The hype train has hit the USC Trojans, and deservedly so after ending last season as the hottest team in the country. But before we give the national championship to USC, let’s first get them a Pac-12 title, something Troy has failed to accomplish. USC’s last conference crown came back in 2008 when they were in the Pac-10. There have been several coaching changes since then and Clay Helton led the Trojans to 10 victories, nine in a row to end the year and a Rose Bowl win in his first full season. With Sam Darnold running the show and playmakers all over the field, the Trojans are worthy of their preseason accolades.
2016 Record: 10-3 SU, 8-5 ATS, 4-9 O/U
2017 Regular Season Win Total: 10.5
National Championship Odds: +750
Odds To Win Pac-12: +115
It was a rough beginning for Helton in his first full year. He took over in 2015 after Steve Sarkisian was drinking on the job. It wasn’t easy, USC is a major power in college football and Helton was an unknown. The Trojans won five of nine games under Helton to finish the 2015 season and many felt the school would look for a bigger name to take over the program. Instead, Helton, with the support of his players, was offered the job.
The opener drew plenty of attention, but the Trojans were no match for Alabama, losing 52-6. Two games later it was Stanford putting the clamps on SC in a 27-10 win. After that loss Helton made the switch from one blue-chip quarterback to another, inserting Darnold into the lineup in place of Max Browne. The Trojans were a different team. They lost at Utah in Week 4 falling to 1-3 on the year, but it was their final defeat of the season.
SC ran the table and Darnold became a Heisman candidate. He threw for 3,086 yards with 39 touchdowns while completing better than 67 percent of his passes. The offense scored 18 points more per game with him starting and the Trojans beat the two Pac-12 championship game participants, handing Washington and Colorado their only league loss, and defeated Big Ten champ Penn State in the Rose Bowl. It makes us wonder what USC would have done if Darnold was there from the start.
Some may say the Trojans are back, but they never really went anywhere. They’ve won at least 10 games 10 times in the past 15 years and are a constant threat in the Pac-12. SC has never won a Pac-12 title but this club has the makings of a national championship contender after a destructive run over the last two months of 2016.
Their season-ending nine-game win streak came after Darnold was inserted into the starting lineup. The Trojans were a different team after the move and Darnold is the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy after putting up ridiculous numbers. Things will be different this season. The line that prevented Darnold from spending too much time on the ground lost three starters and the receivers are young and inexperienced. Deontay Burnett and Michael Pittman look to be the main targets in the passing game.
The defense was overshadowed by the exploits of Darnold last season, but they were pretty good in their own right. They failed to show up in the Rose Bowl allowing 49 points to Penn State and the group was blitzed for 52 by Bama in the opener. In between, though, they were solid and finished third in the Pac-12 in total defense. Seven starters return and the experience should make them better. They don’t need to be great and as long as Darnold continues to light up opponents, SC has a good chance for a CFP berth.
Week 1: USC vs. Western Michigan, Saturday, September 2
Week 2: USC vs. Stanford, Saturday, September 9
Week 3: USC vs. Texas, Saturday, September 16
Week 4: USC at Cal, Saturday, September 23
Week 5: USC at Washington State, Friday, September 29
Week 6: USC vs. Oregon State, Saturday, October 7
Week 7: USC vs. Utah, Saturday, October 14
Week 8: USC at Notre Dame, Saturday, October 21
Week 9: USC at Arizona State, Saturday, October 28
Week 10: USC vs. Arizona, Saturday, November 4
Week 11: USC at Colorado, Saturday, November 11
Week 12: USC vs. UCLA, Saturday, November 18
Week 13: OFF
|SEC Conference||Big 10 Conference|
|ACC Conference||Big 12 Conference|
|Pac 12 Conference||Big East Conference|
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