College Football 2011: Ranking the Pac-12's Top Running Backs

Jason Figueiredo@sportschatterCorrespondent IMay 16, 2011

College Football 2011: Ranking the Pac-12's Top Running Backs

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    EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 26: Running back LaMichael James #21 of the Oregon Ducks points his way as he runs with the ball in the first quarter of the game against the Arizona Wildcats at Autzen Stadium on November 26, 2010 in Eugene, Oregon. The Ducks won th
    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Although the Pac-12 is looked upon by many as a pass-happy conference, the talent laced at running back out West cannot be denied.

    The nation’s No. 1 rusher from last season was a member of the Pac-10, and that fleet-footed runner returns to dazzle us with another spectacular season.

    While LaMichael James will undoubtedly fall as No.1 on most people’s running backs list, there are several other great names in the Pac-12 that could steal the spotlight. 

    Let’s take a look at the top running backs in the Pac-12.

No. 5: Stepfan Taylor, Stanford

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    PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 23:  Stepfan Taylor #33 of the Stanford Cardinal runs the ball against the Washington State Cougars at Stanford Stadium on October 23, 2010 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    With the spotlight shining so bright on Andrew Luck, it is easy for Stepfan Taylor to get lost in the shadows. 

    Taylor rumbled his way into the end zone 15 times last season, enough to land at second among Pac-10 running backs.  While everyone knows Stanford’s offense runs through Luck, the balance brought to the squad by Taylor will be equally as important to the Cardinal’s success.


    ***Check out which running backs ranked six through 10 at The Pacific Dozen: A Pac-12 Football Blog.

No. 4: Johnathan Franklin, UCLA

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    PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Running back Johnathan Franklin #23 of the UCLA Bruins carries the ball against the Houston Cougars in the second quarter at the Rose Bowl on September 18, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  UCLA won 31-13.  (Photo by Stephen Dun
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Johnathan Franklin was a pleasant surprise for UCLA’s offense last year.  As a sophomore, Franklin finished third among returning Pac-10 running backs with 93.92 y/g, by far the most productive part of the Bruins' temperamental offense.

    Franklin is certainly capable of improving on these numbers, and if UCLA can finally find a quarterback, the Bruins' offense could be a threat.

No. 3: Rodney Stewart, Colorado

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    DENVER - SEPTEMBER 04:  Running back Rodney Stewart #5 of the Colorado Buffaloes picks up yardage as he rushes against the Colorado State Rams during the the Rocky Mountain Showdown at INVESCO Field at Mile High on September 4, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Rodney Stewart’s numbers have consistently improved since his freshman season, finishing third in the Big 12 last season with 109.67 y/g.

    Because of Colorado’s follies at quarterback, Stewart needed to bear the Buffaloes' load, leading his conference with 22.92 carries per game.  However, with Colorado’s potential at QB spiking this spring, this could relieve some of the pressure on Stewart during the year. 

No. 2: Chris Polk, Washington

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    SEATTLE - DECEMBER 05:  Chris Polk #1 of the Washington Huskies carries the ball during game against the California Bears on December 5, 2009 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. The Huskies defeated the Bears 42-10. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Ima
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    If you haven’t started paying attention to Chris Polk, you are definitely missing out.  Polk ranked second in the Pac-10 last season with 108.85 y/g, and he will be leaned upon heavily by the Huskies in 2011.  With a new quarterback taking the reins, Polk should be incorporated into Washington’s offense even more.

    With these extra chances to shine, Polk definitely has the talent to challenge James for the top rushing spot in the conference.    

No. 1: LaMichael James, Oregon

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 30:  LaMichael James #21 of the Oregon Ducks cuts back against the USC Trojans during the first quarter at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 30, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    LaMichael James led the nation with 144.25 yards per game (y/g) last year.  The Heisman Trophy candidate should not have a problem producing similar numbers in 2011.  With the majority of the Ducks’ offense returning, James should, once again, consistently light up the scoreboard.


    Keep track of the Pac-12 at The Pacific Dozen: A Pac-12 Football Blog