The USC Trojans are riding high into this season after a tight Rose Bowl win finished the 2016 campaign. Now the Trojans are looking to come back in a big way, this time with the Heisman favorite Sam Darnold at the helm the entirety of the season. Here is their game by game break down.
Home to Western Michigan, Sep. 2 -
After losing a big chunk of their recruiting class along with their head coach P.J. Fleck. Even if the team can bounce back, this will be a team that takes the month of September to rebound. This was going to be a tough game for the Broncos before, now Darnold and company will roll.
USC wins 35-21 - Record: 1-0
Home to Stanford, Sep. 9 -
The game would have been a win for the Trojans if Darnold had been starting, but now that the problems of starting quarterback are behind the Trojans, they should be able to roll to a victory. While Stanford’s defense is stout year in and year out, the offense with Keller Chryst cannot keep up with USC’s fire power.
USC wins 33-24 - Record: 2-0
Home to Texas, Sep. 16 -
This will be one of the underrated, great games of the season as the pair of explosive offenses go head to head. Both quarterbacks are remarkably similar, with Darnold and Shane Buechele both headed into the second year of their collegiate campaigns after starting as freshman. Both broke out last season, Buechele threw for 2,958 yards while Darnold tossed 3,086. The pair will trade punches like a couple of heavyweight fighters. The edge that USC has is the atrocious defense the Longhorns have. Despite new head coach Tom Herman coming to campus, the turnaround may take longer then a single recruiting class.
USC wins 45-30 - Record: 3-0
At California, Sep. 23 -
California may just be the whipping boy of the PAC-12 this season, with a turnstile defense and the offense in a tough spot after Davis Webb headed to the league. For an offense that averaged 513 yards per game, there are some big shoes to fill at signal caller, and USC is rolling in with a returning stud and an offense that averaged 477 yards per game. While some people may be concerned about the defense of the Trojans, the offense will out gun most of the PAC-12 regardless.
USC wins 33-16 - Record: 4-0
At Washington State, Sep. 29 -
Luke Falk and the Cougars have excelled at getting rid of the ball quickly, using short route concepts with plenty of receivers on the field to get the ball out and let their athletes make plays in space. The key in this game will be returning studs Porter Gustin and Malik Dorton getting into the backfield and being disruptive. The more pressure the defensive line can create the tighter their corners can play on the Cougars’ wide receivers. USC wins a tight game on the road because of their front.
USC wins 38-33 - Record: 5-0
Home to Oregon State, Oct. 7 -
Beaver fans are an optimistic bunch, who like the youth on the team and are encouraged by the direction of the team. They have a great set of linebackers and this will be a solid squad. However, they still do not have enough star athletes and for the 2017 season, they are yet again behind the top of the conference. But the defense could keep this game closer than most think.
USC wins 30-21 - Record: 6-0
Home to Utah, Oct. 14 -
The last time these two clashed, the Trojans nearly took home a win on the road fresh off of the switch at quarterback from Max Browne to Darnold. Now Darnold has had over a year to get better and will no doubt have vengeance on the mind, since this was his one tarnish on last year’s breakout. At the end of last season, the Utah offense was in a state of disarray and the team is spiraling in a downward trend. USC will come in with a fire light in their quarterback.
USC wins 38-20 Record: 7-0
At Notre Dame, Oct. 21 -
The Fighting Irish are playing some very poor defense in recent years and the Trojans will be in full, play for the post season mode by late October. This will be a game USC can go up early and let pass rushers Gustin and Dorton pin their ears back and get after the Irish backfield. The Trojans can cruise to a win in the three game stretch of poor opponents.
USC wins 30-14 - Record: 8-0
At Arizona State, Oct. 28 -
The Sun Devils will not be good this year, but they will be a good watch. They always managed to create an interesting game for at least the opening half with returns, deep passes and defensive blunders. They fell into 33.3 points per game last season and while the end record will be rough, they are going to be entertaining. USC’s offense outlasts them and this is a game when an up and coming star like Ajene Harris gets a few interceptions. The Sun Devil ranked second to last in total defense last season and will not get many stops against Darnold.
USC wins 45-28 - Record: 9-0
Home to Arizona, Nov. 4 -
The Wildcats have an abysmal mess at quarterback and watched Brandon Dawkins, Anu Solomon and Kahlil Tate combine for 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. On the defensive side Arizona ranked 113th in total defense, giving up 469 yards per game and letting up 38 points. This is another cruise control win for the Trojans.
USC wins 35-18 -- Record: 10-0
At Colorado, Nov. 11 -
This is the toughest late season game on the Trojans schedule. They have to head out on the road to face-off against a team that ranked 24th in total defense last season and only let up 20 points per game. This is one of the games that truly will be all on Danold, the defense of USC will go back and forth with the Buffaloes offense but the real matchup is between Darnold and the secondary. He needs to be the one to push the corners and safeties back to free up the box for Ronald Jones II and he also needs to make clutch throws down the stretch to keep the Buffaloes offense sidelined. If he is truly a Heisman contender, he can carry the team when they need him.
USC wins 27-24 - Record: 11-0
Home to UCLA, Nov. 18 -
Hopefully Josh Rosen stays healthy at quarterback to make this game remotely interesting. This may be a spot that gives the Bruins motivation to play spoiler at the end of the season, a plan that only is accomplished with Rosen at the helm. Even with him and a defense that was solid, giving up only 27 points per game, the prospect is a daunting one for UCLA. They simply do not have enough talent at the skill positions, or a hint of a running attack that could help out Rosen.
USC wins 38-24 - Record: 12-0