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Why the USC Trojans are favored to win the Pac-12 South

What makes Southern Cal the toughest out in the unpredictable South?

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual - USC v Penn State Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Since the Pac-12 became, well, the Pac-12, the South Division has been one of the most unpredictable things in all of college football.

In six seasons, five different teams have won the South, with the USC Trojans being the only team to win the division twice. However, UCLA is the only school to represent the South in the Pac-12 Championship Game twice thanks to Reggie Bush or something.

Now we’re on the brink of the 2017 season, and once again, USC is the overwhelming favorite to win the division. So what do Trojan fans expect from this team? We asked Brendan Kearney over at Conquest Chronicles about this year’s edition of USC and what he expects to see from them. You can read my answers about Arizona football for them in here.

1. Are USC fans expecting this team to be a College Football Playoff contender?

Kearney: I believe Trojans fans are expecting a run for the playoffs. I think this is one of the years where "everything is coming together” for USC. I say this because they:

- closed out last season as the hottest team in the country

- return several key players

- motivation to win Pac-12 title

- assumed to be Darnold’s final year

- second year in system for both offense and defense scheme (meaning players are more comfortable having mastered the scheme)

- stud Junior LB’s in Cameron Smith and Porter Gustin up the middle

They have all the pieces able to make a title run, and fans are looking forward to seeing their name in the playoff picture throughout the regular season.

2. Does Sam Darnold remind you of any of the numerous past USC greats at quarterback?

Kearney: I would have to say Carson Palmer. Just the poise and accuracy really stand out. Palmer and Darnold are not considered dual-threat QBs by any means but they use their legs so well to extend plays and avoid rushers, they’re almost like identical twins. I think you’ll see Darnold’s numbers resembling Palmer from his 2002 season at USC. Watch this guy move in the pocket and then watch this guy and it becomes evident.

3. What do you expect to see from Stephen Carr this year?

Kearney: By the time this game comes along, I think Stephen Carr will be seeing significant carries in a good Trojans rushing attack.

I expect him to be used the way Leonard Fournette was used his freshman year at LSU. Fournette took 187 of the 621 total carries that season (and rushed for 1,034 yards I might add). He was originally mixed in behind senior backs Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard who combined for 1,018 yards on 202 carries. Then towards the end of the season he began to receive a great workload game after game.

Carr is the 20th ranked player overall out of the 2017 recruiting class, and it is already being reported he is seeing first team reps in recent practices and “is ahead of his time right now” according to OC Tee Martin.

However, we can’t forget about Ronald Jones II, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season on limited carries. He should lead this rushing attack until Carr has adjusted to this level of play, and by the end of the season I think USC will have a deadly two-headed monster at RB.

I guess my expected statline for the season would be: 105 carries, 650 yards, 5 TD, 6.2 YPC

105 carries would be about 25% of the total carries (based on USC’s rushing stats last year) Fournette got 30% his freshman year, plus I think 6.2 YPC (Fournette 5.5YPC Frosh year) is a realistic number, not too high nor low.

4. Who do you see being the Trojans' biggest threat to winning the Pac-12 South?

Kearney: As of right now, I would say Colorado is the biggest challenge in the South (no offense to Arizona). We’ll see how they move forward after their dream season last year. That challenge can change though. While I don’t think UCLA will have a great year, they have enough talent on their roster to pose a threat to the Trojans if they start playing good football. Never count out Josh Rosen.

5. Do you like O.J. Simpson?

Kearney: lol

Thanks to Brendan for reaching out to do this preseason Q&A trade and be sure to check out Conquest Chronicles for USC coverage all year.