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2018

USC Trojans

College Football

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USC won the Pac-12 last season, yet still disappointed with an 11-3 record. That’s mainly because the Trojans had CFP aspirations and they ended up losing to Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl. With Sam Darnold gone, expectations are lower with their early over/under at 8.5 wins (at 5Dimes Sportsbook). Their National Championship odds of +5000 place them just below Washington and Stanford in the Pac-12, although that means they’re favorites to win the South.

But to win the south, Darnold’s replacement has to get through a gauntlet of games in September. Freshman JT Daniels, who reclassified and will be 18 years old for the entire season, is the projected starter, although the spot won’t be decided until the fall with Matt Fink (last year’s backup) and freshman Jack Sears also in the picture. Either way, the offense will likely take more of a run-first approach with a new quarterback. Stephen Carr (363 yards) is set to be the guy, although he battled injuries throughout last season and this spring. That being the case, Vavae Malepeai and Aca’Cedric Ware should see a decent amount of touches. For the offense to reach 30 points per game again, it will need the line to improve, which is possible with four returning starters. Freshman wide out Amon-Ra St. Brown will get a lot of hype as the top recruit, but Tyler Vaughns (51 receptions) and Michael Pittman have experience in the offense.

The Trojans will also need more consistent play from the defense if they want a chance at the conference title. The defense was a major issue in losses and even in some wins got exploited and that resulted in 26.1 points per game allowed. The consensus out of the spring is that the group should improve in Clancy Pendergast’s third season as coordinator. The majority of the back end returns in addition to Christian Rector on the end. If this group doesn’t get better with seven returning starters, it’d be a surprise. The secondary could be one of the better ones in the conference if everything goes to plan for guys like corner Iman Marshall and safety Marvell Tell. Linebacker is also stacked with Cameron Smith and Porter Gustin expected to be forces. USC never really had a dominant defense in 2017, but that may have to change with a new quarterback this year.

Things get complicated early for the Trojans with early trips to Stanford and Texas followed by a game against Washington State, a team that beat them last year. The Pac-12 South may be down, but starting the season at 2-2 or 1-3 is a possibility given the quarterback situation. That said, the schedule opens up after those games even though road contests at Arizona, Utah and UCLA are far from freebies. It’ll be hard to take the over on 8.5 wins only because of a difficult early schedule with an inexperienced quarterback. The Trojans will try and rely on their running game and defense early, but that can only take you so far against better teams. That said, none of their opponents are truly elite and all of them can be won as long as Clay Helton’s new quarterback doesn’t throw the game away. Reaching the Pac-12 title game is a real possibility, but the CFP is out of the question for now.

 

2018 USC Trojans Football Schedule

Sept. 1 vs. UNLV

Sept. 8 at Stanford

Sept. 15 at Texas

Sept. 21 vs. Washington State

Sept. 29 at Arizona

Oct. 13 vs. Colorado

Oct. 20 at Utah

Oct. 27 vs. Arizona State

Nov. 3 at Oregon State

Nov. 10 vs. California

Nov. 17 at UCLA

Nov. 24 vs. Notre Dame

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