The 2021 college football season will be a true testament for the future of Clay Helton and the USC Trojans.
Although USC has been presented with a favorable schedule, there are still a few bullets the team needs to dodge, if they want to finish atop the Pac-12 once again.
USC will not play Oregon or Washington this year, which helps their odds of solidifying a strong hold over the Pac-12 south. They also have the luxury of playing seven home games and only five on the road. David Cobb of CBS Sports predicts that the USC will finish with 8.5 wins and two losses, making them a presumed frontrunner in the Pac-12 this season.
Wins: San Jose State, Stanford, at Washington State, Oregon State, at Colorado, Utah, Arizona, at Arizona State, at California, UCLA, BYU
Losses: at Notre Dame, UCLA
"It might be tempting for USC fans to fixate on the projected loss to UCLA on Nov. 20, but don't let that upset prediction spoil the rest of the goodies," Cobb writes.
"The Trojans have a manageable schedule that misses both Oregon and Washington out of the Pac-12 North, which makes this team an easy pick to win the Pac-12 South -- even if it loses to the crosstown rival Bruins. Reaching the College Football Playoff still seems like a longshot, but these Trojans have the firepower to make some noise in the conference and nationally."
Cobb predicts the Trojans will lose their road game to Notre Dame on October 23, and possibly another to crosstown rival the UCLA Bruins on November 20. Last season USC did not play the Fighting Irish due to COVID-19. The Trojans were restricted to play teams strictly in the Pac-12 conference, while Notre Dame joined the ACC for one season.
The Fighting Irish lead the all-time series 49-36. The last matchup between the two was Oct 12, 2019, and the Trojans lost to Notre Dame 30-27. USC played UCLA last season and defeated the Bruins in a late fourth quarter victory, 43-38. USC leads the all-time-series between the two, 49-32-7.
Beyond winning the Pac-12 south, USC's biggest goal and challenge will be qualifying for the CFB Playoff which has been famously secured by most Big 10, ACC or SEC teams. Since the selection committee only chooses four finalists, the Trojans need to keep their losses to a minimum, if they want to even be a contender for the national title.
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