By Austin Payne
Iowa drew a matchup against USC for their bowl game this year, ultimately defeating the Trojans in a game that had more storylines outside of it than within.
One of these programs has had a much more…interesting, year compared to the other, despite having a slightly worse record and less expectations surrounding it. USC is one of the more renowned programs in college football, but they have done anything but live up to their name for the last several seasons.
Coming into the year with several reasons for optimism should have given Trojan fans some hope for the 2019 season, most of them being related to the roster. In my preseason assessment of this team, i actually had them ranked as a top ten caliber squad with the potential to finish the year that way as well.
The reason for this was…mostly JT Daniels. Though he had a rough year statistically speaking, the flashes that were shown in 2018 as a true freshman gave us glimpses into a potential first round talent in the 2021 draft. Despite all of the praise surrounding their young QB, no one can predict injuries, and that’s exactly the fate that befell JT in his first game of 2019.
Expanding beyond just the quarterback position, this team is absolutely stacked at receiver. All of these guys may not be big name players on Sunday, but the talent and recruiting pedigree is all there for this group to be one of the best in college football. Amon-Ra St. Brown was highly recruited coming out of high school and immediately put that talent on display at USC, oh and i guess having a brother in the league doesn’t hurt your heritage either. Michael Pittman is a 6’4 powerhouse at receiver, and in spite of the injury to JT managed 1200 yards receiving in his senior campaign. Tyler Vaughns, Stephen Carr in the backfield, the bottom line is this team was loaded offensively.
All these skill position players undoubtedly helped freshman Kedon Slovis, who i can’t overlook, in his unexpected successful rookie campaign. Putting down 3,200 on 72% with a 28/9 score to pick ratio? We might actually have a QB controversy in LA, and i wouldn’t be surprised to see one transfer.
The major storyline though, Helton. USC’s head coach was already considered to be on the hot seat going into the year, only to be kept throughout it, temporarily…fired…and then informed he was still the coach. You’re out, wait just kidding, come back.
So…California is exciting, Iowa is just…consistent, consistently good. Iowa has clocked 8 wins every season but one since 2013 under head coach Kirk Ferentz. They’ve done this mostly through being known for a great defense, and playing a smart, ground and pound based game on offense. They’ve done it with numerous players like QB’s CJ Beathard, Jake Rudock, and now Nate Stanley. They’ve turned numerous defensive players into elite NFL prospects like Amani Hooker, Micah Hyde, Josh Jackson, Josef Jewell, Desmond King, and now AJ Epenesa. I could go on, this program has put numerous players into the league at almost every position on an annual basis.
USC has big name pedigree, Iowa has a working consistency pedigree. USC will take you to the party, but Iowa will build the empire with you. Alright i’ll end the analogies there, i forgot this wasn’t Buzzfeed. Back to the game.
Competitive and relatively tight throughout three quarters of the game, this proved to be a good matchup. USC again got hit by injury when Slovis exited the game. This, coupled with Iowa’s scoring efficiency (7 touchdowns on only 328 yards of offense) resulted in them playing a clean overall game that earned the win tonight. Iowa will finish the season at 10-3, while USC falls to a combined 8-5.
Storylines to watch in the aftermath of this relatively meaningless game will mostly be involving players and potential transfers. USC could have one or multiple QB’s leave the program this offseason, and Iowa State’s Nate is a senior who will definitely be picked up in the draft. Just on a hunch though…watch for USC to be better than Iowa next season, and potentially a sleeper team to knock on the playoff door.