A (Late) Week 2 LA CFB Recap: Calm After the Storm

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It was another 2-0 week for LA college football—albeit less dramatic. After completing an all-time comeback to beat Texas A&M last week, Josh Rosen and UCLA drubbed Hawaii 56-23 in the Rose Bowl, and on the other side of town, USC exorcised its Stanford demons as Sam Darnold led the Trojans over the Cardinal 42-24.

Let’s start in Pasadena, where Chosen Rosen followed up a four-touchdown night against the Aggies by ringing up five scores on the Rainbow Warriors. The junior was nearly flawless on Saturday: Just three of his passes landed incomplete, and he finished the day 22 for 25 with 329 yards. On the season, Rosen has nine touchdowns, no picks, and 820 yards.

In the latest odds for the Heisman Trophy race, Vegas still puts Rosen behind a host of other players (he’s currently +1000), which is a little surprising. He’s tied for the Division I-A lead in passing touchdowns, and he’s fourth in passing yards. Then again, it’s hard to give the Bruins too much credit for smacking around Hawaii—a team that barely beat FBS whipping boy UMass in Week 1. Even tight end Caleb Wilson completed a pass last weekend, and it went for 39 yards.

Nevertheless, No. 25 UCLA is 2-0 with wind in its sails. The team broke into the AP poll this week, and now it looks forward to a date at Memphis on Saturday. It’s a trap game of sorts: The Tigers have had an extra week of rest after their game at UCF got canceled thanks to Hurricane Irma, and their offense will challenge the Bruins a lot more than Hawaii’s did. It could be another shootout a la the A&M game, but it’ll be even more difficult to come out on top on the road. With a perhaps unexpectedly strong start to the campaign, however, UCLA fans might be dreaming big—and expecting much.

Moving downtown, the Trojans are also 2-0. They looked shaky at best in Week 1 against Western Michigan but rebounded resoundingly when the Cardinal came to town.

Darnold’s strong night earned him Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honors, but he still doesn’t look quite like the quarterback who led USC to that incredible Rose Bowl comeback in January. Coming into this season, Darnold had never thrown two picks in a home—now he’s done it in back-to-back weeks. He did add 316 yards and four touchdowns, so Trojan fans aren’t complaining.

Still, Darnold is paying for his aggressiveness this year after arguably getting away with it a lot last season. And the USC defense looked unconvincing to start the game before tightening things up. There remains a legitimate chance this team is smoke and mirrors, but beating a traditionally strong Stanford program was a big step in the right direction after the Trojans’ discouraging Week 1 against Western Michigan.

You’d expect them to make easy work of Texas, not necessarily because USC is great, but more because the Longhorns look awful. They’re coming off a 56-0 win over San Jose State, but it’s hard to forget their opening-day debacle against Maryland. Who knows? Maybe Week 1 was actually a fluke, and Tom Herman will rally Texas to an upset on Saturday. But it’ll be tough to pull off in a rocking Coliseum that will be sold out for the first time since 2013. Last week’s crowd was one of the loudest I’ve heard in recent memory at USC, forcing multiple Cardinal false starts, and there will be an additional 15,000 fans this weekend to fill all 93,607 seats. The Longhorns will come in as 15.5-point underdogs, so Vegas doesn’t love them, either.

But as a parting thought going into Week 3—we all remember the last time the high-flying Trojans took on a motivated, underdog Texas squad. Avert your eyes, USC fans:

Enjoy the weekend!

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