USC plans to follow Clemson’s winning example to get title shot

The USC football team is — well, complicated is what it is. The Trojans entered the season with arguably more hype than any college football team, though much of that is due to Alabama’s presumed role as the nation’s No. 1 football team — no hype necessary.

Quarterback Sam Darnold’s face adorned nearly every college football magazine preview. Sports writers gushed over the talent in the secondary and the exceptional athleticism that Darnold would have in his receivers. Running backs Stephen Carr and Ronald Jones were thought to be one of the nation’s top duos in the backfield.

But despite the 6-1 record that, on its surface, looks really good, the Trojans have been labeled somewhat of a disappointment. Darnold has been inconsistent — but he wins games. Jones and Carr have been good, not great. The defense allowed 31 points to Western Michigan.

With each win, confidence seemed to erode, not build, in Los Angeles.

“We could always be better. Everybody knows that,” safety Chris Hawkins said after a sloppy but dominant 38-10 win over Oregon State on Oct. 7. “We’ve got to start dominating teams. It seems the college football world takes us lightly. No matter if we win by a little or a lot. So we’ve just got to start dominating teams.”

The Trojans have not done that. They lost by 3 points to Washington State on the road, and they survived a white knuckler against Utah at home, requiring a stop on a 2-point conversion attempt to escape with another win. But win they do.

Their style — shaky, mercurial, yet winning nonetheless — has called to mind a similar team from a year ago, one that ended the season as national champions: the Clemson Tigers.

Just as USC has struggled with inferior opponents, Clemson opened 2016 with a 6-point win over an Auburn team that finished the season unranked. The following week, Troy, the darlings that toppled LSU at home on Sept. 30, nearly stunned the Tigers at Clemson, no less.

Louisville came within a touchdown. Pitt — unranked, 5-4 Pitt — upset Dabo Swinney’s Tigers 43-42.

It didn’t matter.

Clemson went on to win its next five games, including a 31-0 shutout of Ohio State and a 35-31 thriller over Alabama in the national title game.

“There were plenty of games where they won on a field goal or they were within 5 points and won,” USC coach Clay Helton said of Clemson. Indeed. And by year’s end, Clemson was hailed, earning the title of best team in college football.

It wasn’t easy or smooth for the Tigers, just as it hasn’t been easy or smooth for the Trojans. But how they get the wins doesn’t matter, only the fact that they get them.

“If we go all the way and win a national championship, no one’s gonna look back in 10 years and be like, ‘Oh, well they beat Texas in double-overtime,’ ” tight end Tyler Petite told the LA Times. “They’re gonna see how many wins we have.”

The post USC plans to follow Clemson’s winning example to get title shot appeared first on Diehards.

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