Sunday, February 19, 2017

Farewell to 2016: USC Trojans

It was a season of highs and lows in the PAC-12 in 2016. The Washington Huskies turned a major corner, making it to the national semifinal before getting smothered by Alabama. The Huskies were one of four teams that won 10 games or more. On the flip side, half of the teams in the conference finished under .500, including two major surprise teams in Oregon and UCLA. The conference's prize QB, Josh Rosen, was injured for most of the season, and under performed when he was available, and Jake Browning became the new star QB of the conference until being upstaged by Sam Darnold at USC. The biggest story was the emergence of the Colorado Buffaloes, who shocked everyone by winning the South. Here is our farewell to the 2016 season, team by team, in the PAC-12...

USC Trojans
10-3 (7-2)

2016 Schedule
Lost to Alabama 52-6
Beat Utah State 45-7
lost to Stanford 27-10
Lost to Utah 31-27
Beat Arizona State 41-20
Beat Colorado 21-17
Beat Arizona 48-14
Beat California 45-24
Beat Oregon 45-20
Beat Washington 26-13
Beat UCLA 36-14
Beat Notre Dame 45-27
Beat Penn State 52-49 (Rose Bowl)

MVP Offense: QB Sam Darnold
All was lost for the Trojans after a 1-3 start under QB Max Browne, and coach Clay Helton was looking like toast in just his first full season as head coach. A change was made over to Darnold, and USC went on a 9-0 run. He changed the entire way the team worked on offense, and gave the offense dimensions that Browne could not. Darnold passed for 3086 yards and 31 TDs to just 9 INTs. He completed 67.2% of his passes. He averaged 237.4 yards passing per game, and attempted 28.2 passes per game. Darnold added another 250 yards rushing, and added 2 more scores on the ground, and used his feet to extend plays and make things happen. His head is way ahead of the curve for his age, and in my eyes, he has surpassed the more hyped prospect from across town, Josh Rosen. Darnold, at this point, is the real deal.
MVP Defense: LB Porter Gustin, DB A'Doree Jackson
From a national standpoint, Gustin, a sophomore LB, was completely overlooked. He finished with 68 tackles, a team leading 13 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, and broke up 4 passes in coverage. Gustin may have been one of the quietest, yet most important players on this football team.
Jackson received far more hype, but was worth it in many cases for the Trojans. Jackson broke up 11 passes on the season, and led the team with 5 INTs. He finished with 55 tackles, with 46 of them coming on solos. Jackson also added 767 yards on kick returns, with 2 TDs, and added another 315 yards and 2 scores on punt returns.
Others of Note
Ronald Jones gave the Trojans some balance on offense at RB, as he rushed for 1082 yards and 12 TDs on the season. He averaged 6.11 yards per carry, but only averaged 12.83 carries per game. Justin Davis added another 607 yards on the season, as the Trojans rushed for 200.69 yards per game.
JuJu Smith-Schuster was a star, as was to be expected, as he posted a line of 70-914-10. He averaged 13.06 yards per grab on the season.
Darreus Rogers and Deontay Burnett both caught 56 passes, with Rogers going for 696 yards, and Burnett finishing with 622 yards. It was Burnett, however, that won the scoring battle, as he converted 7 scores to 4 for Rogers.
LB Cameron Smith should be a leader on defense next season. He led the team with 83 tackles, and he added 7 TFLs. He added 4 PBUs in coverage as well.
USC recorded 63.46 tackles per game, and forced teams to record 71.31 against.
Best Win: Washington 26-13, Penn State 52-49
The win over Washington did not end the UW ride to the national semifinal, but it did send a statement that USC was back on the horse, and was ready to make life miserable for the rest of the conference again, and they made Washington look bad all night long in Seattle.
The Rose Bowl win over Penn State was a massive challenge that was only won when Penn State displayed highly questionable play calling in the final minute and a half of the game. The Trojans were ahead big, then behind big, and then rallied for a crazy win that defied logic with a 17 point 4th quarter. The win capped that 9 game winning streak, that is likely to continue well into 2017.
Worst Loss: Alabama 52-6
The Trojans were completely lifeless against Alabama in Arlington, Texas, and it seemed like this would be a long, horrible season when all was said and done. Nobody thought USC was on par with Alabama, but that was a horrible look for the Trojans, and it started a process that almost had undone the Clay Helton era before it began.
2017 Non Conference Schedule: 9/2 Western Michigan, 9/16 Texas, 10/21 at Notre Dame
Western Michigan will not go 13-0 heading into a bowl in 2017, and should likely start out the Tim Lester era by going 0-1. The Trojans should roll past Texas, who is not ready for what the Trojans will bring, and Notre Dame is a mess. USC should go 3-0 here.

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