It’s August again, which means two things. One, the college football season is right around the corner, and two, the USC Hype train is picking up speed all the way to an automatic birth in the College Football Playoff. We’ve all heard it, it’s the same thing every year. This USC Trojans team is the best team in the country. They’re so talented, they’re going to run the table. They have the best recruits, the best quarterback in the nation, and the Pac-12 is weak, they’re sitting pretty.
It’s time to halt the USC Hype Train. It’s true, the Trojans are super talented. It’s true, they have arguably the best quarterback in the country, and it’s also true that they have so many 4 and 5 star recruits that they all can’t possibly see the field. It’s also true that this team has some glaring weaknesses, has a tough Stanford game back to back with a game against a new look Texas team, and still has to play at Notre Dame later in the year. There’s also a defending Pac-12 Champion Huskies team who returns a pretty good quarterback of their own, as well as one of the best coaches in the nation in Chris Petersen looming should the Trojans run the table and make the Pac-12 Championship game in Santa Clara.
The USC offensive line will see a lot of new faces, with Zach Banner, Chad Wheeler, and Damien Mama now protecting quarterbacks in the NFL. While the Trojans have a ton of big lineman to step up and start, through fall camp none of the new options have stood out in practice. The receiver position is another spot with a lot of question marks, thanks to the departure of go to receiver and Darnold security blanket Juju Smith-Schuster and talented wide receiver Darreus Rogers to the NFL. While the USC tight ends are maybe the most talented they’ve ever had, led by Daniel Imatorbhebhe, a couple of outside threats must step up for him to get any space to work in the middle of the field.
The Trojans also have serious question marks at the kicking position, which is the one spot that can lose a team games in the blink of an eye. Both kicking prospects have struggled in camp, with Mike Brown making 2 of 6 in the last scrimmage, and Chase McGrath going 1 of 3. All three makes were around 40-45 yards out, and going 3 for 9 could pose a problem and really test Clay Helton’s decision-making ability.
Defensively, the Trojans are stacked in the front seven. They have 3 linebackers on the preseason Butkus Award Watch List in Cameron Smith, Porter Gustin, and Uchenna Nwosu. The issue isn’t how good those three are, but the lack of depth behind them. Injuries occur every year, and USC can’t afford one in the linebacker position because of the lack of viable replacements there.
That brings me to the Quarterback position, the most important position on the field. Sam Darnold has unbelievable talent, let me say that right now before I continue. He’s also still young, having only started 10 games for the Trojans in his college career. There was another PAC-12 quarterback in the last couple of years who burst on the scene as a first time starter, and regressed his second year in the conference. I’m not comparing Darnold to Josh Rosen, but to say he’ll regress some this year isn’t a stretch by any means.
Every single year we hear the same rumblings at the start of the college football season, and every year the USC Hype Train leaves the station as fast and as furious as the Hogwarts Express from Platform 9 ¾’s. Maybe it’s time to halt the hype train, at least until the Trojans prove they’re worth it.