USC Preview


The Trojans are fresh off their first conference title in 9 years…and I do mean fresh, as they had a bye week prior to their 31-28 win over Stanford.

USC quarterback Sam Darnold improved his record as a starter to 20-3 with that victory. Plus, he notched his 11th career game with 300 or more yards passing.

Those numbers help explain why the 6’4″, 200-pound signal caller won the 2016 Archie Griffin Award at the Touchdown Club in Columbus.

Without receivers Ju Ju Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers, Darnold’s stats actually dipped slightly in 2017.

His redshirt sophomore season, however, has still been impressive. Darnold has 3,787 yards and 26 touchdowns. His completion percentage stands at 63.7 percent, but it’s 69.9 percent against teams ranked in the Associated Press poll. He’s thrown 12 interceptions. Only four of those happened after September. And he’s tied with Ohio State’s JT Barrett (among others) for 25th nationally in passes of 40+ yards.

USC has balanced their pass game with the running of Ronald Jones II, who is riding his second straight 1,000-yard season. He’s been incredibly consistent, averaging 6.1 yards per carry this season and last, and that has him as one of the top rushers in school history. The four players ranked ahead of him are all Heisman winners, or Heisman runners-up.

All in all, this has the Trojans scoring 34.5 points per game. If they have one weakness on offense, it is that they have given up 22 sacks this season.

On defense, it’s been high risk, high reward for the men of Troy. They’re one of the top teams in the country in sacks, and have four players who have brought down the opposing quarterback at least six times.

They have forced eight fumbles, while grabbing 16 interceptions.

However, they are also 77th nationally in total defense. They are 118th in giving up chunk plays of 20+ yards. Finally, they have sometimes struggled against mobile quarterbacks. Both Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush (106) and Arizona’s Khalil Tate (161) gouged the USC defense for 100 yards or more.

When things are going well on defense, the Trjoans are paced by Butkus Award semifinalist Cameron Smith; sacks-leader Rasheem Green; First-Team All-Pac 12 defensive back Marvell Tell, Jr.; as well as senior linebacker Uchenna Nwosu, who has 43 solo tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 13 passes broken up, and a fumble recovery.

One last note on USC? They have blocked four kicks this year.

Ohio State plays the Trojans in the Cotton Bowl December 29th at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.


Quick Update

Longtime “Schmidt Heads” know that I used to post here quite frequently. As 97.1 The Fan’s website took off, I moved my content there.

Now that the company has eliminated my position, I will be sharing my thoughts and research at “Fear The Hat” once more.

But it will take a bit for me to start that up.

Until then, enjoy this series of stories I did for The Fan.

Columbus Ohio’s Unsung Sports Heroes

Hooker, Line, and Sinker

I’ve been reading a lot of criticism regarding the beltway press and their coverage of the upcoming presidential election.

It’s made me think quite a bit about the ways that sports media might be coming up short in our coverage.

After floating this thought to my Twitter followers, I got a lot of good feedback.

People suggested that we need greater diversity, a greater willingness to dig for root causes, more impartiality, less sensationalism.

My personal pet peeve is that sports reporters, and I am not immune to this, tend to stick to established narratives.

I’ll give you an example from this week: After Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes beat Bowling Green 77-10 in the season opener, Meyer gushed about the performance of defensive back Malik Hooker. It was amazing, Meyer said, that Hooker had gone from a player who once floated the idea of leaving the program to the guy who intercepted two passes in his first collegiate start.

When Hooker himself sat down with the media, he confirmed that he had discussed transferring with his Mom, but she talked him down.

The narrative of this type of comeback is well worn by now, so we accepted it uncritically.

Was Hooker sincerely considering bolting? No, he eventually clarified.

He pointed out that he isn’t the type of man to quit, he’d never cleaned out his locker, never even discussed the idea with anybody but his Mom.

Meyer later conceded that 95-99 percent of young players blow off steam like this.

But, oh, the narrative.

The idea of a guy with one foot out the door turning things around is much more compelling than the story of a player who was simply a bit frustrated.

We talk about how the athletes we cover battle complacency. I’m going to try harder to do that myself. At the same time, I will admit, it’s sometimes hard not to fall for these types of stories Hooker, line, and sinker.

The Heart Is A Compass

To the people of Orlando,

The heart is a compass, and LOVE is its True North. Those who live by this truth will never be defeated, even in death.

Now there are survivors today to whom these warm words will bring cold comfort, so I say this, too: Our tears flow for you; our prayers go with you; and–most importantly–our resolve to stand strong against those who would do this evil has never been stronger.

Throughout time there have been those who thought there was power in destruction. They have been wrong. Despite them, life ENDURES.

ISIS will someday learn they simply cannot murder everyone who disagrees with them.

They will also discover that:

You may be born to love whom you love, but it is always a choice to hate.

That being the equal of a woman does not make you less of a man.

That science is not the enemy of faith, rather it’s the magnifying glass God gives us to examine the mysteries of the universe.

And the world is big enough to share with those who don’t share your worldview.

To the people of Orlando, God bless you.

Today you are hurting. Tomorrow you’ll be standing on the right side of history.

As Luck Would Have It