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Can the Trojans win the Pac-12 South?
USC was one of college football’s biggest disappointments last season. The Trojans were picked as a top-five team in the preseason but finished 7-6 and closed out the year with three consecutive losses.
Although USC was a major disappointment, there’s still plenty of talent in Los Angeles, and coach Lane Kiffin could have the Trojans back into contention for a Pac-12 South title in 2013.
USC returns 15 starters, including All-American receiver Marqise Lee and standout defensive end Morgan Breslin. But the big question for Kiffin will be under center. Max Wittek and Cody Kessler finished spring practice in a dead heat for the starting job, with true freshman Max Browne just behind.
With no Oregon on the crossover schedule USC has a favorable path to the Pac-12 South title. But can the Trojans quickly erase the disappointment from last year?
What will USC's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
USC's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
|8/29 at Hawaii|
|9/7 Washington State|
|9/14 Boston College|
|9/21 Utah State|
|9/28 at Arizona State|
|10/19 at Notre Dame|
|11/1 at Oregon State|
|11/9 at California|
|11/23 at Colorado|
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even though coach Lane Kiffin got the vote of confidence from athletic director Pat Haden, there’s still considerable pressure for USC to win eight games in 2013. The Trojans won’t have to play Oregon and host Arizona, Stanford and UCLA. Even though quarterback Matt Barkley will be missed, USC still has enough talent to win the Pac-12 South. The Trojans have a solid group of skill players returning on offense, and the defense should be better under the direction of new coordinator Clancy Pendergast. Kiffin will have some time to find the right answers on offense before a huge South Division road game against Arizona State on Sept. 28. With plenty of talent returning, anything less than eight wins would be a major disappointment for USC.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The Men of Troy will be one of the most fascinating teams to track in 2013. Lane Kiffin enters a critical year with an extremely talented starting 22 and loads of expectations. His defense should be much improved and there are tons of playmakers for whoever is under center. And the schedule is equally as intriguing. There is no Oregon or Washington to deal with from the North and the UCLA game will come at home to end the year. But road trips to key division rival Arizona State, Achilles Heel Oregon State and arch-rival Notre Dame gives this team a limited upside. Pull an upset at home over Stanford or on the road in Corvallis and USC could easily win the division. Lose a couple it's not supposed to and Kiffin could be out on the street.
This much is clear: it can't get much worse for USC, because if it does, Lane Kiffin will definitely be looking for a new job. If anything, the Trojans should be able to bounce back from a disastrous 2012 campaign because the expectations for the '13 team are much lower. There is still plenty of talent on this roster, but the uncertainty at quarterback and a new defensive coordinator and scheme can't be ignored either. USC should run into little trouble jumping out to a 4-0 start, but don't forget last year's team started 6-1 before losing five of its last six games. The Trojans catch a break on their Pac-12 slate by missing Oregon, but I still expect they will run into some trouble in conference, especially on the road. Still, five Pac-12 home dates and a fairly light non-conference slate (with the obvious exception of Notre Dame) should provide enough opportunities for USC to get to nine wins in the regular season. It's now up to Kiffin and his team to capitalize on them and show that last season was the exception and not the rule.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Barring disaster, USC should be off to a good start. The first four games are all winnable, and for a team with USC-talent, winnable by a significant margin. And other than Hawaii, they’d all be decent wins. But as USC learned last season, the grind of the season can take a toll on sanction-limited depth. That may catch up with USC, but the Trojans just might not be as good as Arizona State or Oregon State, much less Stanford or Notre Dame. The Trojans will have an unproven quarterback and a line that may be a question without center Khaled Holmes. I think the difference is going to be on defense. I like the pieces of Morgan Breslin, Leonard Williams, Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard, but this is still the same group that was mediocre for most of that season. Was that a function of personnel or difficulty in leadership with Monte Kiffin? We’ll find out against Arizona State.
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