Three takeaways from USC’s Pac-12 championship win over Stanford

USC beat Stanford 31-28 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara Friday night to claim the Pac-12 championship. Here are three takeaways from the game: 

1. Darnold delivers

Whether or not he goes pro, Sam Darnold capitalized on Friday night’s opportunity to prove again why he could be a top quarterback prospect heading into the 2018 NFL Draft.  

Leading the Trojans to their first score via a nine-play, 70-yard drive, Darnold, rolling to his right, dropped a perfect ball over the defender and into the hands of Daniel Imatorbhebhe for a 48-yard gain. A few plays later, Darnold showed mobility and grit while scrambling seven yards for another first down. The drive, which culminated with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Michael Pittman Jr., exemplified Darnold’s multitude of skills which figure to make him a fine quarterback at the next level. 

A lot has been made this season of Darnold’s tendency to turn the ball over.  But, really, he’s corrected the problem as the season has progressed. After throwing nine interceptions in USC’s first six games, he’s thrown just three in the last seven.  

In the Pac-12 championship game vs. Stanford, Darnold completed 17 of 24 passes for 325 yards, two touchdowns and no picks, a performance more representative of the second half of his season than the first.

2. Imagine if Bryce Love were actually healthy

Stanford running back Bryce Love has continued to pile up ridiculous statistics, game after game, even while playing with a bad ankle for much of the season. Friday night was no exception.  

He took just five reps in practice this week, and it was clear the ankle was still bothering him in this conference title tilt. Love, unable to put any weight on his foot following a low tackle in the fourth quarter, came out of game momentarily and returned a few plays later after getting it taped up.  

Love toughed it out, but anyone watching the game had to be wondering if Stanford would have taken the lead on the drive had Love not tweaked his ankle. Instead, USC stopped running back Cameron Scarlett on a fourth-and-goal to maintain a 24-21 lead.

Still, Love finished with 125 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. 

3. No Pac-12 representation in playoff is not necessarily a good thing

Ranked No. 10 by the Selection Committee ahead of the conference championship games, it’ll be nearly impossible for USC to get an invite to the College Football Playoff, no matter what kind of craziness ensues Saturday. The Trojans are 11-2, with a three-point loss at Washington State and a blowout loss at Notre Dame, the latter the death knell of the season. 

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