USC has a potential No. 1 overall pick in quarterback Sam Darnold, yet it has been the other members of the backfield that have emerged as the focal point of the offense to start the season.
The Trojans out-Stanforded No. 14 Stanford, running the ball down the throats of the Cardinal in a resounding 42–24 win Saturday night at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
USC’s rushing attack, highlighted by dynamic junior Ronald Jones II and freshman phenom Stephen Carr, accounted for 307 yards on the ground on 48 carries. This isn’t a traditional tailback duo either—Jones II and Carr are best described as lightning and lightning. But each ball-carrier not only possesses home-run speed but can also grind it between the tackles.
Jones is averaging 6.7 yards per carry and has already found pay dirt five times in USC’s first two games. His explosiveness and willingness to mix it up with would-be tacklers has made him a nightmare for defenses. The Trojans fed him the ball on six of their first seven plays of Saturday’s game, setting a tone that Stanford struggled to match for the remainder of the contest.
The scary part? Carr may be even freakier.
After starting the season fourth on USC’s depth chart, the heralded five-star freshman has already been elevated to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart. Carr made a normally imposing Stanford front look like it was running on empty, as he scampered for 119 yards on just 11 carries. His strong cutting ability and burst makes him a threat to turn any snap into a big play. Again, for emphasis: He’s a true freshman.
The Trojans truly dominated in the trenches after the break. In the second half, USC outrushed Stanford 185–25, draining the Cardinal and the clock. The Trojans looked like vintage Stanford, completely suffocating the opposition down the stretch with their physicality.
During the Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian eras, the Trojans were maddeningly susceptible to getting punched in the mouth by more physical teams. What Saturday night against Stanford showed is that this year’s team can really wear down its opponents with its ground game—that belief hasn’t crossed the minds of the Cardinal and Gold faithful in a long time. Sam Darnold completed 21 of his 26 throws for 316 yards and four touchdowns, yet he was almost an afterthought with the way Jones II and Carr stole the show.
On the flip side, the Trojans still have their fair share of issues, particularly with the run defense, the special teams and the coaching staff.
USC, however, poses an even bigger problem to future opponents with the frightening rushing attack evident through two games. It’s even possible that the Trojans own the best running back tandem in college football—yes, even over Georgia—for the first time since the Reggie Bush and LenDale White days.
At 11 consecutive victories, USC currently holds the second-longest winning streak in the country, only trailing Oklahoma’s 12. If the Trojans want to parlay their scorching-hot play into a first-ever playoff appearance, they’ll have to continue to ride on the backs—and legs—of Jones and Carr.