USC – led by Sam Darnold and Ronald Jones – took the Pac-12 Championship in a fun win over Stanford.
Game Preview & Prediction
Final Score: USC 31, Stanford 28
Prediction: USC 27, Stanford 21
Line: USC -4, o/u: 58.5
That’s what Sam Darnold is supposed to do.
It wasn’t just the play from the end zone to get USC out of harm’s way on what turned out to be the game-winning drive.
It wasn’t just the fourth down throw to seal the Pac-12 Championship for USC.
It was the clean, smart, cool game that Darnold produced with a title on the line.
Yeah, he missed a few open throws, and yeah, he wasn’t always perfect, but he completed 17-of-24 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He became the type of quarterback NFL teams could watch and envision as a franchise star who can lead a team week after week.
Ronald Jones II was the best running back in the game. Bryce Love might have been hobbling, but it was Jones who did the dirty work in slithering, sneaky runs to crank up a tough 140 yards and two scores on 30 carries. Stanford came into this game as the big bully tough guy team, and USC came up with 176 rushing yards to Stanford’s 151.
Love just couldn’t quite give it a full go, but the 22 carries were enough. He ran for 125 yards and a touchdown, with most of them on a 52-yard blast helped by a brilliant read and cut, but he was bottled up, for the most part. He was dinged up on that ankle that continued to be a problem, but he did what he was supposed to do. In the end, USC rose up and showed why it’s the better team.
Yes, David Shaw was right to go for the touchdown. Down 24-21 late, why didn’t the Cardinal go for the touchdown to tie it all up? Simple. When you have a specific jumbo package, with specific jumbo men, for your specific jumbo team, you’re supposed to get one yard to take the lead in the Pac-12 Championship.
It didn’t work.
Uchenna Nwosu was shot out of a cannon to get the stop, and then Darnold went Darnold to get the team on the epic march. Stanford and Shaw played to win a championship. No argument there.
And that’s the USC argument. After that play on fourth down, it was a different USC team. The energy was there, everyone was flying around, and then the team looked sharper and faster. That energy is hard to maintain for a full four quarters, but when it had it, that was the USC everyone wanted to see against Notre Dame and Washington State.
What Does It All Mean For The Bowl Picture?
Had Stanford won, it wouldn’t have been an automatic pick for the Fiesta – the fan base just doesn’t travel all that well. But for USC, consider it a lock for Glendale against either Penn State or the Big Ten Championship loser.
Stanford is now likely off to the Alamo Bowl against a Big 12 team, or depending on what the bowl people want, the Holiday is possible against a Big Ten team.