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NCAA Football: Should Sam Darnold be back in the Heisman Trophy discussion?

Sam Darnold got off to a rough start but has improved by leaps and bounds of late.

Feature 17 Nov 2017, 10:50 IST

Arizona v USC
Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold (14) looks to throw a pass against the Wildcats

Southern California Trojans (USC) sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold entered the 2017 college football season as the favourite to win the Heisman Trophy award, the most prestigious award in college football given to the sport's top player.

After stepping in for a USC team that were 1-3 last season and poised to miss a bowl game solely based on their record for the first time since the 2000 season, Darnold led them to a 9-3 regular season record and a 52-49 Rose Bowl victory over the Big Ten conference champion Penn State Nittany Lions, who were on a 9-game winning streak at the time.

As a result of that success, Darnold came into this season as the favourite to win the Heisman Trophy, and USC came in as contenders to win the College Football Playoff (CFP) championship. However, things did not go according to plan at the start of the season. Through six games, Darnold had already thrown nine interceptions. After the team's Week 8 blowout loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, they had a 6-2 record and their CFP hopes looked dashed.

But Darnold has looked better lately, and USC have picked it up as well. In the team's last six games, including their loss to Notre Dame, Darnold has thrown for 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions. USC now sit at 9-2 and in a great position to win the Pacific-12 conference championship, which would make them one of five Power Five conference champions. With only six Power Five conference teams currently having fewer than two losses, USC may not be out of the CFP mix after all.

So should Sam Darnold be back in the Heisman Trophy discussion given his recent performances and the success that he has led USC to as a whole? Maybe not as the frontrunner, but definitely as a potential finalist. Among Power Five conference quarterbacks, he is 6th in passings yards and 8th in passing touchdowns despite his rough start, and USC are ranked #11 in the latest CFP rankings.

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