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#CFBTop25: No. 1, Sam Darnold, QB, USC

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AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

No player has generated buzz this offseason like Sam Darnold.

His rise began about a month into last season, when he was tabbed as USC's starting QB, and he took a star turn in the Rose Bowl, lighting up the Penn State defense for 453 yards and five touchdowns in a thrilling comeback win for the Trojans.

At the NFL Scouting Combine this spring, Darnold was the player evaluators were talking about, even though he wasn't participating in the event. analyst Daniel Jeremiah has likened Darnold to Andrew Luck when Luck was at Stanford. UCLA coach Jim Mora has compared Darnold to Tony Romo, and Darnold's own QB coach has said Darnold reminds him of Brett Favre.

Yes, Darnold is the darling of the football universe entering 2017. The scary thing for opposing defenses is the possibility that he will live up to the hype.

Pulling back the curtain on the vote

Darnold received votes from all seven CFB 24/7 experts, including two No. 1 votes. He's one of nine players who received a vote from every analyst, and he edged Penn State RB Saquon Barkley by two points for the top spot in the #CFBTop25 countdown.

CFB 24/7 is marking the days to the start of the 2017 season by counting down the top 25 players in college football.

What some of our analysts are saying about Darnold

"Darnold is a special player with the ability to raise the level of play of others around him. He can make every throw and he definitely has the 'it' factor." -- Daniel Jeremiah

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"The athletic gunslinger possesses the size, arm talent and leadership skills that scouts covet in a franchise quarterback. Darnold is a charismatic leader with a knack for making big plays in key moments." -- Bucky Brooks

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"An impressive array of maturity, and ability, with a healthy dose of daring. Makes throws and plays from all angles, all situations. How did he not start the season opener last year?!" -- Charles Davis

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"I'm not really worried too much about Darnold's wind-up because his motion is expedited and the ball ends up coming out fairly quickly. He's big, mobile and poised. It's time to check those boxes for another season now." -- Lance Zierlein

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"USC has some re-tooling to do on the offensive line, but if Darnold gets the necessary protection, his active nine-game winning streak could get a lengthy extension." -- Chase Goodbread

Where do fans rank Darnold?

We asked Twitter users whom they considered the best player in college football. Darnold received enough support to finish fourth in the fan vote. Three other stars -- Penn State RB Saquon Barkley (first), Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield (second) and Louisville QB Lamar Jackson (third) -- finished ahead of Darnold in the fan vote. Fourth is a highly respectable finish, no doubt, but it's somewhat surprising that he didn't finish higher among fans. It goes to show that despite the buzz, not all followers of the game are on the Darnold bandwagon.

Follow College Football 24/7 on Twitter @NFL_CFB.



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