USC is coming into this season with high expectations. The media projected them to win the South division in the Pac-12, as well as the Pac-12 Championship itself. While it’s nice to be a pre-season favorite, that doesn’t mean it’ll be a clear road to the Pac-12 Championship.
This season the Trojans have a lot of talent to win the Pac-12 South, but they also have some questions that need to be answered as well. What are some potential road blocks that stand between USC and the Pac-12 Championship?
Utah/Colorado/UCLA: While USC is the favorite in the south and have tons of talent, you can’t count out Utah, Colorado, and UCLA just yet. Those three teams could be a huge threat to the Trojans run to the Pac-12 title. Utah tends to give USC (and most of the Pac-12) fits from time to time, Colorado is coming off of a ten win season and has talent on both sides of the ball, and UCLA has their starting quarterback in Josh Rosen returning from injury. Any of those three can derail the Trojans chances at even making an appearance in the Pac-12 Championship game. Let’s not forget about Arizona State and maybe Arizona.
No Bye Weeks: On top of the three Pac-12 South teams that could trip up USC, their schedule don’t do the team any favors. USC will have no bye weeks this season. In recent history teams with no bye weeks tend to not do well. When teams get later into the season, injuries could happen leaving them almost no time to let their players recover. It hurt Cal and Arizona already, however USC has a ton of talent, but with College Football, you never know. It doesn’t help that they’ll have marquee games on back to back weeks (Stanford then Texas, Utah then Norte Dame, and Colorado before UCLA). If you ask USC or Clay Helton, they aren’t complaining at all.
Sam Darnold Slump: Sam Darnold had an outstanding season and essentially was the spark that the Trojans needed to save their season. This year he’s coming in with some high expectations and everyone is keeping an eye on him. If Darnold repeats or does anything close to what he did last season then USC will be special, but what if he regresses? The worst case scenario is the dreadful sophomore slump that tends to hit players. If Darnold were to take a significant step backwards, then USC could be in some serious trouble. That could hurt their shot at making the Pac-12 Championship game.
Injuries: Injuries is a part of the game and really nobody will show sympathy for a team with numerous injuries. Health will be a huge key for the Trojans this season, especially with no bye week. This has been an issue for USC for a while, especially when the depth wasn’t there due to sanctions. If injuries continue to pile up then it could cost the Trojans, especially if a key starter or two goes down to injury.
Youth: USC will have A LOT of youth on their side which could be a positive and a negative. The inexperience could play a factor in some games at times. The Trojans will have 50 scholarship players that will be underclassmen this season. It’s not a major roadblock for USC given the potential and talent these players have, but it’s a roadblock.
The “Trip-Up” Game: If you’re a USC fan then you know why this is here. Every year USC tends to lose a game that they shouldn’t have loss. I can’t count how many times this has happened to the Trojans over time. Last season Utah was that game that kept the Trojans out of the Pac-12 Championship game (Not that we complained due to the Rose Bowl.). Why is this a roadblock? Say for instance USC loses to Cal or Oregon State then go on to lose to Utah, Colorado, or UCLA. That loss to Cal or Oregon State could be the deciding factor. Now there are multiple ways that the south could play out, but you get the point. How else could it be a roadblock? Let’s put it this way, An opening season loss to Western Michigan could possibly set the tone for the season and the last thing you want is to go into your game against Stanford with a loss to Western Michigan. Add a loss to Stanford, and then you go into the huge match up with Texas as 0-2. Add the loss to Texas……You get the point.