With next weeks two-day Pac-12 Media Event in close proximity, major conversations surrounding USC's chances heading into the Fall are nearing the ultimate Big Bang on what should be quite the jammed-packed year.
Cards are finally on the table, so to speak, and the Las Vegas Football betting sharks have spoken. Vegas predicts the Trojans over/under win total to be at 8.5 games, which is actually less than last year (granted it was a 13-game season), as USC faces both a strong non-conference and the once again improved Pac-12 Conference slate.
The Trojans 12-game schedule features non-conference tilts with Fresno State, Boston College and Notre Dame and will face Stanford, who currently shares the fourth best Pac-12 win/loss totals. Interestingly enough coach Sarkisian's former squad, the University of Washington Huskies, are projected to win nine games out of their 13 total.
Pac-12 rivals Oregon (10.5), UCLA (9.5) and Washington (9) all hold better projected win/loss records, and yet each have very challenging schedules both inside and out of conference play, which begs the question why Vegas Betting Experts may have slightly undersold the stock on USC Football?
Just for arguments sake, the Ducks host Michigan State and will play UCLA from the Pac-12 South. While Oregon does play four of their first five games at home, they do travel to Salt Lake City, Utah (tough place to win, just ask Stanford) and end the season traveling up to Corvallis for the Civil War Game; which they barely won in come-from-behind fashion last season and could even decide who heads to the conference championship.
The UCLA Bruins travel to both Charlottesville, Virginia and Austin, Texas and lets not forget however, that the Bruins also host Memphis. But unless Memphis all of a sudden lands five-star recruits, something they haven't really done since John Calipari led them to the Final Four, then the Tigers have no chance of beating UCLA at the Rose Bowl.
UCLA over the years has shown an unhealthy propensity in allowing subpar teams to stick around, but they should be in good shape this year. The Bruins then host Utah and Oregon, which could be hugely beneficial *although, they did lost, at home, to Arizona State in the de facto Pac-12 South Title Game. UCLA finishes the year with tough games against Washington (road), USC and Stanford (home) which we feel they will have 8 wins (8-2) heading into that final stretch.
Then you have the Chris Petersen led Washington Huskies, who return plenty of talent on the defensive side of the ball but are trying to overcome a lack of experience in some key positions on offense. Speaking of Pac-12 Media Day, Washington elected to send four-year veteran in Ben Riva, who no offense to the talented tackle, but in a conference dominated by outsanding quarterback play, having your best blocker speak doesn't really speak that well on your ability to move the football and win those tough road contests or even come from behind against solid competition.
Our own Jordan Schuchmann has chronicled USC's first nine games of the Steve Sarkisian era and has the Trojans starting the season 9-0 by earning some tough wins.
Now ten years removed from the Trojans last official National Championship, the final three games (Cal, UCLA, Notre Dame) post will be published later this week.
Not saying jump on the undefeated band wagon just yet, as even the defending National Champions Florida State are projected for 11.5 wins, yet all signs indicate that a healthy Trojan squad can win at least 9 games with this schedule. The Trojans will have to perfectly assemble both a new offense and new defense if they want to survive early-season tests against Stanford and Arizona State. We get that point loud and clear.
But from what we've heard through two months of players-led summer practices, plays are being installed at an all-time pace and everyone is accepting responsibility. That allows guys like Adoree' Jackson and JuJu Smith to learn right away, while guys who are expecting bigger roles this season like Chris Hawkins, Leon McQuay and George Farmer can continue to find their crux on the squad. Even the much-relied upon walk ons that looked (at times) overwhelmed in the moment last season, get even more chances to learn --both in success and failure-- before the start of Fall Camp.
Take the Win/Loss Totals in July for what you will, but our money is on USC to win more than 8.5 games. It may only result in nine wins, which would equal last year's regular season, but in the betting world that's all you need to succeed. And given improvements both personnel and intangibles wise on this roster, those lines will change very soon.