Ground games in high gear across Pac-12Posted: Updated:
PHOENIX (AP) -- The quarterbacks get most of the attention in the Pac-12, have for years.
It's no wonder, too, with a roll call that includes John Elway, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and a lineup of stars this season.
But for all the quarterbacks have done, something else has become apparent through the first two weeks of the season: Some of these teams can run, too.
It's still early and some of the opponents haven't exactly been stellar, but the Pac-12 has six teams averaging over 200 yards rushing per game.
Some of it is because opponents have to pay so much attention to the quarterbacks that it opens up running lanes. But the Pac-12 also has some teams that aren't bad at running the ball, as you'll see in this rundown of some of the conference's best rushing teams:
OREGON: Because the Ducks run a spread offense and have a quarterback like Marcus Mariota, the assumption is that they are primarily a passing team. Truth is, Oregon's offense is more run-based, the plays on the ground setting up the ones through the air. The Ducks have finished no worse than sixth nationally in rushing offense since 2007 and seem to reload with new yard-churners every season. Oregon has a three-headed monster of backs this season with Byron Marshall, Thomas Tyner and freshman Royce Freeman. Add in Mariota's ability to pick up big gains with his legs, and the Ducks are averaging 233 yards per game - a figure that will likely go up as the season progresses.
ARIZONA STATE: The Sun Devils also have a pass-first perception that isn't exactly true. Since coach Todd Graham arrived three years ago, his focus has been on establishing a strong running game to set up the pass. The Sun Devils have had success doing just that with a variety of backs. This season, it's D.J. Foster's turn. A high-profile local recruit, he spent his first two seasons playing multiple positions so the Sun Devils could take advantage of his versatility. He moved into the featured-back role when Marion Grice was injured late last season and has flourished this season, rushing for a career-best 216 yards against New Mexico last weekend after gaining 147 yards against Weber State in the opener. ASU leads the conference with 345 yards rushing per game.
ARIZONA: The Wildcats figured to be in trouble, at least in terms of running the ball, with the departure of Ka'Deem Carey. He was a two-time All-American and the school's all-time leading rusher, so there were big shoes to fill. Instead of having one player step into them, coach Rich Rodriguez has turned to multiple players. Terris Jones-Grigsby did the heavy lifting in the first game, rushing for 124 yards and a touchdown while setting up several other scores in a win over UNLV. Freshman Nick Wilson took over last week while Jones-Grigsby was injured, rushing for 174 yards against Texas-San Antonio after running for an 85-yard touchdown the week before.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: USC has been called Tailback U for a reason. The Trojans routinely churn out star running backs and appeared to be in good shape again this season with Javorius Allen and Tre Madden returning. Even with Madden missing the first two games with a lingering toe injury, USC has had no trouble moving the ball on the ground - thanks to Allen. The sturdily built junior ran for 133 yards and a touchdown in the Trojans' opening rout of Fresno State and pounded his way through one of the conference's best run defenses, churning out a career-high 154 yards in a win over Stanford last week.