The 2018 spring college football rankings, taking the first look at the USC Trojans.
No. 12: USC Trojans
Spring Practice Starts: March 6
Spring Game: April 14
USC Trojans Spring Status
USC finally got to a Pac-12 Championship game, and won it.
Start from there, take the 11 wins, and ignore the blowout Cotton Bowl loss to Ohio State and the relative disappointing season for a program that reasonably expected to be in the College Football Playoff.
The ugly loss to Notre Dame and the rough early defeat to Washington State hurt, but again, rolling to a conference championship was big. Alabama didn’t do that.
But now the Pac-12 is better, the South has upgraded the coaching, and it’s going to be more of a fight than before. Losing Sam Darnold is hardly a plus, and not having RB Ronald Jones or receivers Deontay Burnett and Steven Mitchell isn’t good, either.
Three starters are done on the defensive front, and two safeties are done, but there’s a whole lot to get excited about. LB Porter Gustin is back after missing most of last season, Cameron Smith likely to be among the nation’s top defenders, and there are more than enough talented young players ready to step up and shine.
It’s USC. It’s going to be in the mix for the Pac-12 title again, at least, and there’s still no reason to not shoot for more.
USC Biggest Depth Chart Battle
Quarterback. The Trojans have a few battles brewing on the defensive front, and there’s hope for Stephen Carr to be the next great running back, but the team is in place to do big things. Now it needs the quarterback.
The hope is for Matt Fink to play like he’s ready to handle the workload, and Jack Sears has to look the part as the offseason goes on. If those two don’t shine, then get ready for JT Daniels, the star recruit who’s coming in later this summer, to be the main man.
USC Biggest Issue
Turnovers. This might be the one area that not having Darnold around might be a plus. He was a giveaway machine, and he got away with a whole slew of other plays that were close to being turnovers.
The offense gave it up 27 times, with 14 lost fumbles – three in the loss to Ohio State – and with two or more giveaways nine times. In 2015, the Trojans lost just 12 turnovers and 20 in 2016. The mistakes have to stop.
USC Biggest Positive
The pass rush will be great again. Throw the running game in there, too, with a fabulous line returning to pave the way for a strong group of backs.
The Trojans managed to come up with 46 sacks last season without a slew of their key parts. Four of the top five sackers are gone, but with Gustin back and plenty of good options up front ready to turn it loose, expect more of the same.
Really, Why Are The USC Trojans Ranked Here?
If Darnold was back, this would be a sure-thing preseason top ten team – and it still might be.
Obviously the Trojans are still going to be outstanding, and there’s no reason to expect anything less than at least another trip to the Pac-12 title game. But the quarterback situation is going to be a concern until the start of the season. In an improved Pac-12, the loss of Darnold might be just enough to keep this from being a College Football Playoff campaign.