USC’s playoff dreams ended Saturday night in South Bend when the Trojans were blown out from start to finish 49-14. A season that began with so much promise – playoff dreams, a Heisman Trophy for Sam Darnold – is over before Halloween.
Sure, they could win out – though, with no bye week and injuries mounting, that seems unlikely – and get to the Pac-12 title game, but the only way they’d make the playoff is if never-before-seen carnage hits the Big 12, Big 10 and ACC.
More importantly, this loss should signal the end of the Sam Darnold era at USC. There’s absolutely no reason for him to stay in school. The way this season has unfolded – injuries to his skill position players and offensive line – Darnold staying in school would be pointless. He’s going to be a Top 10 pick in the draft, and almost certainly go #1.
The NFL drafts QBs on skill set and potential. They’re not going to be scared off by interceptions. Jameis Winston threw 18 in 2014; he still went #1 overall. Jared Goff threw 13 in his junior year and still went #1 overall. Deshaun Watson threw 17 interceptions in 2016 and still was taken 10th overall. (He’s well on his way to breaking all of the NFL rookie passing records.)
Anyone saying Sam Darnold should stay in school needs to look at Matt Barkley. He stayed at USC when he could have come out, didn’t win the Heisman, the Trojans didn’t win a title, and he got injured. He fell to the 4th round, and missed out on millions.
Darnold isn’t a finishing product; few 20-year olds are. The talent is certainly there. Get him in with the right coaching staff, get him an offensive line, and he can be an NFL star.