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A hyped up bunch of USC Trojans preparing for battle as they exit the tunnel at the Coliseum. Photo courtesy of sportsformulator.com
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TROJANS FOOTBALL
The 129th season
First season: 1888
2015 Record & Highlights: 8-5 (6-3 in the Pac-12 South)
Pacific-12 Conference South Division Champions
Beat UCLA in the Crosstown Rivalry game, 40-21
Lost to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game, 41-22
Lost to Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl, 23-21
Head Coach: Clay Helton, 1st full season
Adoree Jackson – Jr. DB/WR, 5’11”, 185 lbs.
JuJu Smith-Schuster – Jr. WR, 6’2″, 215 lbs
Cameron Smith – So. LB, 6’2″, 245 lbs
Adoree Jackson, who with his two-way ability is widely considered as the leader of this year’s version of USC’s Trojans. Photo courtesy of pregame.com
For the majority of the 129 years that they have played football, USC’s Trojans have been classified as loaded with top-notch talent.
And despite the fact that someone needs to take over under center for Cody Kessler, who now quarterbacks for the Cleveland Browns, this year is no exception as Clay Helton, who essentially earned the keys to the Trojan kingdom by beating UCLA, embarks on his first full season as the head man.
We won’t waste any time; let’s talk about who will be the new quarterback at Troy.
Two guys have been battling it out this past spring and during fall camp…
In one corner is Max Browne, a redshirt junior who has served as Kessler’s backup for the past two seasons and is in his fourth year in the program, which means that he has an encyclopedic knowledge of ‘SC’s offense.
Or should by now, as he is a classic drop-back passer with a wicked arm.
In the other corner is the reason why Helton hasn’t officially named a starter and won’t until the 20th of this month, a redshirt freshman named Sam Darnold, whose ability to run has complicated things as far as the QB competition is concerned.
If I were the USC coach, I would choose Browne as the starter because of his experience.
Whoever goes under Toa Lobendahn at center, he will have an embarrassment of talent surrounding him, and not just Smith-Schuster – who’s on everybody’s list for All-America honors – either as these Trojans, led by Lobendahn, Chad Wheeler and Damien Mama, return their entire offensive line.
An exciting memory from last season for the Trojans and the entire USC community: highlights of the Victory Bell being taken back in ‘SC’s 40-21 win over UCLA at the Coliseum on November 28th, 2015. Video courtesy of YouTube.com
Justin Davis and Ronald Jones II, who both ran for nearly 1,000 yards, return at running back.
And if opposing defenses double team Smith-Schuster, Darreus Rogers and Steven Mitchell are more than capable of doing damage at receiver, and are going to have to as I’m sure that teams are going to go to extreme measures to deny Smith-Schuster the ball.
Except for the secondary, the Trojan defense is a bit of a concern save for Cameron Smith who at linebacker will be he heart and soul of that front seven, having earned Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the year honors and Freshman All-American status last year.
The three interceptions he had last year, including a crucial pick-six against Utah, sealed his status as a key Trojan as he enters his second year.
The one guy on this USC team who I consider the most valuable player, the one player who those Trojans cannot afford to lose, is Adoree Jackson.
This is a guy who can not only go both ways, though the plan is to have him play cornerback, he can and will be expected to provide thrills returning kicks.
The biggest thing that can prevent ‘SC from post season glory, i.e. the Pac-12 title, a berth in the Rose Bowl or even a spot in the College Football Playoff, is something that the coaches and the players had nothing to do with:
It’s seen by many pundits as the toughest in the country, starting with a date with a team that didn’t do much in 2015 as they merely won the national championship for the fourth time in seven seasons, Alabama’s immensely powerful Crimson Tide (who incidentally are the favorites to repeat as national champs) in a featured prime-time contest at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
In fact, September is looking like a possible death march as after what should be a breather in their home opener against Utah State, the Trojans face defending conference champ Stanford – who smacked them around twice last year, including in the Pac-12 title game – and Utah on the road.
I believe for whoever starts at quarterback, it will be the proverbial baptism under fire.
The next two months won’t be a pleasant picnic in the park either as even before they end their season with their traditional clashes against UCLA and Notre Dame, the two teams that USC faces before the Bruins and Fighting Irish, Oregon and Washington, are quite capable of beating the Trojans.
I’ll have specific game-by-game predictions of all these games later this week
As such, here’s my official view as to how USC will fare this season and what their record will look like:
If it wasn’t for the fact that these Trojans have such a tough schedule, facing Alabama in particular – face it Trojan Family, that Crimson Tide is NOT Arkansas State or Idaho – I’d be projecting a possible ten-win campaign and conference title for these guys.
Since their schedule is what it is, while I’m not counting ‘SC out as a contender in the Pac-12 South as they are more than talented enough to win that division, they could also go 6-6.
I will pencil this proud Cardinal and Gold-colored program for eight wins (would’ve been more if not for that schedule) and a finish of either first or second place in the Pac-12 South, with a berth in either the Alamo or Holiday Bowl as I don’t see them winning the conference if they get to that title game in Santa Clara.
Though I have a feeling that they could just as easily win nine or ten games if things go their way, I’m going to go with these Trojans winning eight games for now and see how things unfold.
BE SURE TO CHECK OUT MY GAME-BY-GAME PREDICTIONS OF THIS USC TROJAN SQUAD ON THIS SITE LATER THIS WEEK!
Clay Helton, the man who the Trojan Family expects to lead their precious football program to what their feel is their rightful place in college football. Photo courtesy of athlonsports.com