Preview 2017: Is USC Going To Be Way, Way Overrated?
Is USC about to get too much national love coming into the season?
Be really, really, really careful assuming USC is about to take back its spot as one of the college football elites – at least this year.
Because the Trojans dominated Washington in Seattle, and pulled off the amazing win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl – capping off a nine-game winning streak after a rough 1-3 start – of course it seems like they’re back.
And why not?
USC has the almost-certain No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL Draft in QB Sam Darnold, and … and … it’s USC, right? It’s supposed to have the talent and ability to do everything it did after September of last season, only start winning from the beginning.
It can’t be possible the program is being gushed over because of 1) brand name, 2) Darnold, and 3) that convincing win over Washington, can it?
This whole scenario doesn’t seem familiar at all …
In 2012, USC rolled into the season with that brand name, and the superstar quarterback – Matt Barkley – and the huge win over a great team – Oregon- on the road late in the season.
It was enough to be ranked No. 1 by the AP to start the year, and third by the Coaches Poll.
USC was BACK under third-year head coach Lane Kiffin.
Barkley was the veteran leader who was going to make up for a few glaring problems, the schedule seemed incredibly favorable, and …
The Trojans fizzled, losing five of their last six games to finish 7-6.
Darnold is the real deal, and head coach Clay Helton appears to have found his footing after all the early hot seat concerns, but the 2017 Trojans have a slew of issues that’ll be glossed over because everyone saw the Rose Bowl and knows who the big-time quarterback is.
Of course, USC always has talent waiting to rise up, but that doesn’t mean losing a receiving star like JuJu Smith-Schuster won’t sting. The top two receivers are gone, No. 2 running back Justin Davis is finished, and most importantly, three All-Pac-12 blockers are done on a line that gave Darnold a whole lot of time to work.
The defense is going to be more than just solid, but it doesn’t have a whole lot of star power, and it certainly doesn’t have a slew of sure-thing pass rushers on the line.
The punting game was mediocre, Rose Bowl star PK Matt Boermeester is suspended, and the special teams as a whole aren’t certain to be fantastic.
But it’s going to march into downtown Atlanta on January 8th ready to roll for the CFP National Championship, right?
And, of course, someone somewhere will have an algorithm that shows how light and breezy the schedule appears to be.
After starting out with Western Michigan and Stanford at home, seven of the final ten games are against teams that didn’t go bowling. Among them are Texas, Notre Dame, Arizona State and UCLA – they’re all going to be far, far better this season – and there’s a stretch of four road games in six weeks that could turn out to be a massive pain in the butt.
But here’s the thing – this actually is USC and that is Sam Darnold, and that might be enough to pull off the type of campaign Trojan fans have been patiently waiting a long, long time for.
There’s a ton of talent returning at the skill spots to help out Darnold, and while the line might be a sore spot at times, it’s hardly going to be a disaster.
Yeah, the USC defense might have no name recognition whatsoever, but it’s got some serious teeth to make up for the lack of flash. There are hitters in the linebacking corps and at safety, Iman Marshall is that potential star at one corner job, and the line is getting an influx of great talent from the recruiting class.
But does Helton really have the chops to finally get the program to turn the corner and be back to its rightful spot among the elite of the college football world?
It’s USC with a franchise NFL quarterback prospect. Both will be expected to be nothing less than amazing.