LSU Football: Why the Tigers' Backfield Is the Country's Best in 2012

Sean MerrimanCorrespondent IAugust 16, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 3: Kenny Hilliard #27 of the LSU Tigers carries the ball against the Georgia Bulldogs during the SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on December 3, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

LSU head coach Les Miles must watch film of his offense and leave the film room with a giant smile across his face.

Miles has the luxury of counting on not one, not two, not even three, but four exceptional running backs in this talented LSU backfield.

In this day and age, the idea of having two reliable running backs has become the norm. But the thought of four backs must make the Tigers' coach glow when thinking of the endless possibilities in this backfield.

So why is LSU's backfield the best in college football?

Well, for starters, the foursome of Spencer Ware, Michael Ford, Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard combined to run for more than 2,300 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2011. The fact that all four of them are returning this season is just scary for opposing SEC teams.

Also, keep in mind that those 2,300-plus rushing yards came with a running quarterback behind center, who often took somewhere between seven to 10 carries per game away from this backfield.

This season, the Tigers will feature a pro-style quarterback behind center in junior Zach Mettenberger. With that said, Mettenberger will run less than Jordan Jefferson did, which means that there should be more carries to go around for this talented backfield.

To get a better idea of how dominant this backfield was in 2011 and should be again this season, take a look at how other backfields compared to this one.

If you look at the top three teams in the final rankings from last season—Alabama, LSU and Oklahoma State—all three squads featured solid backfields. However, Alabama and Oklahoma State's depth didn't even compare to LSU's depth in the backfield.

Of course, Trent Richardson and Joseph Randle were both exceptional lead backs for Alabama and Oklahoma State, but look at the depth after that.

Ware, Blue and Hilliard, who were the Tigers' second-, third- and fourth-leading rushers, combined to run for 1,582 yards and 23 touchdowns last season. In comparison, Alabama's second-, third- and fourth-string backs combined to rush for 1,166 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Oklahoma State's trio ran for 983 yards and 11 touchdowns as well.

In other words, the depth in LSU's backfield is exceptional, outgaining both of these top teams by more than 400 yards and scoring 12 more rushing touchdowns.

The only top-tier team that had comparable running back depth to LSU in 2011 was Oregon. But with LaMichael James now off to the NFL, that will likely not be the case anymore in 2012.

As mentioned earlier, the idea of having two good running backs has become the norm in college football today. Occasionally, you will see a program work a third back into the mix from time to time.

But nowhere else in college football will you see a four-headed monster in the backfield where each back will rush for 300-plus yards and seven or more touchdowns.

That's as sure of a bet as the fact that Les Miles has a smile on his face after he leaves that film room.