In the eyes of many college football prognosticators, the Pac-12 Conference is the USC Trojans’ to lose. That’s because they have a pro-style quarterback in sophomore Sam Darnold, who is already attracting the eye of NFL scouts as top draft pick in 2018, should he decide to go that route. Darnold and the Trojans will host a much-improved Texas Longhorns team Saturday, September 16 on Fox.
After red-shirting in 2015, Darnold entered last season as the backup on the Trojans’ quarterback depth chart. They started the season 1-2 and Darnold was named the starter in Week 4. USC lost to Utah 31-27, but Darnold looked solid. A month later he began to hit his stride, and threw for five touchdowns each in back-to-back wins over Arizona and California and eventually guided the Trojans to their biggest victory of the season, when they upset then No. 4 ranked Washington Huskies.
Darnold’s only loss last season was in that first start against Utah. Ironically, USC had beaten both Washington and Colorado, who played for the Pac-12 Championship. Darnold’s skills were showcased in USC’s 52-49 Rose Bowl victory over Penn, where he out-dueled the Nittany Lions Trace McSorley, completed 33 of 53 passes for 453 yards, with five touchdowns. Those last two numbers set new Rose Bowl records.
USC has a few challenging games on their schedule, but should have things easier than their Northern Division counterparts. There’s a good possibility that, with Darnold under center, they could get back to the conference championship game and be a contender for the College Football Playoff.
Born: June 5, 1997
Birthplace: San Mateo, California
Height/Weight: 6 foot 4 inches / 225 pounds
Team: USC Trojans
Honors and Achievements: Rose Bowl Champion and Offensive MVP, 2017; Archie Griffin Award, 2016; Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, 2016