The USC Trojans started off brutally in 2016 but the Clay Helton switched quarterbacks from Max Browne to Sam Darnold and the team turned things around in a major way. The Trojans rattled off a 10-1 record after switching quarterbacks which included a trip to the Rose Bowl and an epic victory in that game.
Now, understandably, with Darnold coming in as the starter from the outset and plenty of weapons around him the expectations are sky high for this Trojans team. Darnold is the early favorite to win the 2017 Heisman Trophy and many experts and fans around the country are already projecting the Trojans to be a College Football Playoff contender.
Athlon has projected where they think teams will finish in the final rankings after the National Championship Game is played. Athlon projects the Trojans to finish 5th in the final rankings after all of the games are played.
Just in front of the Trojans are the Florida State Seminoles, Ohio State Buckeyes, Washington Huskies and Alabama Crimson Tide as the 4 projected playoff teams with the Tide winning the National Championship.
This projection certainly suggests that Athlon believes that USC will win the Pac-12 South division but likely lose to Washington in the Pac-12 Conference Championship game. While past performance does not necessarily predict future outcomes it is worth remembering that the Trojans went up to Seattle last season and beat the Huskies.
Despite narrowly missing the Pac-12 Championship game in 2016 the Trojans were able to secure the Pac-12’s spot in the Rose Bowl after the Huskies advanced to the College Football Playoff. Given the high expectations for USC football in 2017 failing to win a Conference championship would seem like a let down. If Athlon’s projected scenario plays out it is likely, however, that the Trojans would return to the Rose Bowl once again despite not winning the Conference championship.
Plenty of Talent but plenty of question marks:
In fairness to Athlon their concerns about USC’s ability to make the playoffs are not without merit. Despite USC football having loads of talent at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver, the Trojans are working on a major rebuild on the offensive line. Furthermore on defense, USC must try to replace Stevie T up front and Adoree’ Jackson in the secondary. While the Trojans have recruited very well on defense those are still two key pieces the defense will have to replace.
“Darnold is good enough to carry this team to a Pac-12 title on his own, but the supporting cast features a likely All-Pac-12 running back in Ronald Jones, as well as a solid group of receivers. The biggest concern on offense remains up front. Standout tackles Chad Wheeler and Zach Banner expired their eligibility, and guard Damien Mama left early for the next level. Projected starters Toa Lobendahn and Viane Talamaivao are recovering from injuries but will return for the start of the season.”
Projections frequently do not pan out
While it is fun to comb through projections and predictions of the college football offseason it is vital to remember that college football is a fickle, unpredictable, and sometimes cruel sport. So many surprises, upsets, and craziness happen every year that trying to correctly predict them all is folly.
USC last season is a perfect example. After being thumped by Alabama, switching quarterbacks and starting the season 1-3 few could have possibly predicted that the Trojans would go on to win the Rose Bowl. Ultimately though, it should be an incredibly fun season for USC football.