Tough games: @Stanford, @Texas, @Utah, Notre Dame
Nationally, USC is flying a bit under the radar and I think that will be a nice change of pace for them. Washington seems to be garnering all the attention, as well as some Bryce Love / Stanford chatter. Clay Helton has had an up and down tenure and with this being year 4 for him, he no doubt has a lot to prove people. But don’t underestimate this team or write them off now that Sam Darnold is gone. USC recruits well and they will be talented again this year.
As far as the conference schedule, things are set up quite nicely. They avoid both Washington and Oregon out of the North, leaving their toughest conference game to be @ Stanford in week 2. Even if they were to lose that game, I don’t see where their next conference loss comes from. Besides, who in the South is going to replace them at the top of that division? Utah? Arizona?? Lord knows Chip Kelly has a long way to go with his Bruins. I venture to say USC being in the Pac-12 Championship game is virtually a lock. If you take them at 4 to 1 now, I imagine that will be a much more lucrative payout than the moneyline against Washington or perhaps Stanford or Oregon in the championship. I see a lot of value in taking this line today.
When you start breaking down this team by position, it becomes apparent that they don’t have many weaknesses. Defensively they are solid. Their linebacker core is stellar (led by senior 3rd team AA Cameron Smith) and the defensive backfield is one of the best in the whole country. On offense, the line returns 4 starters so I have to assume that unit will be improved. At receiver they have a heap of young talent (led by new freshman Tyler Vaughns), all they need is a competent quarterback to put the ball in their hands. There in lies the biggest question mark as there is no proven quarterback on the roster. However I’m confident that this will solve itself. USC has been a quarterback factory of recent, this staff certainly knows how to develop players at that position.
Projected Conference Record: (8-1) loss @Stanford