After beating the Arizona Wildcats last week, only one more win stood between USC and the glory of winning their division. USC needed to beat either the Colorado Buffaloes or the UCLA Bruins, and the Pac-12 South crown would be theirs.
Thankfully, the Trojans did not keep fans on their toes until the last game. Instead, they secured the Pac-12 South Division title for the first time since 2008 by coming out on top against Colorado, winning 38-21. They still face off against their rival UCLA, but win or lose, USC is guaranteed a spot in the conference championship game.
There is no denying that although the Trojans have a 9-2 record, their season has been filled with ups, downs, and unmet expectations. From the beginning of the season until now, USC as a team has struggled, but certain individual players have shined bright and greatly contributed to USC’s success.
Among those stand out players is running back Ronald Jones II. Jones has been an explosive and integral part of USC’s running game this season. His talent alone has gotten USC 1,224 rushing yards; making him the first USC player since LenDale White to have consecutive 1000-yard seasons. White played for USC from 2003-2005 which means Jones accomplished something that no other USC player has done in over a decade.
With 3,293 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns, Jones is considered by many to be one of USC’s greatest running backs. White himself said Jones is “the best running back in the country.” Whether or not the country agrees, Jones has certainly earned his way into USC’s record books.
Game after game, Jones has edged closer and closer to surpassing some of USC’s greatest of all time. It was the Colorado game that finally tipped the scales and landed him at number six on USC’s all-time rushing list; putting Jones in front of Heisman Trophy winners Mike Garrett and Reggie Bush, along with LenDale White.
Jones has proven himself to be one of the Trojans more dependable players. His speed and physicality make him a prized and invaluable member of USC’s offense.
Of course, Sam Darnold too has played a big part in USC’s accomplishments. We certainly cannot overlook his unfortunate cycle of turnovers, but time and time again, Darnold has come through for the Trojans. A season dominated by comebacks, the pressure has often been on Darnold to play savior for the Trojans in the final minutes of games. In those tough situations, Darnold has delivered by leading spectacular drives to the end zone.
Over the duration of this season, we have also seen Darnold improve his passing accuracy down the field. The better his deep-ball accuracy is, the more USC can make double digit yard gains which we saw happen against Colorado. It is also worth mentioning that the game against the Buffaloes was Darnold’s first game of the season without a turnover.
Darnold’s stats have declined since last season, yet he has helped lead the team to the Pac-12 championship game.
It is because of the talents of players like Jones and Darnold, that USC has been able to come out on top for nine games. They are definitely not owed all the credit, but USC certainly could not have gotten to where they are now without them.