The USC Football team celebrating during a game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Photo courtesy of pacifictakes.com
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TROJANS FOOTBALL
2015 Record: 8-6 Overall, 6-3 in the Pac-12 Conference (Pac-12 South Champions)
High Point: Beat UCLA 40-21 on November 28th, ending a three game losing streak to the Bruins and winning the Pac-12 South in the process
Low Points: Lost to Stanford (for the second time this season) in the Pac-12 Championship Game, 41-22
Lost to Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl, 23-21
Team Leaders (* = returning in 2016):
Cody Kessler, QB – 66.8 % completions, 3,536 yards passing, 29 touchdowns, 7 INTs
* Ronald Jones II, RB – 153 carries, 957 yards, 6.5 ypc, 8 TDs
* Justin Davis, RB – 169 carries, 902 yards, 5.3 ypc, 7 TDs
* JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR – 89 catches, 1,454 yards, 103.9 ypg, 10 TDs, 1,509 all-purpose yards with 107.8 per game (led team)
* Adoree Jackson, WR/CB/KR/PR – 27 catches for 2 TDs at WR, 24 punt returns for 2 TDs, 30 kick returns, one interception for a TD, 1,437 all-purpose yards (102.6 per game)
Su’a Cravens, LB – 86 tackles, 15 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 2 INTs
* Cameron Smith, LB – 78 tackles, 3 INTs
* Iman Marshall, CB – 67 tackles, 3 INTs
Near the end of USC’s radio broadcast of the Holiday Bowl, longtime play-by-play man Pete Arbogast summed up the Trojans’ 128th year playing football in one word:
I couldn’t have said it better.
How could one not find this cardinal and gold team’s season interesting when they began 2015 with one coach – who was fired under most dramatic circumstances – and ended the year with another who, although they lost three of their last four games under his interim leadership, earned the permanent head coaching job by way of that one win being against the crosstown rival?
Which got them the Pac-12 South title and a spot in the conference’s championship game.
Where they lost to a squad that, judging by their performance in the recent Rose Bowl game in Pasadena, is the standard-bearing best team on the West Coast in an overwhelming, need-to-get-past-them-to-achieve-any-real-success kind of way.
Though their record looks quite mediocre to the naked eye, USC’s “Trojan Family” has much to look forward to as their beloved football team has a very good crop of young talent returning.
SC will undoubtedly be led by JuJu Smith-Schuster and especially Adoree Jackson, who in the face of the Trojans needing to break in a new quarterback in the face of Cody Kessler graduating (look for Max Browne to fill that role) will be seen along with Smith-Schuster as “The Man” on offense, with super freshmen Smith and Marshall leading the way on defense.
Trojan running back Justin Davis (#22) being congratulated by Cody Kessler (#6) and other teammates during the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on December 30th. Photo courtesy of foxsports.com
As far as Jackson and Smith-Schuster are concerned, those Trojans better appreciate them as they do their thing at the Coliseum next fall, because as sure as I’m writing this both of those young men, being juniors, will be announcing their intent to enter the NFL Draft around this time in 2017.
Personally, I commend USC for overcoming the drama surrounding the issues concerning, and subsequent firing, of former coach Steve Sarkisian after they lost to Washington on October 8th and fell to 1-2 in the conference.
Clay Helton may have gone a so-so 5-4, but he stabilized things and is poised to bring in what’s expected to be a top-ten recruiting class on National Signing Day this coming February 3rd.
Make no mistake, beating UCLA got that “interim” tag removed from his job title.
In fact, the one difference between Helton and Ed Orgeron, who took over on an interim basis when Lane Kiffin was let go in the middle of the 2013 season, was that Orgeron lost to the Bruins. Helton beat them.
He may well start 2016 by losing to a team that is favored by many if not most fans and pundits to win their third national championship in five years a week from today: Alabama’s Crimson Tide, who the Trojans open against at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX (the house that Jerry Jones built) on September 3rd.
Which would be SC’s fourth defeat in their last five outings.
But their talent will render them as the favorite to win the Pac-12 South again, which will put those Trojans on-line for their 34th Rose Bowl appearance.
That 8-6 record definitely does not show it, but things are looking up south of downtown L.A. at University Park.
Particularly since their full number of scholarships have been restored after the sanctions put on them in 2010.
The Trojans getting ready to take the field before a game. Photo courtesy of usctrojans.com
THIS WAS PART ONE OF A TWO-PART SERIES WRAPPING UP THE SEASONS OF SOCAL’S TWO COLLEGE FOOTBALL TEAMS.
PART TWO OF THIS SERIES – AN OPINION/ANALYSIS OF UCLA’s BRUINS, HOW THEY FARED IN 2015, AND HOW THINGS LOOK IN WESTWOOD FOR 2016 – WILL APPEAR ON THIS SITE THIS THURSDAY, JANUARY 7th, SO DO NOT MISS IT!