2013-14 USC Trojans Predictions and College Football Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 7/23/2013
Lane Kiffin is a bad coach. That was a pretty easy conclusion to come to at Oakland. Or Tennessee. And it is especially easy after last year’s 7-6 debacle at USC, which included a 1-5 finish. Now Kiffin has what could be his last chance to prove that the conclusion is wrong.
He needs to turn this team around and save his job in the process. It’s a major task. He started in the place that desperate coaches always do — he overhauled his staff. His dad has been replaced by Clancy Pendergast as defensive coordinator. As brilliant as the elder Kiffin has been at times in his career, it never worked well in Los Angeles. Clay Helton now has the keys to the offense. Are the changes going to make the difference and allow the team to utilize their massive stores of potential, or is it too late for the Kiffin era? That’s the question this season will answer.
The big question offensively is how they are going to replace Matt Barkley now that the four-year starter is in the NFL. Luckily, there are plenty of good choices. Max Wittek played last year, though he didn’t really shine. Sophomore Cody Kessler was the third-stringer last year, but it appears as if he could have passed Wittek since. Freshman Max Browne is a five-star talent with a bright future. One of those three will win the job this fall and will immediately be under immense pressure. The good news for whoever wins is that he has all sorts of help. Marqise Lee is the best receiver in football. Silas Redd is more than competent carrying the ball. The tight ends are great. Four of five offensive line starters return. The quarterback just needs to be patient and protect the ball, and the rest should take care of itself. We won’t see what we got from Barkley at his 2011 peak, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a fatal flaw for the squad as long as the change is well-managed. .
On defense there will be little that is familiar to fans or to the players themselves. The team is shifting to a 5-2 scheme. That means a whole new playbook, an aggressive attitude, and new positions for several starters last year. For example, Dion Bailey, who was an excellent linebacker, will now be a starting safety. The front seven will be tested by the changes, but they have enough talent to be impressive if they take to their new scheme. The biggest concern is at cornerback. The secondary was very vulnerable late last year, and Helton and Kiffin will really have to work hard to solve that issue and find a couple of guys who can be consistent stoppers. Because there have been so many changes, it will be especially important to watch how the offense responds in early games. If we don’t see big progress from Hawaii to Washington State and through to Boston College then there could be real cause for concern later on.
USC Schedule Analysis
The schedule last year was a part of the reason why the Trojans had such a brutal season. the bad news for fans of the team is that this schedule looks much like last year's, though with one big exception — they do not have to face Oregon during the regular season.
The nonconference schedule is straightforward — a trip to Hawaii and home games against Boston College and Utah State are all manageable. Only the annual contest against Notre Dame — this time in South Bend right in the middle of the season — presents a truly big test.
In the conference schedule there are very tough road games at Arizona State and Oregon State and challenging home games against Arizona, Stanford and UCLA. All in all, there are a lot of spots for this team to stumble if they aren’t significantly tougher and more settled than they were in last year’s nightmare season.
2013-14 USC Betting Odds and Trends
The might have certainly fallen — the eternal serious National Championship contenders are now barely relevant at +6000. They are slightly favored at +250 to win the Pac-12 South and are the second choice to win the Pac-12 at +500. Lee sits at +1200 to win the Heisman, though given the difficulty of winning at his position it is hard to see value in that price. The team opens their season with a trip to Hawaii, where they are favored by 21.5 points. (All odds are from BetOnline) Betting on the Trojans last year was a disastrous idea. They were just 3-9 ATS and went “under” the total seven times in 12 tries.
2013-14 USC Trojans Predictions and College Football Picks
The Trojans are one of the few teams to play a 13-game regular season schedule. Because of that there are seven games that should be very straightforward, so at the very least they should be able to match last year’s record even in the worst-case scenario. I expect them to do better than that. I don’t think they will return to the most elite levels that they are supposed to be at, but they will take a significant step forward and will erase the bad taste of last year. This season is about getting things back on track and setting up next year for big things. Ten wins would be a success in my eyes, and that is attainable. More significantly, it’s crucial that the team is able to maintain consistent effort throughout the season instead of quitting like they did last year.
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