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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Who is USC?

Members+of+the+USC+Trojans+marching+band+celebrate+after+a+38-30+win+at+the+Los+Angeles+Coliseum+in+2015.
Rebecca Noble

Members of the USC Trojans marching band celebrate after a 38-30 win at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 2015.

Southern California entered the 2017 season with a lot of momentum. The Trojans were selected as the overwhelming choice to win the Pac-12 South at media day, and pundits across the country thought that the men of Troy were darkhorse College Football Playoff contenders. While the Trojans are atop the South Division standings, they are firmly out of the national championship picture. Inconsistency and inefficiency has led to a disappointing 7-2 record. Despite their struggles, the Trojans are still far and away the most talented team in the division.

Sam Darnold rolls out to the right and gets set to throw a pass against Arizona in 2016.
Sam Darnold rolls out to the right and gets set to throw a pass against Arizona in 2016.

Quarterback Sam Darnold hasn’t been the same player that took the college football world by storm last year. Darnold has been a turnover machine, tossing ten interceptions in nine games. The former Heisman frontrunner threw six picks in his first three games. The sophomore has been flummoxed by disguised coverages throughout the season. Because of that confusion, Darnold has been more likely to force passes into coverage. Look for the Wildcats to throw the proverbial kitchen sink at the star passer, in the hopes of creating turnovers. 

With Darnold struggling to recapture the form that made him the apple of every draft guru’s eye, offensive coordinator Tee Martin has turned to the run game. Tailback Ronald Jones is the latest Trojan gamebreaker, he is averaging 6.7 yards per carry, and has scored ten touchdowns. The junior shredded Arizona State in his last appearance, rushing for 216 yards and two touchdowns as SC demolished the Sun Devils. Jones has breakaway speed and can make people miss in space. Teams that have managed to slow him down do so by gang tackling and utilizing well-timed run blitzes. 

The Trojans aren’t nearly as deep at receiver as they’ve been in recent years, but SC has some talented athletes on the outside. Leading receiver Deontay Burnett has caught eight touchdowns, and is averaging 12.9 yards per catch. Burnett isn’t the physical specimen Juju Smith-Schuster was for SC last year, but he is a productive pass catcher. Tyler Vaughns is the receiver of the future, the freshman is second on the team in receptions, and has scored three touchdowns. Vaughns recorded his first 100-yard game last week against ASU.

Wilbur stands alone and watches on as the Wildcats come up short against USC in 2015.
Wilbur stands alone and watches on as the Wildcats come up short against USC in 2015.

Experience is in short supply on the offensive line, SC returns two starters, is a true road grader. Viane Talamaivao and Nico Falah are far cries from the dominant linemen the Trojans have featured in recent years.

Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast has been under fire throughout the season. Despite having future pros throughout the two deep, the Trojan defense has been merely average. Southern Cal is firmly in the middle tier statistically, allowing 25.4 points per game. Linebacker Cameron Smith is a potential All-American, he leads the team in tackles with 79. Smith is a player that must be accounted for before every play, he can change a game with a single tackle. 

The junior isn’t the only standout, cornerback Iman Marshall is a shutdown corner. Marshall was a highly touted recruit, and he has lived up to the hype, recording eight pass breakups this year. Iman will be matched up against Shun Brown all day, he tends to be assigned to the opposition’s best receiver. Safety Marvell Tell will provide help as needed, but he is mostly used as an enforcer. Tell can play at the line of scrimmage, giving the Trojans an additional defender in the box. 

The USC Trojan Horse makes his appearance during pre-game activities at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 2015.
The USC Trojan Horse makes his appearance during pre-game activities at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 2015.

Defensive tackle Rasheem Green is yet another Trojan that will play at the next level. Green is a disruptor, he has seven sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. Joining him in the trenches is Christian Rector. Rector leads the Trojans in tackles for loss with 10.5. He has recorded two or more tackles for loss in a game four times this season. 


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