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FALLING IN LINE: USC tailback Joe McKnight stumbles in the end zone after his 54-yard touchdown run.Â The Trojansâ€™ new focus on the ground game led to 342 rushing yards against San Joe State and carries them as the favorite to beat Ohio State in Columbus.Â
Photo Credit: Jason Lewis for SentinelTrojan Offense Running on All Cylinders
Tailback by committee the key to Ohio State showdown
By Evan Barnes
Sentinel Sports Editor
Â We now interrupt the budding Matt Barkley love affair for this breaking news - USC is going to beat Ohio State on Saturday with their running game.
If one thing is clear after that 56-3 blowout over San Jose State, this Trojans offense will be driven by a running game that as a group may be better than any in the country.
Joe McKnight, Stafon Johnson, Allen Bradford and Marc Tyler could start for any program right now and they showed what they can do last Saturday.
McKnight ran for a career high 145 yards against San Jose State. Johnson pounded his way for two scores. Bradford and Tyler broke loose for long runs that made you wonder what flowing in the Trojans' water.
Yes, the freshman quarterback was solid in his first college start. Every question in the postgame interview was either to Barkley or redirected towards him and his remarkable poise.
But lost in that amazement was that the USC running game showed how well they can be and how much of a load they'll be on better teams throughout the season.
After Ohio State's defense was nearly served by the Navy offense, you can't help but wonder how they'll handle USC when they gave up 164 rushing yards in last year's meeting.
Yes, the tailback by committee was frustrating to watch the last two years. You want Carroll to pick his lead backs and stick with it. You want to say go with McKnight and Johnson and weave everyone in around them.
That's common sense but after seeing how Barkley played last week in his first start , you realize that it's been long cast to the wind in the Carroll era and his judgment usually is right.
For the first time in his era, he's relying more on his tailbacks to carry the weight. It's a different look for an offense that was always built around the quarterback with a great arm.
Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, John David Booty and Mark Sanchez all became stars in the Trojans' scheme. Meanwhile, Trojan tailbacks were loaded and plugged in around them and as kids dreamed of being the next Reggie Bush, they languished on the sidelines.
Now instead of looking like a greedy recruiter, Carroll looks like a genius with a variety of toys to use against Ohio State.
He'll unleash McKnight and Allen Bradford to run circles around the slow-footed Buckeye lineman. He'll send Johnson to wear them down in the red zone and punish them through the game.
And for good measure, he's got Tyler and CJ Gable ready to cause more headaches if needed.
Transforming the Trojan offense won't seem like a stretch because all of them have contributed at some point during their career. They've demanded more carries through their results not by their complaining.
Well now, here's their reward. For Bradford, Gable and Johnson, this is their chance to find an NFL career by impressing the scouts. For McKnight, being the starter will show how he can be an every-down back in the league.
For Tyler, it's a chance to show a glimpse of what he'll do next year and beyond as the featured back.
It's a different look and a different scheme but they've been ready for it the last two years. Now it's time to make it a plan every week and watch teams sink under the Trojans' depth.Â