2010 USC Trojans Football Preview, Futures Odds and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 8/4/2010
If there has been one recurring storyline to this college football offseason so far it always seems to involve USC. Whether it’s mocking the stupidity of the Trojans new coach or questioning the actions of the old one, considering whether they should keep old awards or wondering when they’ll be capable of winning awards again, there has been no shortage of news made by the Trojans and very little of it has been good.
All the attention has put the team under the microscope, and drawn the eyes of even casual college football fans. All of that public attention is going to make it difficult to for college football handicappers to get a grasp on this team this season. USC Trojans college football odds are going to be set to compensate for the likely negative public attention, but we won’t know for a few weeks of the season how they are going to perform and how they should be considered. The better grasp you can have of the team early on, the better chance you have of grabbing some value.
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There is another reason that this is going to be a strange season for bettors – the absence of a bowl game. It’s been a while since we have had a major conference contender that doesn’t have the incentive of a bowl game to play for. We can’t be sure how that will affect the team – especially if they hit some early hurdles and are frustrated. The suspension also creates a strange situation for betting – the Trojans are quite likely the best team in the conference, but you can’t bet on them at most major sports books to conference because they can’t be chosen by the BCS and that’s the criteria most books use. They are a very rare high-profile team without futures odds available for them. Given all of the attention they are getting the absence of the ability to take bets on them must be driving books crazy.
When you are trying to figure out some predictions for USC this year here are four things to consider:
Lane Kiffin - You obviously can’t have any discussion of the Trojans without talking about Kiffin. I certainly don’t want to be a guy who tries to defend Kiffin - I think he’s as much of an idiot as anyone else. I do think, though, that underestimating him could be a mistake. As dumb as the guy seems to be, and as bad as his 12-21 career coaching record with the Raiders and Volunteers is, there are at least a few reasons to give the guy credit.
For starters, he’s only 35 years old and he has already had three very high-profile coaching jobs. He wouldn’t keep convincing people to hire him - and the baggage he brings with him - if he didn’t have some game and the ability to sell a message. Second, he comes from a good football family. His dad is a defensive genius, and he just happens to be on the staff. Finally, Kiffin is a heck of a recruiter. Just think about it - despite all of the controversy and lack of coaching credentials, Kiffin put together a Top 5 recruiting class despite only taking the job in January. The class subsequently lost some pieces, but that wasn’t Kiffin’s fault. The guy hasn’t won anything on the field yet, but he’s obviously not a total waste of oxygen.
Matt Barkley - Barkley had moments of brilliance last year, and more - especially in the second half of the season - where he looked like the true freshman quarterback that he was. Overall his numbers weren’t overwhelming, but for a true freshman in a high pressure situation they were more than fine. Barkley is tremendously talented, and he’s going to make strides forward this year in confidence and composure, and likely in performance as a result.
The problem he has, though, is that he doesn’t have a lot of powerful weapons around him - at least not obvious, proven ones. Joe McKnight has gone pro, so the running game has to rely on senior Allen Bradford, a guy who only ran for 668 yards last year and doesn’t seem like a featured back. There are a lot of other options on the roster as well, but none of them are obvious home run types.
The defection of Damian Williams to the pros also means that the receivers aren’t as strong as they could be. The two likely starters only had a combined 54 catches last year. Top teams need at least one guy with more catches than that. Add in some big changes on the line - at least three new starters - and Barkley needs a lot of guys to step up in a hurry if this offense is going to look anything like we got used to from Pete Carroll.
Defense - I won’t spend much time on the defense because there isn’t much reason to be concerned. The defensive line is the best unit on the team and could potentially be very good. The linebacking corps is almost as deep and as good. The secondary lost some key pieces - most notably safety Taylor Mays - but they have lots of talent in place to take over. Add in the addition of Monte Kiffin as coordinator and this has the makings of a very good defense.
Schedule - Who you play and where you play them is at least as important as how you play. On that front the Trojans are in good shape. They are very likely going to start out 4-0 after opening against Hawaii, Virginia, Minnesota, and Washington State. The conference schedule is very manageable - they have Oregon at home, and the conference certainly doesn’t seem strong this year. They also play their traditional Notre Dame game at home this year. They don’t have to be great to put together a very nice record against this group.
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