Sam Darnold entered the season with expectations. Expectations of leading the Usc Trojans to the playoff. Expectations to win the Heisman Trophy. Expectations to set upon the path of being the top overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Nothing has gone to plan, though. USC has struggled, Darnold has fallen out of the Heisman Trophy race, and he may have played himself out of the top overall selection in next year's draft, too; Saturday night didn't help matters either.

Darnold struggles against the Fighting Irish

Saturday night was originally meant to be a showcase game for Darnold.

When USC was expected to be resurgent, Notre Dame was expected to be down on their luck, contemplating the firing of Brian Kelly at this point of the season. Instead, both teams are ranked and fighting for playoff survival. Darnold couldn't step up to the plate when the game started, as disaster struck immediately - first snap, first turnover; Notre Dame scored on the ensuing drive.

It only got uglier from there for Darnold. The USC quarterback only threw eight incomplete passes and tossed two touchdowns. But he also threw an interception, was sacked several times, and left the game under with an ankle injury, although it's possible coach Clay Helton simply wanted to stop the bleeding. The Trojans went on to suffer one of the worst losses in recent program history, ending their playoff hopes with a 49-14 debacle on the road.

If there were any NFL scouts in attendance to see Darnold, they likely left disappointed.

NFL prospects dim by the day

Before the season began, Darnold was seen in a class of three for top quarterback prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. Generally, he led the way and was flanked by either UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen or Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen.

All three have had their struggles this season, however, leading to the emergence of names like Washington State's Luke Falk and Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph.

Still, some are willing to cut Darnold slack. The USC offensive line has struggled to keep him upright this season. Additionally, it's clear he has the arm strength of an NFL quarterback, he just has to cut down on his risky decisions, an affliction that almost always affects young college quarterbacks. There's time on the schedule for Darnold to prove he's worthy of the Cleveland Browns or San Francisco 49ers, he just needs to seize his opportunities for the remainder of the year.