2019 USC Trojans Football Predictions and Odds to Win National Championship
The USC Trojans went 5-7 last year - a record that is completely and totally indefensible giving everything that the program has going for it, and the rich history it has. And it's not like they just fell short in a tough conference, either - the Pac-12 is mostly a farce right now. I am in the large group of people who takes joy in the struggles of the Trojans. My favorite part of this mess, then, is that the school made the truly horrible decision of retaining Clay Helton as their head coach for another season. Even Helton himself can't honestly think that that is a good idea. I wouldn't cry if Helton drove this program right into the ground - even deeper than he already has. College football is better when USC is a factor, though, so can this school finally turn things around this year?
2018 in a Nutshell
They beat UNLV in the opener, but then they got right into the losing, dropping games at Stanford and Texas, and not really putting up fights in neither. A three-game winning streak that came next was the lone highlight of the season - they squeaked past Washington State, won by four at Arizona, and beat Colorado. None of those wins were hugely impressive, but at least they were wins. The team was 4-2 heading into the second half and ready to do some damage. The only damage they did, though, was the brain damage inflicted on any unfortunate fans who watched them play. They got beat up at Utah. They lost at home to Arizona State. They beat Oregon State, but that means nothing. They lost to an underwhelming Cal team. They got beaten by their rivals from UCLA at the Rose Bowl - and it's not like the Bruins are at the top of their game right now. And they rounded it out with a loss to Notre Dame. A record of 5-7 overall. And 4-5 in a weak conference. Only 3-3 at home. It was a mess any way you turn it.
Key Additions and Departures
The first drama we have to address is at offensive coordinator. Helton couldn't fire himself, so he made OC Tee Martin the scapegoat. To replace him, and to change the approach offensively, the team hired Kliff Kingsbury. Kingsbury quickly found himself named the new head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, though, so USC was back in the market. When you are jilted by a former Texas Tech QB, what do you do? Hire another one. The new OC is Graham Harrell, who spent the last three years as OC at North Texas. We should see a more creative offense under Harrell - an evolved version of the Air Raid. He has an embarrassment of talent to work with here - though all that talent hasn't made much of a difference lately.
The team had just four players drafted last year - OT Chuma Edoga in the third round, Corner Iman Marshall in the fourth, and safety Marvel Tell III and linebacker Cameron Smith in the fifth. Smith, impressively, led the team in tackles three years in a row. Four other players joined NFL teams as undrafted free agents - most notably linebacker Porter Gustin, who struggled with injuries last year, but was the best pass rusher the team had when healthy. Despite the losses, they still have 11 guys who started at least one game on offense and 12 on defense.
The recruiting class is a bit of an embarrassment, coming in ranked 20th nationally after being fourth best the year prior. USC should be recruiting much better than this. There are still some very nice players here, though. Receiver Kyle Ford, the top recruit in the class, stands out as a guy who could see early playing time.
Biggest Area of Concern
The offense was a mess last year, ranking 91st in scoring nationally. That's despite having two elite quarterbacks - J.T. Daniels was the top QB in his class and played 11 games last year as a true freshman, and Jack Sears looked solid in one start. And all sorts of highly-regarded talent everywhere else, too. If they can't get the offense working, then this team isn't going anywhere. Harrell will help, but he brings a significant change to things, and it remains to be seen how quickly it can be embraced or how well the personnel suits the demands of the system. You'll note that the best Air Raid QBs of all time haven't been elite, blue chip talents.
USC Trojans Schedule Analysis
They open with a soft game against Fresno State before hosting Stanford and then traveling to BYU for a game that could be tricky if the Trojans aren't prepared. Then comes a very tough three-game stretch - at home against Utah, then at Washington and Notre Dame. It's very possible they could lose all three games, and it doesn't take a great imagination to see a Helton-led team falling apart if that happened. Arizona and at Colorado are easier tests, but then they host a resurgent Oregon squad that should have excellent QB play. They travel to Arizona State and Cal before closing out at home against UCLA. It's not the toughest schedule in the world - it can't be if it is in the Pac-12. But it is far from easy, and there are lots of spots where things could go poorly.
2019-20 USC Trojans Betting Odds and Trends
USC is listed at +10000 at BetOnline to win the national title, which places them behind only 20 other teams. I saw that number a few weeks ago, and it still makes me chuckle like the joke it is. They are the fifth choice to win the Pac-12 at Bovada at +850, which places them far behind virtual co-favorites Oregon and Washington, well back of Utah, and just behind Washington State. J.T. Daniels is at +2500 to win the Heisman, which places him in a group of players - Kelly Bryant, Jerry Jeudy and, for some reason I don't understand, West Virginia QB Austin Kendall - and behind 12 others.
2019-20 USC Trojans Predictions and College Football Picks
I'm not sure I have hidden my opinion of this team very well. Huge amounts of talent squandered by horrific coaching, and a program generally in disarray. It's embarrassing. I expect another rough season, though they should at least get to bowl eligibility this time. Not a good bowl, mind you, but at least a bowl.
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