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USC’s X-factor in 2016: Their rushing attack?

NCAA Football: Southern California Spring Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Tomorrow, USC Head Coach Clay Helton will name his starting quarterback for USC’s 2016 season opener against Alabama. The two candidates are Max Browne, who has 19 career passing attempts; and Sam Darnold, who has yet to throw a pass in a collegiate game after redshirting last year.

The first idea that comes to my mind when it comes to getting experience under center for a new quarterback is a reliable running game. A reliable running game allows a new quarterback to take a little bit of pressure off of his game as he gets accustomed to game action.

That should be no problem for the duo of Justin Davis and Ronald Jones II (both are on the Doak Walker Award list). Jones II led the team with 987 rushing yards last year while Davis had 902 yards and USC joins ASU as the only teams in the conference that return two running backs that were top 10 in rushing yards in 2015.

So, could USC’s rushing attack this year be their X-factor? Here are some reasons why the answer might be yes.

First, USC was 4-0 last year when they had over 40 carries in a game and they were 4-6 with less than 40. The Trojans averaged 41.5 carries per win in the last two years and 34.8 in losses.

Second, USC returns seven offensive lineman that had extensive game action last year and the Trojans o-line has been named one of the top returning units by multiple outlets.

Obviously, the Trojans are not going to become a ground and pound type offense because with so many weapons in the receiving core, USC is going to have a balanced offense. But, we know USC is going to be thin on the defensive line front so while on offense, there could be an argument made that USC slows down and gives heavy workloads to their running backs.

Maybe this strategy won't we that successful against Alabama (a team that has finishing in the top 10 in rushing yards allowed in the last six years) but more carries for their running backs might lead to success for the Trojans.