USC enters the upcoming season on a high due in large part to their strong finish, which was capped by an exciting victory over Penn State in the Rose Bowl.
2017 should be the year the Trojans make the playoffs. That is, as long as all goes according to plan. After all, anything can happen: players can underperform, the injury bug can hit, other teams can play above their projected threshold, and so on.
There are a lot of things that factor into a team's success or failure over the course of an entire season.
Absolute worst-case scenario?
Sam Darnold has a season-ending injury.
The team finishes below .500, or worse.
UCLA goes undefeated (I can't even muster up the courage to think about this being a real possibility).
We are not here to discuss the “worst of the worst,” though.
What would be a “realistic” disaster of a season?
Most, if not all, of the success/failures USC will face this season rests on the shoulders of Darnold. Chances are he will continue to play well.
But if he doesn't get any help, then what? What if his offensive line plays inconsistently? What if he faces tons of pressure throughout the season, making life more difficult for Darnold? Perhaps Stanford's defense produces a rush against the Trojan o-line and they squeeze out a victory.
Okay, one loss. You can still make the playoffs with one loss.
What about a trap game? That contest on the road at Wazzu may be tough: the Cougars can put up points, it will be their fifth (!) home game (mind you, the game is on September 29), and, well, if there are any holes in USC's defense, it will be evident that night.
So that may be two conference losses before October.
That would all but spell the end of any shot at a playoff birth, barring any unforeseen and ridiculous run of losses for other top teams.
That, my friends, would not be good. Honestly, it could happen. For the most part the Trojans' schedule is pretty favorable – if there are any kinks in the armor, we will be made aware of it sooner rather than later.