For anyone who took USC Trojans quarterback out of the Heisman Trophy race and off of their NFL Draft Big Board after last weekend’s loss to Stanford, it’s safe to say that he has proven that to be a bad decision. Kessler looked absolutely dominant in last night’s 42-14 win over the Arizona State Sun Devils, completing 19 of 33 passes for 375 yards and five touchdowns.
Granted, there are sure to be some haters who will say that Kessler’s success this year and last comes from playing in coach Steve Sarkisian’s offense, which calls for quick reads and short passes, and that argument has plenty of merit. But one must take into account that Kessler, small for his position at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, has a tremendous football IQ that sets him apart from other prospects. He thinks quickly on his feet and though he can’t do much with his legs, he makes up for it with his arm in more ways than one.
Take his first touchdown of the game last night, for instance. On a third and long situation in the first quarter, Kessler found two-way sensation Adoree Jackson on a short swing pass, and Jackson took the ball 80 yards to the house for a touchdown. Though the throw was short and Jackson was the star of the play, Kessler’s ability to work in non-ideal situations shone through.
Kessler did it again in the second quarter, throwing a similar pass to Steven Mitchell for what turned into a 27 yard touchdown.
Kessler would find JuJu Smith-Schuster for two short touchdowns of four and 10 yards later, and then Isaac Whitney for a 10 yard score. And yet, despite this excellent performance in a Pac-12 game, Kessler doesn’t get nearly as much attention as dual-threat options like Ohio State’s Cardale Jones and TCU’s Trevone Boykin when he is, arguably, better than both.
The fact is that while quarterbacks who can go deep are all well and good, it’s the ones who can read defenses and pick and pop their way to putting points on the board that should be getting our attention. It may not seem like it, but Kessler can easily put the Trojans back in the College Football Playoff picture if the team continues to win handily and doesn’t crack under the pressure.
In doing that, Kessler can also up his Heisman and NFL draft stock as spring draws closer and his senior season wraps up. He isn’t the first overall pick by any means, nor should he be, but this young man has a boatload of potential and should be watched accordingly over the rest of the season.
Kessler and his teammates now will enjoy a bye week before returning to the field to take on the Washington Huskies on October 8, where the magic will hopefully return.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports