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Pac-12 position unit rankings: Running backs

We're continuing our final inventory checks before the 2016 season kicks off. We'll be ranking every team's position units against the rest of the Pac-12.

Today, we examine the running backs.

1. Stanford: According to Pro Football Focus' advanced stats, Christian McCaffrey's 2015 season was the best one delivered by a running back in college football history. So, yes, the Cardinal claim the top spot here, especially since Bryce Love -- the Robin to McCaffrey's Batman -- would be a coveted starter at many programs around the country. Stanford's biggest challenge is efficiently splitting the workload between McCaffrey and Love.

2. Oregon: The Ducks have Royce Freeman, so that vaults them near the top of this list. In most conferences, that 235-pound bruiser alone would be enough to take the top spot, but not here. Oregon's offense will run through Freeman again, and we also expect some highlight-reel action from the likes of fellow powerful runner Kani Benoit.

3. Washington: From Week 8 onward, Pro Football Focus' advanced metrics ranked Myles Gaskin as the second-best running back in the country, behind only McCaffrey. Gaskin was only a true freshman, so we expect even bigger things from him in 2016. Dark horse Heisman candidacy, anyone? That's certainly possible if quarterback Jake Browning also takes the next step as a sophomore.

4. USC: Between Justin Davis, Ronald Jones II and a host of other electric young players, the Trojans -- as usual -- are not devoid of backfield talent. The bigger question at USC involves the yet-to-be-determined quarterback position, which will be responsible for ensuring that defenses don't stack the box against the Trojans' dynamic backs.

5. Arizona State: Demario Richard is now an upperclassman, as is speedster Kalen Ballage. So the Sun Devils' stockpile in the backfield has matured and the pressure is on them, especially since ASU will break in a new quarterback this season. Expect some heavy usage for these established talents.

6. California: We're at the halfway point of this ranking and we still haven't hit a mediocre backfield. That's how strong and deep the Pac-12 is at running back There are plenty of teams around the country that would eagerly embrace the Golden Bears' crew of Tre Watson, Vic Enwere and Khalfani Muhammad. Watson is the most versatile player, Enwere is the 240-pound power option and Muhammad is the track star.

7. Washington State: The Cougars are also in solid shape here, despite the premise that Air Raid teams don't run the ball. Washington State actually doubled its rushing output last season behind the talented three-headed attack of Gerard Wicks, Jamal Morrow, and Keith Harrington. Now, it's time to add redshirt freshman James Williams into the mix.

8. Utah: Joe Williams came on strong with a string of 100-yard performances after the Utes lost Devontae Booker to injury last season, so that should help Kyle Whittingham sleep better at night entering 2016. Still, Utah must replace the most heavily used back in the nation, so Williams' job won't be easy. Troy McCormick and Marcel Manalo can help the cause.

9. UCLA: The Bruins likely pack more talent than any ninth-ranked running back corps in the history of this ranking. But that just speaks to the astounding strength the Pac-12 features across its offensive backfields this season. UCLA must replace Paul Perkins, the program's leading rusher the previous two seasons. Even though replacement Soso Jamabo was one of the nation's top recruits, we can't justify ranking the Bruins ahead of their more established counterparts just yet.

10. Arizona: The key here is Nick Wilson's health. After coming out gangbusters as a true freshman in 2014, Wilson's 2015 was hampered by injury. If the junior rediscovers the torrid trajectory that he entered college with, Arizona will be a productive rushing team again, especially since tank-like Orlando Bradford is a potentially nice complement to Wilson.

11. Colorado: The Buffs return leading rusher Phillip Lindsay and Patrick Carr, another player who produced in 2015. The problem is that they averaged only 3.8 yards per carry as a team last season, and improvement on that mediocre mark must come without the graduated Christian Powell, who provided a powerful change of pace.

12. Oregon State: Ryan Nall was a force in the Civil War, racking up 174 yards on 19 carries against Oregon (9.2 yards per carry). But we'll need to see consistent season-long ground production from the Beavers before we rank them ahead of the other Pac-12 running back units.