Athlon Sports ranks the best Pac-12 running backs of the BCS Era.
The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.
The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.
So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.
9. Maurice Jones-Drew, UCLA (2003-05)
Stats: 481 att., 2,503 yds, 26 TDs, 64 rec., 819 yds, 7 TDs, 1,366 ret. yds, 6 TDs
Formerly Maurice Drew, the UCLA tailback was a consensus All-American in 2005, yet never rushed for more than 1,007 yards in any season. He was an all-around talent who delivered in all three phases of the game — running, receiving and returning. His numbers don't begin to explain his talent, as he went on to become one of the NFL's best backs after being taken in the second round by Jacksonville in the 2006 draft.
10. Stepfan Taylor, Stanford (2009-12)
Stats: 843 att., 4,300 yds, 40 TDs, 97 rec., 778 yds, 5 TDs
From a career achievement standpoint, few were as important to their team as Taylor was to Stanford. He posted three workhorse seasons for the Cardinal, topping 1,100 yards three times and 1,300 yards twice. Taylor is Stanford's all-time leading rusher and is seventh all-time in league history with 4,300 yards. His 40 rushing touchdowns are second only to Gerhart and he carried Stanford to a Pac-12 title with 322 attempts, 1,530 yards and 13 TD as a senior — all without Andrew Luck.
Just missed the cut:
11. Johnathan Franklin, UCLA (2009-12)
Stats: 788 att., 4,403 yds, 31 TDs, 58 rec., 517 yds, 3 TDs
The Mayor of Los Angeles was the consummate leader, teammate and professional workhorse. He holds the career marks as UCLA’s all-time leading rusher — which is good for fifth all-time in Pac-12 history. And he also owns the school's single-season rushing record with 1,734 yards on 282 carries as a senior in 2012. Franklin was the complete package in the backfield for the Bruins.
12. LenDale White, USC (2003-05)
Stats: 541 att., 3,159 yds, 52 TDs, 31 rec., 331 yds, 5 TDs
The round mound of touchdown played alongside Reggie Bush in one of the best backfields in college football history. White is USC’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns and is third all-time in league history with 52. He played on two national title winners and a third that lost in the BCS title game before getting taken in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft.
13. Kenjon Barner, Oregon (2009-12)
Stats: 582 att., 3,623 yds, 41 TDs, 54 rec., 591 yds, 7 TDs, 1,634 ret. yds, 2 TDs
He was often overshadowed by James at Oregon, but Barner’s numbers stack up with anyone’s in league history. He is 18th all-time in rushing and is second only in school history to James in both career and single-season rushing yards (1,767 in 2012). He played on three Pac-12 title teams and helped the Ducks to the 2010 BCS title game.
14. J.J. Arrington, Cal (2003-04)
Stats: 396 att., 2,625 yds, 20 TDs, 42 rec., 299 yds, 3 TDs
Arrington is alongside Marcus Allen (2,427) and Charles White (2,050) as the only three running backs in league history to top 2,000 yards. His 2,018 in 2004 are obviously a school record and it went along with 15 touchdowns, an eighth-place finish in the Heisman voting and consensus All-American honors.
15. Jonathan Stewart, Oregon (2005-07)
Stats: 516 att., 2,891 yds, 27 TDs, 49 rec., 334 yds, 4 TDs, 1,664 ret. yds, 2 TDs
Few players can match Stewart’s raw ability and physical talent. He was a dynamic return man and capped his short three-year career with a monster (then school record) 1,722 yards and 13 total touchdowns in his final season in 2007. He was the 13th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Panthers.
Best of the Rest:
16. Yvenson Bernard, Oregon State (2004-07): 876 att., 3,862 yds, 38 TDs, 118 rec., 790 yds, 3 TDs
Posted three 1,000-yard seasons and is 12th all-time in Pac-12 in rushing and also is in the top 20 in touchdowns.
17. Trung Candidate, Arizona (1996-99): 604 att., 3,824 yds, 25 TDs, 42 rec., 468 yds, TD
Was Arizona’s all-time leading rusher and 12th in the Pac-12… until Ka’Deem Carey came along.
18. Bishop Sankey, Washington (2011-13): 644 att., 3,496 yds, 37 TDs, 67 rec., 567 yds, TD
Had two monster years before turning pro early. His 1,870 yards were a school record in 2013.
19. Jahvid Best, Cal (2007-09): 364 att., 2,668 yds, 29 TDs, 62 rec., 533 yds, 6 TDs
Electric playmaker who is tied with Bush with a 7.3 career yards per carry average.
20. Chris Polk, Washington (2009-11): 789 att., 4,015 yds, 26 TDs, 79 rec., 683 yds, 4 TDs
Is 10th all-time in Pac-12 history in rushing and ended up less than 100 yards shy of Napoleon Kaufman’s school record.
21. DeShaun Foster, UCLA (1998-01): 722 att., 3,194 yds, 40 TDs, 58 rec., 548 yds, 4 TDs
Bruins' No. 4 rusher all-time and trails only Skip Hicks’ 48 rushing touchdowns in school history.
22. De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon (2011-13): 243 att., 1,890 yds, 26 TDs, 113 rec., 1,296 yds, 15 TDs, 2,159 ret. yds, 5 TDs
He scored 46 total touchdowns and produced 5,345 all-purpose yards in only 37 games in three years.
23. Jerome Harrison, Washington State (2004-05): 482 att., 2,800 yds, 25 TDs, 34 rec., 275 yds, TD
Consensus All-American is one of just six players in league history to top 1,900 yards in a season.
24. Justin Forsett, Cal (2004-07): 567 att., 3,320 yds, 26 TDs, 41 rec., 386 yds, TD
Capped a solid career with a monster 305-att., 1,546-yard, 15-TD season as a senior in 2007.
25. Tyler Gaffney, Stanford (2009-13): 486 att., 2,500 yds, 33 TDs, 32 rec., 264 yds, 4 TDs
Led Stanford to back-to-back Pac-12 titles and set records with 330 att., 1,709-yard, 21-TD season in ’13.