The frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy may be a running back from Alabama, but another player from the state who is piling up rushing yards isn't conceding anything.
Auburn senior Ben Tate doesn't think he needs to take a backseat to Alabama's Mark Ingram.
"I know I'm the best back in the state," Tate said. "I bet if you went and broke down film and asked teams in the SEC who is the best back in the state, I mean I feel like it's me."
Tate has rushed for 1,142 yards, just 6 less than Ingram, albeit with one more game played this season. They each have run for eight touchdowns.
"Don't get me wrong, he's a good running back," Tate said. "He's a very good running back. He's only a sophomore and he's having a great year, but at the same time, his team is winning, they're undefeated so of course, he's going to be talked about."
Alabama is 9-0. Auburn is 7-3 entering today's game at Georgia.
Ingram leads the Southeastern Conference and is sixth in the nation in rushing at 127.6 yards per game.
Tate is third in the SEC and 12th nationally at 114.2 yards per game.
Tate has six 100-yard rushing games, tied for most in the SEC. Ingram has five.
Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran said Tate's size (5-foot-11, 218 pounds) and ability to break tackles makes him hard to handle.
"This is like the third time I'm playing him and every time we meet up, whether I'm hitting him or just watching him, you can see he's a strong runner," said Curran, who worked out with Tate this summer at a training facility in Atlanta. "A couple of times he gave me some pretty big licks. I thought that I was coming up for the hit, but I was the one receiving the lick."
Tate led Auburn in rushing as a sophomore in 2007 with 903 yards and eight touchdowns, but dipped to 664 yards and three touchdowns in 2008 when he started just twice.
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville fired offensive coordinator Tony Franklin during the 2008 season and Tuberville was out himself at the end of the season.
New coach Gene Chizik hired former Arkansas offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to run a Tigers offense that now features misdirection, a hurry-up tempo and a physical running game.
"I didn't know anything about him at all," Tate said. "I had to go do some research and try to figure out what was going on and if it was the best thing for me to stay around in Auburn or not."
Tate said he considered jumping to the NFL or transferring.
"I talked to coach Malzahn on several occasions after he was hired, and I felt like that would be a good thing to stick around and do the right thing," Tate said. "It's paid off."
Tate rushed for 184 yards against Arkansas, 157 against Mississippi State and 144 against Ole Miss.
"I'm really, really proud of him, and I think he's improved a great deal," Chizik said. "I think he's got a comfort level with the offense. He's rushed for over 1,100 yards within the offense and has really found a niche in there.
"He's a very good ball-carrier. He's run for tough yards, he's run for some yardage out on the perimeter where you're making guys miss and even outrunning some guys. I think he's made yards running the fooball about every way you can make them."
Tate, a Newark, Md., native, is fifth on Auburn's career rushing list with 3,101 yards, behind Bo Jackson, Carnell Williams, James Brooks and Joe Cribbs.
Not too shabby even if he never gets a December invite to New York like Ingram.
"It's great he's up for the Heisman," Tate said.
"Hopefully, he gets it. I want to see a running back get it. It's been a while (Reggie Bush in 2005) since a guy at the position has been able to get it. Maybe, hopefully he will. More power to him."