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Sam Darnold and the USC offense have the talent to challenge Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl

The Trojans’ offense is loaded.

USC v Colorado Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

With Ohio State missing out on a playoff berth, a matchup with the No. 8 USC Trojans is the next best option. The Trojans’ offense is loaded with talent, led by potential 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick Sam Darnold and a bevy of future NFL guys. With a little over three weeks until kickoff, we’ll have time to breakdown the ins and outs of the Southern Cal offense. But first, lets start with an introduction to their offensive playmakers.

Sam Darnold

Standing at 6’4, 240 lbs, Darnold already looks the part of a future NFL stud. Then when you add in his quick release, his ability to make all the throws and his mobility to extend plays, one can easily acknowledge that Darnold will be a top three pick if he declares for the 2018 NFL Draft -- with the potential to go No. 1 overall. After struggling earlier in the year when he threw nine interceptions in his first six games, Darnold has settled down and has thrown only three interceptions in his final seven games. The redshirt sophomore possesses more NFL traits than a guy like Baker Mayfield, making him the best quarterback that the Ohio State secondary has faced all season. We’ll take a deep dive into Darnold’s attributes next week.

Running Backs

Ronald Jones II (6’0, 200 lbs) - Jones has had back-to-back 1,000 plus-yard seasons, highlighted by this year’s 1,486 yard and 18 touchdown campaign. Jones relies on his vision and quickness to find the hole before he flips into another gear to separate himself from the pack. His speed is what makes him special, but he also has the ability to bang in between the tackles.

Stephen Carr (6’0, 210 lbs) - The highly touted five-star running back has not disappointed during his freshman year as a Trojan. The physical, yet explosive back has averaged 5.76 yards per carry and sets the tone when he’s called upon. He won’t carry the load by any means, but he’ll make some noise on the few touches he receives.

Wide Receivers

Deontay Burnett (6’0, 170 lbs) - Targeted 108 times on the season (per PFF), Burnett is Darnold’s clear No. 1 target. Burnett has corralled 73 of those 108 targets, and has only had three drops on the season, which gives him one of the better drop rates in the country. Running 83 percent of his snaps out of the slot, Burnett’s consistent hands and quickness makes him a trustworthy target for his quarterback.

Tyler Vaughns (6’2, 185 lbs) - After beginning the season in a rotation, the redshirt freshman broke out in conference play, leading the Trojans in receiving in back-to-back games against Washington State and Oregon State. Vaughns was the No. 2 receiver in the 2016 247 Composite Rankings and has really broken out this season with 51 receptions on the year. He’s a solid route runner who gains separation at the top of his routes, and finishes by being physical after the catch.

Steven Mitchell Jr. (5’10, 195 lbs) - Mitchell is the Johnnie Dixon of the USC receiving corps, as he suffered not one, but two ACL tears during his collegiate career. Mitchell has battled back and is currently third on the team in receptions with 41, while giving Darnold another consistent and reliable target.

Michael Pittman Jr. (6’4, 215 lbs) - Pittman entered the Pac-12 Championship Game with only 13 receptions on the season, but added seven receptions and 146 yards to his resume after roasting the Cardinal secondary. Stanford put their defensive backs on islands against the more talented perimeter players, and Pittman won early and often. His size will give the Ohio State secondary issues.

Tight Ends

Tyler Petite (6’4, 250 lbs) - Petite has transformed himself into a reliable target for his quarterback/ roommate. The tight end has a knack for getting open when Darnold is in trouble, and has became his safety valve. He has yet to drop a pass this season.

Daniel Imatorbhebhe (6’2, 215 lbs) - After essentially sitting out the first nine games of the season with a hip flexor injury, Imatorbhebhe has been on the field for the previous four. In those four games, he’s primarily been the second tight end behind Petite, but could have more of an offensive impact with the month layoff.