2014 USC Trojans Odds to Win the Pac-12 with Picks & Predictions
by Aaron Smith - 8/4/2014
After a failed experiment with Lane Kiffin at the top spot, the USC Trojans enter the 2014 season with Steve Sarkisian as their head coach. Sarkisian is a USC guy, and he did a nice job with the Washington Huskies program over the last few years. He is known as a good recruiter as well as a guy who can connect well with his players. I expect this hire to work out well for the Trojans.
USC won 10 games in 2013. The Trojans offense was awful for most of the season before finally hitting its stride after Kiffin was let go. It was the defense that kept them in the game every time out and allowed them to win some of the games they probably shouldn't have won. The Trojans return 14 players in all, seven from each side of the ball. While USC might not quite have the overall talent on the roster that Oregon and UCLA do, expectations are always sky-high here. Sarkisian will be expected to win right away.
2014 USC Offense
USC finished ranked number 73 in the nation in total offense last season. The Trojans scored 62 at Cal, 47 at Colorado, and 45 against Fresno in their bowl game. Those three outputs really boosted their offensive average. Earlier in the season, the Trojans were ranked below number 100 in the nation in total offense, and they were struggling to score 20 points per game.
If USC wants to take the next step this season, the offense will have to pick up the pace on a more consistent basis. Additionally, they'll have to score points against quality teams rather than just piling up the points against bottom-feeders. Cody Kessler looked like he was coming into his own at the end of last season, and reports are that he has played well in the offseason practices. Max Browne and Jalen Greene are battling it out for the backup spot.
USC is known for producing top tailbacks, and they are set again this year at that spot. Javorious Allen and Tre Madden will both get a bunch of carries, and it's still unknown who will be the starter for game one. Both of those guys are tremendous runners who can also catch it extremely well out of the backfield. Allen and Madden form one of the best tailback tandems in the nation.
Nelson Agholor appears ready for a breakout season at the wide receiver spot. Darreus Rogers also looks like a quality player. Still, the wide receiver group as a whole is down a bit with the loss of Lee and Grimble. The offensive line has a bunch of spots still up for grabs. The Trojans have some quality talent here, but this isn't a group that has shown all that much cohesiveness.
The offense should be better, but the transition to a new offense could be a bit bumpy.
2014 USC Defense
USC's defense was tremendous in 2013, and there is no reason to expect anything less than a great defense again in 2014. The defensive front is the best in the Pac-12 by a large margin. Leonard Williams is one of the nation's best defensive tackles. Opponents trying to run at him won't have any luck. Delvon Simmons is a very good edge rusher at the end spot. Greg Townsend missed last year with an injury, but he is back and will contribute. The Trojans recruiting class for this year was loaded with top talent on the line as well. This group is special.
The linebackers are just about as good as the line in front of them. Senior Hayes Pullard is a beast at the middle linebacker spot. Quinton Powell and Jabari Ruffin are budding stars in this group as sophomores. Anthony Sarao will have a chance to shine this year too, and with his skill set he should do precisely that. This is a bunch of strong linebackers who can fly to the football.
USC's secondary is a good one as well. Josh Shaw is a good cover corner and sure tackler. Kevon Seymour was hit or miss last year, but he should improve in his junior season. Su'a Cravens has superstar written all over him. Expect Cravens to make a huge splash this year at the strong safety spot.
It's rare to find a defense that you can truly say has no weakness on paper, but this USC defense fits the bill. They should finish in the Top 10 in the country in total defense.
2014 USC Trojans Odds to Win Pac-12
What do the oddsmakers think of this USC squad? Bovada lists USC at 5/1 to win the Pac-12. The Trojans are listed at 7/4 to win the Pac-12 South Division. Bovada lists USC at 25/1 in the hunt for the National Championship. USC's season win total is set at 9 games.
2014 USC Trojans Picks & Predictions
USC is a tough team to predict because their defense is so dominating, but there are a lot of questions about their offense. I don't like that so many starting spots are still open on offense and it's already August. The USC schedule is a tough one. They must play at Stanford, at Utah, at Arizona, and at UCLA. Nine wins sounds about right for that type of schedule. This team may be a year away, but look out for the Trojans in the near future.
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