We’ve already had a slew of incredible games in college football this season. We’ve seen incredible upsets, heartbreaking losses, and marathon games that you didn’t want either team to lose. It seems like every week this scenario is playing out right before our eyes. And in one conference in particular, the Pac 12, it’s not hyperbole. Every single week there has been incredible drama and fantastic finishes.
If you’re a college football fan and are active on Twitter, you’ve likely come across #Pac12AfterDark. When you see this pop up, you know to throw on your television because something exciting is about to happen. If you’re not active on Twitter, this is your introduction. Do yourself a favor and stay up a little later this Friday night. Tune in and watch the USC Trojans take on the Washington State Cougars.
I can’t guarantee that there’s going to be drama, but the odds seem to be ever in our favor. Both teams come into the game ranked in the top 20. On paper, this game looks like a pretty sizeable mismatch, with USC having a significant advantage in talent. But that’s what’s great about Pac 12 After Dark, and about college football in general.
Can Sam Darnold Cover Up Flaws?
From a scouting or NFL Draft interest standpoint, there are several reasons why you should tune into this game. On one side you have one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2018 class in Sam Darnold. With the struggles that some of the other quarterbacks in this class have faced this season, Darnold could easily be considered the presumptive first overall selection at this point. But he’s not without his flaws. How much will those flaws present themselves against the Cougars? If his previous games are any indication, at least a few times.
In every game that I’ve watched from Darnold this season, I’ve had the same complaint. He acts like he’s Aaron Rodgers back there, but he doesn’t have the arm strength to get away with it. Darnold rarely throws with his feet set from a stable platform. His feet are constantly moving, and it frequently causes a breakdown in his mechanics. Worse, for someone who already doesn’t have the strongest arm in the class, this lack of a stable base takes even more away from his throws. There are other, nit-picky issues I have with Darnold, but this is the major one.
Ronald Jones is a Top 5 Running Back
Darnold isn’t the only skill player for the Trojans you should keep your eye on, either. The more I watch the Trojans running back Ronald Jones, the more I like. Jones is one of the top running backs in a stacked class, and for good reason. At 6′ and 200 pounds, Jones give you just about everything you want in a running back. He’s got enough wiggle about him to make people miss, but enough power behind him to break tackles with great balance through contact. He’s been overshadowed a bit this season by another Pac 12 running back, Bryce Love, but Jones is a legitimate top 5 running back in this year’s class, should he decide to declare for the draft. With one year of eligibility left, it’s possible he could return to LA, but running backs especially take a risk in coming back. I would be surprised if we don’t see him in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Deontay Burnett is a Blossoming Star
Darnold likely wouldn’t be thought of as the top quarterback prospect in the draft if he was throwing to a bunch of bums. You have to have some talent around you to be thought of that highly. That talent comes predominantly in the form of Junior wide receiver Deontay Burnett. Burnett established himself as Darnold’s favorite target last season, but he’s elevated his play to another level this season. In just four games, Burnett already has 33 receptions for 462 yards and 5 touchdowns. Burnett is a solid route-runner and has great body control. His hands are exceptional as well. Don’t expect Burnett to come back to LA for a senior season. This kid has future NFL star written all over him. However, Burnett comes into Friday’s game nursing a shoulder injury and could be hampered.
Whether you’re into scouting prospects for the NFL draft, or are just a casual fan, this is the game for you. The Pac 12 has had some amazing games already in this young season, and the legend of “Pac 12 After Dark” grows by the week. That alone is enough to get me to tune in on Friday night, and you should tune in along with me. If for no other reason than it’s going to be some darn good football!