The SEC’s focal point for decades has notoriously been physicality and defensive-mindedness. The Big 12–offense and speed.
Last season out West, the PAC 12 began an upbringing of gunslingers from top to bottom that frightened just about anyone who held a defensive back position.
With many of those quarterbacks moving on with the NFL draft or graduation, the road, draped in cardinal red and gold, will be paved for Southern California’s Cody Kessler come 2015.
Prior to the 2014 season, the list of quarterbacks to watch was downright absurd. Names such as Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Oregon State’s Sean Mannion, Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly, and Washington State’s Connor Halliday all threw for over 3,000 yards for their respective clubs and lived up to any expectations that many had prior to the season.
All five will depart and will leave Kessler to lead the Trojans to a potential playoff birth in next year’s season.
Don’t believe the hype? Vegas sportsbooks seem to be infatuated with Southern Cal, marking the Trojans at 8/1 to win the title next season, behind only TCU and this year’s champs, the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Kessler chiseled his name as fourth in the nation in regards to total efficiency in 2014, recording 3,826 yards through the air, but what really stood out was his 39 touchdowns to only five interceptions and a phenomenal 69.7% completion rate to go along with his stat sheet.
His senior year forthcoming should be quite the ride for the Trojans fan base.
USC will heavily miss the presence of senior Nelson Agholor on the outside as he departs for the pros, but the skill position is reloading, not rebuilding.
Kessler will be armed with experience at the wide receiver slots, and the Trojans return three guys who caught at least 20 balls for 200 yards or more in JuJu Smith, Darreus Rogers, and Javorious Allen.
As for scheduling, we’ll see how Kessler pans out. USC, traditionally challenged by a few non-conference opponents, will see the likes of Arizona State, Oregon, and Notre Dame all distant from the prestigious coliseum, but Kessler’s more than proved his capability on the road.
Five games saw the Trojans away from home with Kessler throwing for 13 touchdowns and only three interceptions. What USC will hope to do, however, will be transferring tallies from the loss column to the win.
Three out of four losses in 2014 took place as visitors, and if USC wants a piece of the PAC 12 championship, let alone the title, Kessler will have to play above his standards.
With key pieces to the puzzle returning in 2015, USC will look to lean on the future NFL quarterback as he plans to gleam in the PAC 12. With all the big names out this year, Kessler will look to cement his name as one of USC’s best.
A tough feat, yes, but with his size, arm, and most importantly, his leadership, Kessler could be the recipe for bringing back the winning tradition to Southern California.
While certain PAC 12 fans wave farewell to their respected quarterbacks, Southern Cal will be welcoming its senior with open arms in 2015.