Pac-12: LenDale White

Mailbag: What would Redd mean for USC?

July, 27, 2012
7/27/12
7:15
PM ET
Greetings.

You can follow me on Twitter here.

To the notes!

Preston from Portland writes: Silas Redd is good, quite good, but not great. If he does in fact go to LA to join the Trojans, how big of an impact would he have on USC's season?

Ted Miller: Oh, I'd say Redd is pretty darn good. He was second-team All-Big Ten in 2011, rushing for 1,241 yards and seven touchdowns. He's generally considered Penn State's best returning offensive player -- and unquestionably its most explosive.

USC's already-loaded offense would be significantly better with Redd, who's a pretty good receiver out of the backfield, by the way, Matt Barkley. Paired with Curtis McNeal, the Trojans might then have the nation's best backfield tandem. Just like they do at receiver. And quarterback, though Barkley is only one guy.

Let's put it this way: How much better do you think Oregon was with Kenjon Barner behind LaMichael James? Or USC with LenDale White sharing time with Reggie Bush? Or California with Marshawn Lynch seconding J.J. Arrington?

Two elite running backs are a HUGE boon to an offense.

Further, the underrated McNeal, who averaged 6.9 yards per carry in 2011, has a history with injuries. So Redd not only offers a 1-B in the backfield, he offers an an insurance policy.

An added bonus with Redd aboard would be touted incoming freshman Nelson Agholor being able to stay at his best position -- receiver -- rather than switching to running back.

Redd would be a huge get for the Trojans, one that addresses a need area with a proven, ready-to-suit-up star.


Troy from Spokane, Wash., writes: So it seems some of the local media has tried to lower the expectations for the Huskies this year, saying things like the offense will take a step back, and that 7.5 is too big of an over/under for a win total this year. I am happy with the program's progress under Sark so far, but like many of us, would like to see the program to continue to improve. What should our expectations be this year and going forward?

Ted Miller: Eight wins would be a successful season for the Huskies. And, as I've previously noted, I think the Huskies' breakthrough to a double-digit win, top-25 season could come in 2013, when quarterback Keith Price is a senior, a number of other players hit their peak maturity and new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox's schemes have settled in.

Oh, and they return to a fancypants, remodeled Husky Stadium.

I think Washington makes a big leap forward on defense this year. I think there's solid talent that underachieved in 2011 under Nick Holt. There are two big questions: 1. The offensive line; 2. The schedule.

The big measure to me is if the Huskies get to their Oct. 20 game at Arizona with three wins. That would mean upsetting at least one among this gauntlet: at LSU, Stanford, at Oregon and USC. If that happens, there's no reason they couldn't run the table thereafter and win nine games.

But I think eight wins is a fairly optimistic number for the regular season.


Cy from Anaheim writes: With all this talk of how dynamic De'Anthony Thomas is, what are the chances that George Farmer of usc comes out and has a better season? both have similar playing styles and skill sets...

Ted Miller: Absolutely. Let's remember that Farmer was high school teammates with Marqise Lee, and there weren't many people who thought Lee was the better of the two (Robert Woods also played for Junípero Serra (Calif.) High School but was a year ahead of Farmer and Lee).

Farmer, who has outstanding speed, was beset by injuries last season but he also seemed a bit overwhelmed by college football. An abortive move to running back also didn't really work out.

The expectation is that if Farmer can stay healthy, he'll become a big-time offensive weapon. And, yes, perhaps he'll eventually battle Thomas for the title of Pac-12's most dynamic player.


Rich from Phoenix writes: I'm a die hard Sun Devil fan, but I have to say that I'm shocked that any media member would a) pick the Devils to win the PAC 12 South and b) pick them to win the conference championship game. ... Do you know who in the media made those predictions? And what backing do they have to make that vote? With the new coaching staff and system to implement, an untested linebacker corp (aside from McGee) plus a new starting quarterback and untested receivers, I can't see how they could be tops in the conference, let alone their division. But if their votes have some merit, that will bring me a little more hope going into this season. What are your feelings going into the season for the Sun Devils?

Ted Miller: I don't know which three voters in the Pac-12 media poll picked Arizona State to win the South Division and to win the Pac-12 title game. If I were running the poll, I'd take their vote away for future years because it's not a defensible vote. I don't see media polls as sacred or anything, I just think you have a responsibility if you vote to not take an idiotic position.

No offense, ASU. It's just that the Sun Devils have the fewest returning starters in the Pac-12 -- 10 -- from a team that imploded last season and fired its coach. They are adopting new schemes on both sides of the ball, schemes that are very different from last year.

All that said, I think the Sun Devils have a legitimate chance to win six games and to become bowl eligible. Forget how Todd Graham left Pittsburgh and all the bombast that followed: I think he's a good fit for what this program needed -- discipline and structure. If the Sun Devils get solid play at quarterback, they will win some games, though I'd rate their over-under for victories at four. Maybe five.

And I'd be beyond stunned if they won the Pac-12.


Ryan from Salt Lake City writes: How come you shafted Utah on your media day coverage? You have an "On Stage" article for every team in the conference but Utah. What's up with that?

Ted Miller: Typically before every season I descend into hell and consult Mephistopheles about which Pac-12 team I should screw over that coming season. Kevin joined me this year, which is cool because -- and this might surprise you -- there is an outstanding spicy food place on the third level that I wanted to show him. I really like spicy food.

Well, after chatting with Nick Saban, er, I mean, Mephistopheles, he said it should be Utah. Something about a past trip to New Orleans bothered him. Kevin agreed. I said I didn't want to do Utah because Kyle Whittingham is the closest thing to a pit fighter in the conference. Pit fighters are both cool and a little risky to harass. But I was outvoted. Kevin and Ni ... Mephistopheles shared a cackle with each other.

So that's why we didn't included Utah with our "On stage..." feature during media day. It will be the first of many slights, curses and mishaps that will befall the Utes because of this random bit of evilness from the Pac-12 blog.

You might hear an alternative explanation that yours truly had a WiFi glitch that killed the unsaved piece when I tried to post it, but you should ignore that perfectly reasonable explanation.

We didn't redo the post because, well, it would have been fiction. Utah was no longer on stage.

But here's a quick question for you outraged Utes: How many other Pac-12 teams, other than the two picked to win the North and South Divisions, got a video and a story from media day?

And, if you want to see Utah "on stage," just go here (you can hear me cloaking my preseason curse as a question about defensive tackle Junior Salt to Whittingham and a follow-up with Star Lotulelei at 7:40).


We're saying goodbye to the BCS today, even though the BCS isn't going away until 2014. Oh, well.

So what are the Pac-12/10's best and worst BCS moments?

Best

The Pac-12 has won one BCS national title (though just about everyone believes USC to be the "true" 2003 national champion). So that has to be conference's best BCS moment: USC's undisputed 2004 championship.

The 2004 Trojans were dominant with quarterback Matt Leinart; running backs Reggie Bush and LenDale White; receivers Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett; and a defense led by defensive tackles Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson and linebacker Lofa Tatupu. They outscored foes 496 to 169.

In the BCS national title game in Miami, they stomped Oklahoma 55-19 and made USC a repeat national champ under Pete Carroll.

Honorable mentions
  • In 2000, Washington beat Purdue in the Rose Bowl and Oregon State whipped Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. The Pac-12 has produced two BCS bowl teams four times, but this is the only year it won both games.
  • While Utah was not a member of the Pac-12 in 2004 and 2008, it's worth noting the Utes capped undefeated seasons both years with wins in the Fiesta Bowl over Pittsburgh and the Sugar Bowl over Alabama.


Worst

Not to make this all about USC, but the worst BCS moment was USC's exclusion in 2003, despite being ranked No. 1 in both major polls.

Those who had eyes knew that the Trojans were the nation's best team. But the computer chips liked LSU and Oklahoma better, even though the Sooners were fresh off a 35-7 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game.

The AP poll would go on to crown USC the national champion, as did the Football Writers Association of America, after it whipped Michigan in the Rose Bowl. As for the coaches poll, it was contractually obligated to vote LSU No. 1 after its ugly win over Oklahoma. Three coaches, nonetheless, showed courage, rebelled and voted USC No. 1.

Honorable mentions
  • In 2001, Nebraska was picked over Oregon to play Miami for the national title, even though the Cornhuskers were stomped 62-36 by Colorado in their final regular-season game. The Ducks went on to whip Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl, while Nebraska got bludgeoned by the Hurricanes 37-14.
  • In 2004, Texas coach Mack Brown lobbied hard for his Longhorns to eclipse California in the national polls. It worked, as the 10-1 Longhorns climbed past the 10-1 Bears and quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the standings for no justifiable reason and thereby finagled their way into the Rose Bowl, where Cal hadn't been since 1959.

Weekend rewind: Pac-12

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
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Taking stock of the Pac-12 heading into the bowl season.

Team of the week: Oregon won its third consecutive Pac-12 championship with a 49-31 win over UCLA in the inaugural conference title game. The Ducks have officially become a mini-conference dynasty.

[+] EnlargeLaMichael James
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireThis 30-yard touchdown run by LaMichael James set the tone for Oregon against UCLA.
Biggest play: After UCLA fumbled on its first possession, Oregon faced a fourth and 1 on the Bruins 30-yard line in the first quarter. A defensive stop would have made a big statement. Instead, LaMichael James went 30-yards for a 7-0 lead. What seemed inevitable in any event seemed even more so at that moment.

Offensive standout: James, the 2010 Doak Walker Award winner and Heisman Trophy finalist, is one of the best backs in the history of the Pac-8, Pac-10 and Pac-12. And, Huskies, USC and Beavers fans, to argue the point is to be stupid.

Consider:

  • James, a junior, rushed for 219 yards on 25 carries against UCLA, giving him 1,646 on the season. He becomes the first player in conference history to rush for 1,500 or more yards three times in a career. First. In. History. That's enough, by the way. But there's more!
  • James passed former USC back Marcus Allen (4,810 from 1978-81) for third on the Pac-12’s career rushing list with 4,923 yards.
  • James tied USC’s LenDale White (2003-05) for second in conference history in career rushing touchdowns with 52. He also equaled White’s 342 career points, which is 10th in Pac-12 history.

If you want to argue, please, first insist the earth is flat. It's a more intelligent position.

Defensive standout: Oregon linebacker Michael Clay had two sacks, six tackles, a forced fumble and fumble recovery in the Ducks win against UCLA.

Special teams standout: UCLA punter Jeff Locke averaged 48.2 yards on four punts, killing two inside the Oregon 20-yard line.

Smiley face: Washington State for hiring Mike Leach. We don't use a hashtag often on the Pac-12 blog, but this gets one: #brilliant!

Frowny face: Arizona and Washington State conducted A-list coaching searches and got their man. It doesn't appear at this point Arizona State and UCLA are. We'll see who both end up with -- this frown can be turned upside down -- but it appears we're going to have an athletic director (or two) picking a third or fourth choice and then disingenuously insisting that's not the case.

Thought of the week: Getting two BCS bowl berths for a second consecutive year means each Pac-10 team will take home at least $1.2 million more over the past two years than if it had just one. And, yeah, I mean Pac-10 because Colorado and Utah don't get a BCS bowl share this year. Commissioner Larry Scott had nothing to do with Oregon and Stanford getting good, but he is the commissioner of record during those two years. Just by standing around and smiling, it seems as though Scott makes revenue appear.

Questions for the week: The Pac-12 is likely to be underdogs in five or six of its seven bowl games (spreads will be released later today). Oregon is expected to be favored against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and UCLA could go either way with Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. So will the conference lay an egg -- as expected in Vegas -- this bowl season or will it step up and prove the experts wrong?

Oregon needs to 'WTD' on Jan. 2

December, 3, 2011
12/03/11
2:20
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EUGENE, Ore. -- It would be unfair and perhaps even inaccurate to describe Oregon's celebration after winning the first Pac-12 championship game as subdued or distracted or somehow lacking that unfettered euphoric frenzy that erupts after landmark success. The Ducks partied after whipping overmatched UCLA 49-31. The grins were ear-to-ear. The emotions were authentically proud and in the moment.

Winning three consecutive conference championships is a special achievement for any program, but especially a program whose older fans can remember times when such results seemed unattainable.

But you know the "but" is coming. The but is this: After the Ducks finish celebrating, they need to get down to business. And that business is winning their final game, the one that would unmistakably announce the program's arrival as an elite program.

The Ducks have reached the Rose Bowl before. They have played for a national title. But they have walked away from that final game both times with the confetti falling on their triumphant opponents.

It won't surprise anyone that Ducks coach Chip Kelly didn't even sniff the bait when asked if he felt like the program needed to win a BCS bowl game after losing the past two seasons.

"Not based on the two previous losses," Kelly said. "I think our guys are going to go out there and compete, but not based upon anything that happened in the past. I've said this a lot, we're a forward-thinking operation."

Sure, fair enough. But not every Ducks fan or even Ducks player is so completely enmeshed in "The Tao of Chip." They know the simple fact that Oregon in just three seasons under Kelly has accomplished everything a program can in the Pac-12, other than winning a Rose Bowl or winning a national title.

"We really need to finish this season right," said tight end David Paulson, who caught one of three touchdown passes from quarterback Darron Thomas.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly, Rick Neuheisel
Kyle Terada/US PresswireChip Kelly is on to the Rose Bowl with his Ducks, while Rick Neuheisel, right, is out of a job.
"The last two seasons, we had great years but we didn't finish on a good note. I think for this program to keep growing, we need to finish the season. This year, we need to finish in the Rose Bowl."

The dispatch of UCLA takes second billing. It played out as expected. The Bruins fought hard but were overwhelmed by the Ducks' speed and relentlessness, even with do-everything back De'Anthony Thomas knocked out in the first quarter with an apparent concussion.

Oregon led 21-7 after a quarter, 35-17 at halftime and 49-24 entering the final frame. The result was never in doubt. Game MVP LaMichael James produced three touchdowns and 219 of the Ducks' 352 yards rushing. The Ducks outgained the Bruins 571 yards to 337.

The loss even took second billing for the Bruins. For them, it was more about Rick Neuheisel coaching his final game. He was fired this week and finishes his ill-fated career at his alma mater with a 21-28 record.

"There was a lot of heart and there was a lot of work," Neuheisel said. "We made it a game, at least for a time. I was thrilled we got that kind of effort, given the events of last week."

There was an abundance of graciousness when Neuheisel and his players met with reporters. They paid tribute to Oregon, Neuheisel paid tribute to his players and they, in turn, thanked him.

Said linebacker Patrick Larimore, "Being able to play under him has been truly a blessing for me and I know it has been for the rest of the team."

The Bruins had to play a clean game to have any chance and they did not. They lost three fumbles and threw an interception. They also were 1-for-3 on fourth down, while Oregon was 4-of-7. The Ducks, in fact, scored a pair of long touchdowns -- a 30-yard James run in the first quarter and a 25-yard pass to Daryle Hawkins -- on fourth-and-short plays.

Oregon, meanwhile, piled up a bunch of notable numbers. James, a redshirt junior, became the first back in conference history to produce three consecutive seasons with more than 1,500 yards rushing. That's a major achievement when you consider the history of Heisman Trophy winners and Pro Football Hall of Fame running backs the conference has produced. James' 52 career rushing touchdowns is tied with former USC running back LenDale White for second in conference history, and he passed Marcus Allen for third place on the conference's all-time career rushing list with 4,923 yards.

Thomas set a school record with his 63rd career touchdown pass.

As for getting to the Rose Bowl -- again -- it remains special, without question. It's certainly a source of jealousy among 11 other Pac-12 teams. Even Kelly admitted, "It means a lot."

"The Rose Bowl in this conference is the pinnacle," Kelly said. "If you don't have a chance to play -- obviously because of our two losses -- in the national championship game, there's no other game you'd rather play in than the Rose Bowl."

But the playing is not the thing to catch the consequence of becoming a college football king. And Kelly and Oregon, of all coaches and teams, should know that. After all, it's written all over the stadium and even has a special "WTD" shield.

Win the day.

Oregon needs to win the day on Jan. 2.
On Friday, the Pac-10 becomes the Pac-12, and life as we all have known it ends.

But before we move on as a 12-team league, let's look back at the best of a 10-team league.

On Wednesday, we looked at the best players. Thursday, it's the best teams.

We've listed 12 teams because that's the new magic number (Arizona fans, see if you can guess who came in 13th).

Again, no team before 1978 -- when Arizona and Arizona State joined the Pac-8 -- was considered.

1. 1991 Washington: The Huskies finished 12-0 and split the national title with Miami.

Best player: Defensive tackle Steve Emtman won the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award.

Point differential: Washington outscored its foes 495-115.

Best win: Whipped Michigan 34-14 in Rose Bowl. Wolverines finished ranked sixth.

Comment: Four wins over teams that finished ranked in the final top 25, including road victories at No. 15 Nebraska and at No. 8 California. Featured one of the great defenses in college football history, yielding just 9.2 points and 67.1 rushing yards per game. Eight Huskies earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors.

2. 2004 USC: While the NCAA and BCS have nixed it in their own ways, the Trojans finished 13-0 and won the national title on the field.

Best player: Quarterback Matt Leinart won the Heisman Trophy.

Point differential: USC outscored its foes 496-169.

Best win: Crushed Oklahoma 55-19 in the national title game.

Comment: Basically a push for dominance with 1991 Washington. Beat four teams that finished ranked in the top 25, including the bludgeoning of Oklahoma. Eight Trojans earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors.

3. 2003 USC: The Trojans finished 12-1 and split the national title with LSU. Their only loss came in triple overtime at California.

Best player: Receiver Mike Williams was a consensus All-American.

Point differential: 534-239.

Best win: The completely dominant 23-0 victory at then-No. 6 Auburn in the opener set the tone for the season -- and caused many Pac-10 fans to question how good these highly rated SEC teams really are.

Comment: The Trojans finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in both polls but lost out playing in the BCS title game because of the computer polls. LSU fans have been thanking the computers for that glitch ever since.

4. 2005 USC: A 34-game winning streak came to an end with a nail-biting loss to Texas in the national title game. The Trojans finished 12-1.

Best player: Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy.

Point differential: 638-297.

Best win: The 34-31 win at Notre Dame -- the "Bush Push" game -- was one of the all-time greats.

Comment: Perhaps the best collection of offensive players in the history of college football: Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Dwayne Jarrett, Ryan Kalil, Sam Baker and Taitusi Lutui earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors. And don't forget LenDale White, Winston Justice, Steve Smith and Dominique Byrd.

5. 1978 USC: Finished 12-1 and split national title with Alabama. Lost to Arizona State, 20-7.

Best player: Charles White was a unanimous All-American.

Point differential: 318-153

Best win: A 24-14 win over the team that "claimed" the other half of the national title.

Comment: Split national title -- coaches liked the Trojans; AP the Crimson Tide -- despite a decisive 24-14 USC at Alabama. So much for head to head.

6. 1979 USC: Finished 11-0-1 and No. 2 behind Alabama. Tied Stanford 21-21.

Best player: Charles White won the Heisman Trophy.

Point differential: 389-171

Best win: The 17-16 win over Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, in which White ran for a record 247 yards, including the game-winning touchdown with just more than a minute remaining.

Comment: Team featured four future College Football Hall of Famers in White, Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lot and Brad Budde. By the way, THAT undefeated, untied Alabama team was really, really good: Outscored foes 383-67. So no sour grapes on that one.

7. 2001 Oregon: The Ducks finished 11-1 and ranked No. 2 in both polls. The only loss was 49-42 versus Stanford (a really, really weird game, if you recall).

Best player: Quarterback Joey Harrington finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Point differential: 412-256.

Best win: A 38-16 win over Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl.

Comment: The Fiesta Bowl victory caused plenty of folks to bemoan the Nebraska-Miami matchup in the BCS title game, considering Colorado had blown out Nebraska the final weekend of the regular season. As for the Stanford loss, the typically straightforward AP noted the game had "everything but aliens landing on the Autzen Stadium turf."

8. 1984 Washington: Finished 11-1 and ranked No. 2 behind BYU. Lost to USC ,16-7.

Best player: Defensive tackle Ron Holmes was a consensus All-American.

Point differential: 352-145

Best win: Shocked Oklahoma 28-17 in the Orange Bowl. Sooners finished ranked sixth.

Comment: A controversial season. Before the Orange Bowl, Sooners coach Barry Switzer lobbied hard for the winner to be declared the national champion. As it was, BYU won the national title after beating a bad Michigan team in the Holiday Bowl. Does anyone believe BYU was better than the Huskies? No.

9. 2010 Oregon: The Ducks finished 12-1 and No. 3 in both polls, losing the national title game to Auburn.

Best player: Running back LaMichael James finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Point differential: 611-243

Best win: The Ducks handed Stanford its only loss, 52-31, after trailing 21-3 early. Cardinal finished ranked No. 4.

Comment: An innovative, exciting team to watch, one that played faster than perhaps any big-time college team in history.

10. 1996 Arizona State: Finished 11-1 and ranked No. 4 in both polls. Lost Rose Bowl -- and potential national championship -- to Ohio State, 20-17.

Best player: Quarterback Jake Plummer finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Point differential: 488-216

Best win: The Sun Devils trounced top-ranked, two-time defending national champion Nebraska, 19-0.

Comment: The Sun Devils lost one of the most dramatic Rose Bowls, when the swashbuckling Plummer was out-swashbuckled by Joe Germaine, who was raised in Arizona as an ASU fan.

11. 2000 Washington: The Huskies finished 11-1 and ranked No. 3, their only loss coming at No. 7 Oregon. They beat Purdue 34-24 in the Rose Bowl.

Best player: Marques Tuiasosopo finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Point differential: 387-270

Best win: Beat Miami, 34-29. Hurricanes finished ranked No. 2.

Comment: This is not the most talented team on the list. In fact, some have rated the 2000 Oregon State team -- see below -- ahead of the Huskies. And based on NFL results, the Beavers were more talented than the Huskies. But head to head matters, and the win over Miami is better than anything Oregon State did.

12. 2000 Oregon State: The Beavers finished 11-1 and ranked No. 4, their only loss a 33-30 decision at Washington, which finished ranked No. 3.

Best player: Running back Ken Simonton was first-team All-Pac-10.

Best win: Beat Oregon 23-13 in Civil War. Oregon finished ranked seventh in the coaches poll.

Comment: One or two more plays at Washington, and the Beavers would have played for the national title. And they, by the way, were more talented than the Oklahoma team that did win the title. Notable Beavers: Ken Simonton, Chad Ochocinco (the Chad Johnson), T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chris Gibson, DeLawrence Grant, LaDairis Jackson, Dennis Weathersby and Eric Manning. They spanked Notre Dame 41-9 in the Fiesta Bowl.

USC RB Bradford ready to thunder his arrival

October, 28, 2009
10/28/09
11:15
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

It surely passed through most USC observers minds while watching Allen Bradford (finally) have his breakout game against Oregon State last weekend. As Bradford and his 235 pounds ran over and around the Beavers defense for 147 yards on 15 carries, the potential metaphor and then comparison was obvious.

He's thunder to speedy Joe McKnight's lightning.

 
  Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
 USC running back Allen Bradford finally had a breakout game last Saturday against Oregon State.
He's LenDale White to McKnight's Reggie Bush.

Bradford, a redshirt junior, has waited a long time for that many touches in a game. And it's been a frustrating wait. So maybe it's understandable that he's not eager to embrace a metaphor or a comparison. He'd just -- please and thanks -- like to keep getting opportunities to do his thing.

"Me and Joe will never be Reggie and LenDale," Bradford said. "All we can be is Joe and Allen, so that's what we're going to be."

Oregon coach Chip Kelly is fairly impressed with Joe and Allen. His Ducks are playing well on defense, but the Trojans will bring a lot of weapons to their trick-or-treat road trip to Autzen Stadium on Saturday night (8 p.m. EST, ABC).

Thunder and lightning?

"With their stable of running backs, they've got thunder and lightning and hurricane, typhoon -- you name any storm, they've got it," Kelly said.

It's a good line -- Kelly has at least one of those a week -- but it's not completely true. At least not presently. After all the talk the previous few years about the Trojans embarrassment of riches at tailback, a recession has hit Heritage Hall.

Stafon Johnson suffered a season-ending throat injury in a weight room accident. Marc Tyler is out for the season with a toe injury. Curtis McNeal has been riddled with injuries. C.J. Gable, who started 11 games last year, has been nicked up and in the doghouse for unexplained reasons. Fullback Stanley Havili is questionable for Saturday with a shoulder injury.

McKnight always seems to be nursing some woe, too. He severely cut his hand against Oregon State.

Still, no matter why Bradford got his opportunity, he's glad he got it. And, yes, it was an inspired performance.

"(Receiver) Damian Williams just looked at me in my eyes (before the game) and said, 'Are you ready! Let's ball out!'" Bradford said, describing the pregame scene. "He saw the look on my face. He knew something was going to happen. Then we see Stafon -- we have this handshake we do before every game -- and it made me think about how blessed I am and how unfortunate it is for Stafon to go through that."

The 147 yards was a career-high for Bradford, as were the 15 carries, which are more carries than he's had during any of his previous two seasons. He appeared poised to make his mark in 2008, but a hip injury ended that possibility after two games and he took a redshirt year.

What Bradford has mostly done throughout his career is look impressive in his uniform -- he's built like a crate of bricks -- and impressive in practice. The reporters who regularly cover USC spend plenty of their downtime debating the relative merits of USC's running backs, and Bradford's remarkable runs during practices often earned him high marks.

But reporters don't make the depth chart.

"He's always had bright spots but he's really showed great consistency the last few weeks," coach Pete Carroll said.

Now that he's (finally) getting the ball, it might not be surprising that Bradford is disinclined to complain. He's not real clear on how often he asked the coaches why he wasn't getting playing time, though word is it happened on a regular basis. Early in his career, there was talk of him moving to fullback or even linebacker.

And, yes, Bradford, a Parade Magazine and USA Today first-team prep All-American in 2005, admits his eye did wander.

"Yeah, I thought about transferring plenty of times," he said.

But a number of current and former teammates, such as linebacker Thomas Williams and safety Kevin Ellison, talked him out of it.

And Bradford knew there were some areas where he fell short. Top of the list: blocking. A running back who can't stay in the game to block on a passing play is a liability -- it's a tell for an opposing defensive coordinator.

It might seem strange that a physically imposing player would struggle with blocking -- the 205-pound Gable, for example, is better at it than Bradford -- but it's actually not about muscle. Or even want-to. To make the right block, a running back has to be able to read the defense, sniff out a blitz and then used the proper technique to meet the on-coming charge.

"There's a lot of technical aspects to it," Carroll said. "It's not just being big and tough. It's much more than that."

Bradford's blocking is still a work in progress. But it's better.

He seems comfortable with the new attention. And carries. Another big performance inside raucous Autzen Stadium in a game that features Rose Bowl and potential national championship implications might become more than a breakout.

It could thunder an arrival.

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