Game-By-Game Predictions for USC's 2014 Season
No one saw it coming that coach Ed Orgeron would go 6-2 in interim duty between October and November 2013, even upsetting then-No. 5 Stanford. With prize new hire Steve Sarkisian as head coach, no more scholarship sanctions beyond this season and the whiff of Lane Kiffin’s embarrassments finally gone, conventional wisdom says USC will be a contender to win the Pac-12 South.
But “conventional wisdom” is often another way of saying “conventional ignorance." Surely USC will be an improved team, but it plays nine—count ‘em—nine teams that were in a bowl game last season. USC’s offensive line is not terribly deep, and it's lost a pretty decent cog in its running back by committee machine in Ty Isaac.
When you game out the game predictions, this improved Trojan team might end up showing no improvement in the win column. Let’s take a look at the schedule and see how this could be possible.
Aug. 30, vs Fresno State – Hey, this is who the Trojans just played! It’s a rematch of the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl, where USC made easy work of Fresno State a neutral site. It should be even easier at home, and without Derek Carr onhand. (Prediction: Win)
Sept. 6, at Stanford - It’s no fun opening your Pac-12 schedule on the road at defending champion Stanford. This is particularly challenging when you’re the team that handed Stanford their most humiliating loss last season and single-handedly wrecked their national title hopes. Sarkisian could really put his team on the map with a win here, but I have trouble imagining any scenario under which that happens. (Prediction: Loss)
Sept. 13, at Boston College – The Trojans are on national television (ABC) for the second consecutive week here. Boston College is a fine team by ACC standards, but don’t do well against ranked teams. Defensive end Leonard Williams figures to run wild with a national audience in a showcase win for the Trojans. (Prediction: Win)
Sept. 27, vs Oregon State - It’s back to the Pac-12 after an early bye, and the Trojans’ first home game in nearly a month. But a real risk of a letdown game here, especially with Sean Mannion and his eyes on the Pac-12 passing record. The Beavers will sneak up on a few teams this year, and I can easily see the Trojans being one of them. Statement game for Oregon State. (Prediction: Loss)
Oct. 4, vs Arizona State – The Sun Devils finished Lane Kiffin’s career at USC last year. No one will be fired at an airport this season, but the Trojans can’t compete with Arizona State’s fantastic offense. (Prediction: Loss)
Oct. 11, at Arizona – The Trojans defense has seen two outstanding offenses in the last two weeks, and defensive coordinator Clancy Perdergast will have given the fellows hell this week. Bad news for the Wildcats, who still may not have figured out their quarterback situation at this point. (Prediction: Win)
Oct. 18, vs. Colorado – The Buffaloes' program is still trying to find its footing, and Sarkisian and company will see an excellent chance to lay on points and improve their national rank and profile. (Prediction: Win)
Oct. 25, at Utah – Ditto here. This is a soft section of the Trojans’ schedule, and Utah quarterback Travis Wilson will himself on the Rice-Eccles Stadium synthetic turf time and time again. (Prediction: Win)
Nov. 1, at Washington State – A weak Cougar offensive line means another standout day for Leonard Williams, while a suspect Washington State defense lets Javorius Allen buck up and down the field all afternoon. (Prediction: Win)
Nov. 13, at Cal – Least competitive game of the year for the Trojans here, as Cal football is just in an awful mess. But this is USC’s only Thursday night game on ESPN, so you’ll still watch the whole thing. (Prediction: Win)
Nov. 22, at UCLA – Oh, those Bruins will be good this year. They may already won the Pac-12 South by now, but they’ll have no trouble getting their intensity up to play their cross-town rivals. (Prediction: Loss)
Nov. 29, vs Notre Dame – The Jeweled Shillelagh game is back at USC, and the most intriguing it's been in years. Both teams will be angling for bowl bids, but USC has a more experienced squad. Don’t be surprised if former USC running back Ty Isaac is playing against the Trojans in this game. (Prediction: Win)
When it’s all said and done, even if Cody Kessler is healthy all season, USC could end up with a similar record as it posted in 2013. If it’s any consolation, the Trojans would be likely to finish higher than last year’s No. 19 in the AP rankings.
2014 USC Projected Record: 8-4 (5-4)