So many fans, analyst, and coaches have different views when it comes to building a championship team and a dynasty. Some coaches focus on defense, while others focus on a critical air attack, and some just think a little bit of everything matters the most. After years of playing in different offenses and defensive schemes in college I have come to realize: a successful running game is the focal point of a championship team. If you think I'm full of it take your pencils out, open a new tab on Google, and read along because this is about to get real.
To support my argument I look no further than USC itself in 2004. The Trojans DOMINATED their opponents hands down, including a 55-19 blowout over #2 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Under Pete Carroll that year, USC were AP National Champions, BCS National Champions, Orange Bowl Champions, and of course Pac-10 Champions. Despite that season vacated and dismissed, no one could shake the highlights of a lightning and thunder combo in Reggie Bush and Lendale White.
Reggie Bush made defenders look like children, as he out ran and juked opposing defenses out of their shoes. Bush finished with 903 yards, six touchdowns, and a dangerous 6.3 yards a carry. When Bush wasn't running a track meet around the defense, Lendale White was running through them. White like Bush, made his presence known immediately but in a different way. White will use his huge body frame to physically hurt defenses and make them avoid hitting him. Lendale White bulldozed his way downhill to 1,103 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 5.4 yards a carry.
These two were also impacts in Leinart's passing game, which they combined for 606 yards and nine touchdowns. Defenses had no choice but to respect the run game and that led to Leinart passing over 3,000 yards and a lot of options for offensive coordinator Norm Chow.
Not only did this fantastic duo dominate many opponents, but they also were the core of a successful team that won many championships. If you think this was just a mere coincidence, lets look at another powerhouse in the 2009 and 2012 Alabama Crimson Tide.
Mark Ingram & Friends
In 2009 head coach Nick Saban established world dominance, beating opponents senseless on the ground. Saban fed a hungry running group of backs, led by Mark Ingram, enough carries to make SEC defenses throw up the white flag and get out of Bama's way. Mark Ingram made defensive coordinators tear up and go bald as he rushed for 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns. While averaging 6.1 yards a carry, Ingram also ran big for the Heisman trophy and went on to become a first round draft pick.
Alabama's running game didn't stop there; Trent Richardson was capable of significant damage as he added 751 yards and eight touchdowns. Alabama went on to win the SEC championship game against Florida by 19 points and the BCS title 37-21 vs. Texas. In those two games alone, the Crimson Tide rushed for 456 yards and seven touchdowns.
2012 was even worse for Alabama's opponents, as a two-headed monster was created, this time with Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon. Lacy and Yeldon combined for 2,430 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2012, both averaging over 6+ yards a carry. The Tide carried a 13-1 record, a 2,900-yard passer, and BCS championship title. Doug Nussmeier was a first year offensive coordinator at Bama when his team rolled through teams such as Notre Dame, Georgia, and Michigan. With an unstoppable running game that couldn't be slowed down, teams put so much focus on the run that the passing game was automatically successful. With stats like these how can you deny that a running game is not the foundation of a championship team?
Why not us?
This brings us back to the present and the current status of our backs at USC. With the talent and multiple ways our backs can be used, why can't we find success? On Saturday we saw that when we ran the ball in the first half, USC was on a roll on offense. The running game demanded Stanford's defense to be attentive in the box, which led to Steven Mitchell and Ju Ju Smith to emerge.
Once the running game stopped in the second half, USC could not produce and hang within reach of victory. With Madden, J.Davis, Jones II, and D.Davis consistently making plays with the ball in their hands is a huge reason why they need the ball more. USC has amazing talent at receiver and quarterback but they will only become more valuable weapons when they establish a strong running game.
Madden is that Thunder we need that can also show break-away speed with open field ahead. Justin Davis (lightning) is quick, strong, and can make defenders miss on a consistent basis with the ball in his hands. Ronald Jones II (rain) is quickly emerging as not only a dangerous weapon on the ground with his speed, but also will not hesitate to lower his shoulder and let his six-foot frame be felt. Dominic Davis (wind) has the ability to make defenders look just plain silly. His speed and elusiveness can give him the chance to cap off a lot of big runs, which the Trojans can really use.
When you plug these four into a rotation good enough to give everyone an opportunity to contribute, we can be looking at a dominant running game that we need. Lets see what USC does this weekend as their running game will be tested against an Arizona St. defense that is one of the best in the nation in tackles for a loss.