In their first game of the season, the USC Trojans were utterly embarrassed by No. 1 Alabama. USC lost, 52-6, and sputtered to a 1-3 start.

But that was back in September. October, November, December and January have been much kinder to the Trojans, who changed quarterbacks and haven’t looked back. USC won its final nine games of the season, including a 26-13 win at No. 4 Washington and a 52-49 win over No. 5 Penn State in the Rose Bowl.

You think the Trojans wouldn’t mind another crack at Alabama? Heck yes, they would.

“Yeah, I definitely think we can (compete with them),” USC quarterback Sam Darnold said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “But I honestly don’t like to think about things like that. Shoot, if we played them again, I think it’d be a lot more competitive. But hopefully we get an opportunity to play them next year or something like that. That would be awesome. But with that being said, I don’t like to think about things like that too much.”

Darnold, a freshman, was spectacular in the Rose Bowl. He went 33-of-53 for 453 yards, five touchdowns and one interception, helping USC overcome a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit.

This year’s national championship hasn’t even been played yet, but many people are already projecting that USC will make the playoff next season.

Darnold’s response, even in the face of all this sudden attention, belies his youth.

“I don’t think I’m going to change,” Darnold said in a one-game-at-a-time tone. “That’s just who I am. I stay the same no matter how much attention I get. I think that’s really our whole team’s mindset. I’m just looking forward to the years to come. With Coach Helton at the helm, I think anything is possible for this team.”

USC will be tested early next season. The Trojans host Tom Herman and Texas on Sept. 16.


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