As a true freshman, Josh Rosen of UCLA, was all the rage. On ESPN, the talking heads were calling him the ‘Rosen One’ and other such names. His first start against Virginia in 2015 was amazing and his first pass was a bomb and so impressive looking but was dropped by the receiver. It was right on the money.
By the time the season was over with, Rosen had thrown for a very impressive 3,669 yards and 23 Touchdowns.
Rosen suffered something of a sophomore slump with a lot of factors playing into that and then he was injured. He only threw for 1,915 yards and 10 Touchdowns before being lost for the season after 6 games. With him in the lineup, they were 3-3 so not exactly on fire. But, after Rosen went down, the
Bruins finished the last 6 games with former walk on Mike Fafaul at Quarterback with a 1-5 record.
Now, Josh Rosen is back for his junior season and suddenly he isn’t the talk of the town any more.
In the 2016 season, the USC Trojans started the season out ranked 20th. Their first game was in Atlanta against the top ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. These teams have had some classic games in the past. It was John McKay of USC versus Bear Bryant of Alabama. The legendary game of 1970 in Birmingham which supposedly opened the South to integration. USC won that game in a blowout, and the following year Bear and his Alabama players came to California and surprised USC with it’s new Wishbone offense and beat them.
Well, the 2016 game was not like those games at all. It was very forgettable with top ranked Alabama blowing out USC 52-6.
The Trojans, under head coach Clay Helton, got off to more than just a rocky start. They beat a weak Utah State, 45-7, before losing again to Stanford, 10-27. Helton made a switch at Quarterback, replacing hard working Max Browne, who had stuck around awaiting his turn at the starting job. Nobody on the national scene knew much at all about Sam Darnold and Helton inserted him on the road at unfriendly Utah and the Trojans lost again, 27-31.
Like cross town rivals, UCLA, the USC Trojans were also struggling and the dismal 1-3 start was the proof.
The Trojans started looking better after they hit rock bottom, but it helped that the Pac 12 was way down in 2016. Surprising Colorado was their toughest challenge of the rest of the regular season and
even conference champion and playoff team, Washington, was not much of a problem.
Sam Darnold was not the only difference and improvement, but he was the most obvious. Darnold was more mobile than expected and he was so cool under pressure. Cool Hand Sam
Watch the end of last year’s Rose Bowl, where Darnold was instrumental in leading the Trojans from behind to a very dramatic victory over a good Penn State team.
NFL scouts are drooling over Darnold and elite Quarterbacks are so hard to find. He’s the prototypical sized Quarterback at 6-4, 225 with a strong arm, mobility, leadership, and calmness under pressure. He didn’t start until the 4th game and he still passed for over 3,000 yards and he ran for 250 which in college includes sacks. The Trojans have had some talent in the Offensive Line, but they have had so many injuries in the past couple of seasons there that the play up front has been inconsistent.
The negative on Darnold is 9 interceptions which needs improvement, but he was still just a redshirt freshman.
Most people think he has become the leader for the Heisman Trophy and the top pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
2015’s freshman Quarterback phenom Josh Rosen, has no become an afterthought in the city of Los Angeles and across the nation.
Rosen is listed at close to the same size as Darnold at 6-4, 218. But, they are a completely different build with Rosen looking much like Jared Goff the recent first round pick of the Los Angeles Rams. He appears really thin and narrow across the shoulders. The concern might be whether he can hold up to the torture of being an NFL Quarterback. Goff never missed any playing time as a college football player.
Going into the 2017 season, Sam Darnold and his Trojans are ranked by most in the top 5, while Josh
Rosen and his Bruins will be unranked.
Both will more than likely declare for the NFL after this season, so 2017 might be the only time these guys face off. Without Rosen, the Bruins had no chance last season and the Trojans prevailed easily, 36-14.
It will be interesting to see if both of these teams can have a good 2017 season and it comes down to the end with Darnold versus Rosen for at least the Pac 12 South title.
Seemingly, USC will do their part to make this happen, but UCLA is the question mark. Needless to say, this won’t be another Game of the Century type game like 1967, but it could very well be a game worth watching if both Quarterbacks stay healthy and both teams play well this season.
USC head coach Clay Helton’s stock is on the rise, while UCLA head coach Jim Mora’s stock has taken a nose dive as badly as the stock market in 1929.
The Quarterbacks will be playing for more than pride as the NFL Draft offers big money and fame to Sam Darnold and possibly also to Josh Rosen.
Thinking these two programs go into their annual rivalry game with something on the line is probably just wishful thinking. It probably doesn’t happen. But, this could be a battle between two future 1st round draft pick Quarterbacks.