USC had a bit of a rocky 2019, but it still managed to finish with eight wins even after opening with a 3-3 record.
Better things are expected with a tad more experience under center and that should mean another battle at the top of the standings in the Pac-12 South. The Trojans have +10000 preseason odds at 5Dimes to win the National Championship with Oregon the favorite coming out of the Pac-12.
The best thing going for USC is that quarterback is settled after JT Daniels entered the transfer portal in April. Kedon Slovis won Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year last season and while the lack of offseason practices hurts his chances to improve, fans are plenty excited of what the future holds for him and the offense.
Even with a running game that averaged 3.9 yards per carry last year, the Trojans still managed 32.5 points per contest. If they can figure things out on the ground, that would be a nice boost to the offense and it starts with a healthier core of running backs.
The good news for USC is that it only really lost one top skill player in Michael Pittman Jr. Otherwise, a slew of running backs return in Vavae Malepeai (503 yards), Stephen Carr (396 yards), Kenan Christon (373 yards) and Markese Stepp (307 yards).
Throw in receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown (1,042 yards), Tyler Vaughns and Drake London, and the talent is there for the Trojans. The expectations grow even more as four linemen with starting experience are also back.
Defense Needs to Improve
But while the offense should be one of the best in the Pac-12, the defense needs to improve on consistency after allowing 415 yards and 27.8 points per game. The addition of coordinator Todd Orlando will definitely change things up, but without a true spring, it could be hard for the group to show major improvements.
The defense may have had issues last year, but they were young so that means this group will have a decent amount of experience.
Guys like Jay Tufele and Drake Jackson should make a mark on the line, while linebacker Jordan Iosefa is back from a knee injury. The same goes for the secondary as corners Chris Steele and Olaijah Griffin should be better with a full year under their belts.
The issue for USC is that it opens the season against Alabama and the last time that happened it resulted in a 52-6 loss. That may not happen again, but no one will be banking on the Trojans winning that game.
The other unfortunate part to the schedule is trips to Oregon and Utah, the expected top competition in the conference. If you assume those three games will be losses, that means USC can’t fall asleep in the other nine, especially with trips to Stanford and UCLA, as well as the finale against Notre Dame.
The Trojans should have one of the better offenses around, but that may not matter unless the defense can get to another level. Given the schedule, it’s best to peg USC and Clay Helton down for another single-digit win season.
2020 USC Trojans Football Schedule
Score Predictions based on data from 2019
Sept. 5 USC 24 vs. Alabama 43 (AT&T Stadium, Arlington)
Sept. 12 USC 53 vs. New Mexico 16
Sept. 19 USC 34 at Stanford 24 (early preseason line USC -7.5)
Sept. 26 USC 28 vs. Arizona State 23
Oct. 2 USC 16 at Utah 33 (USC -2)
Oct. 10 USC 28 vs. California 19
Oct. 17 USC 41 at Arizona 29
Oct. 31 USC 38 vs. Colorado 22
Nov. 7 USC 18 at Oregon 38 (USC +3.5)
Nov. 14 USC 24 vs. Washington 31
Nov. 21 USC 40 at UCLA 29
Nov. 28 USC 23 vs. Notre Dame 34