Even though Washington was selected to be in the Final Four of the college football playoffs, no team was hotter down the stretch than USC and they proved it with Rose Bowl victory over Penn State.
Clay Helton was thought of as an odd choice to be Trojans head coach and after 1-3 start, the SoCal crowd on Twitter and other social media wanted to do away with him like a Carl's Jr. hamburger wrapper.
But Helton believed in his team and made a dramatic change at quarterback by putting in redshirt Sam Darnold and everything clicked.
Looking ahead to 2017 season, USC opened as an 8-1 college football odds, tied with Ohio State and Oklahoma and just behind Alabama (3-1) and Florida State (7-1).
As good as Darnold finished the season and how magnificent he was in the Rose Bowl, he figures to be even better with a year's experience and being able to work with his pass receivers in spring football and on his own time with those that live in Southern California.
One obstacle Darnold will have to deal with is rebuilt Trojans offensive line, which offered him tremendous protection this past season. While it might take a few games for USC to have a new O-Line gel, with Helton being an old school coach, being in the tradition of a strong running game, there is little doubt the Men of Troy will come together up front and create a fortress around their quarterback and opening up big holes for runners.
USC Defense Should Be Formidable
The Trojans had youth in the front seven and it showed early, but this group like the rest of the team improved and was attacking and physical in the last half of the season. With a year of experience, USC will be even stronger in 2017 and now able to have a full complement of recruits, depth is also becoming more available.
The secondary might have a couple defections, but the universities fortunes on the rise and with stability finally happening in the football program, elite players will be coming through the doors more regularly.
USC 2017 Schedule
The Trojans will open with Western Michigan and while the Broncos were undefeated until they lost in the Cotton Bowl, their quarterback, top wide receiver, and several defensive players all graduated, along with losing great young coach P.J. Fleck to Minnesota, who took several recruits who were going to Kalamazoo.
Two weeks later Texas is in L.A. and the semi-annual trip to South Bend is on the docket and they catch both programs trying to bounce back.
The Pac-12 schedule does not look foreboding, with home games Arizona, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, and Utah this year and only four away contests (Arizona State, California, Colorado, Washington State), avoiding Washington all together.
Way Too Early Prognosis
It already seems like a foregone conclusion the Pac-12 title game will be USC and Washington and as long as the Trojans do not slip up more than once, they should have a real chance at making Final Four.