract is too good for these young players to pass up, because football is a violent sport and anything can happen. One wrong cut that puts too much torque on the knee and a player may never see the same kind of salary he would have if he’d turn pro. The players know this and that’s why even a third-round draft grade can be enough to sway a college player to enter the draft.
NIL would probably have to substantially challenge NFL salaries in order for a player with big rushing totals to stick around for their fourth year of eligibility.
It’s possible that some running back could covet Griffin’s career OSU record enough to stay in school and get it done, but that would be an extraordinary decision. It’s also possible that someone could put up 2,000 yards per season and get it done in three years, but that too seems unlikely unless the current pass-happy style of football falls out of fashion. That doesn’t seem like something that could happen, given the evolution of the game over the past decade, barring a rules change that helps defensive backs to the point that attempting more running plays makes more sense.
Ohio State will try to keep up with what the other top programs are doing. It’s hard to imagine the Buckeyes would hire a coach who prefers to run the football more than 50 or 60 percent of the time, and the fanbase would likely riot if a triple-option head coach were hired.
With the trend of athletes opting to pursue a professional career at the first sign of a decent draft grade, Griffin’s record seems safe. It would take some kind of sea change in NIL and/or the game of college football — or just someone who cares more about setting the record than NFL dollars — in order for it to be broken.
Until that record does fall, I will forever remain skeptical that it can.