Clay Helton's Trojans only have to play four games outside of California in the regular season
The USC Trojans had an interesting year in 2017. The Trojans ended up winning the Pac-12 and only lost two games in the regular season. However, USC definitely could have performed better in the Cotton Bowl. A 10-3 season will satisfy some, but others will see it as falling well short of the goal.
As the focus shifts to 2018, it comes with new challenges for the Trojans. Gone are players like quarterback Sam Darnold, running back Ronald Jones II, wide receiver Deontay Burnett, and defensive lineman Rasheem Green. They chose to test their abilities at the next level along with a crop of other extremely talented players. At a minimum, USC has to replace three key pieces on offense.
The losses are significant, but the Trojans have the kind of talent to replace that production with plenty of guys who have been waiting for their chance. It is unfortunate for USC that its schedule offers little in terms of breathers, but while defending the conference crown will be difficult, it’s not impossible.
USC Trojans 2018 Schedule
Bye: Week 6
Week 1 – Sept. 1 vs. UNLV (Los Angeles)
UNLV isn’t an especially dangerous opponent for USC. The Rebels have won 12 games in three years, the Trojans won 10 last season alone. Depending on how the fall quarterback competition shakes out, this game could be used as a final test for those still remaining in the competition. The Men of Troy should win this one rather easily.
Week 2 – Sept. 8 at Stanford (Stanford, Calif.)
The Cardinal got swept by USC last year. USC beat them in the regular season and then bested them in the Pac-12 Championship Game for good measure. Stanford has an opportunity here to catch a young and naive team, and then take back the conference.
Week 3 – Sept. 15 at Texas (Austin, Texas)
Tom Herman and Texas have this circled. The Trojans were able to win this game in double overtime, but it showcased what a Herman-coached team could do at their best. Now Herman has had a year with the program, he’s nurtured his players to play the game his way. The Trojans are the start of a tough slate for the Longhorns, but they’re going to want revenge for the 2017 game.
Week 4 – Sept. 21 vs. Washington State (Los Angeles)
Speaking of revenge, the Trojans are going to want some of their own against Washington State. Mike Leach continues to find ways to beat the Trojans and last year’s loss was an argument against USC for the College Football Playoff. This year the Trojans get the Cougars at the Coliseum.
Week 5 – Sept. 29 at Arizona (Tucson, Ariz.)
What will Kevin Sumlin bring to Arizona? Will he have success in Tucson or will he end up being sacked liked he was at Texas A&M? There are a lot of questions for the Wildcats and this is a game that will tell us a lot about both teams.
Week 7 – Oct. 13 vs. Colorado (Los Angeles)
Colorado hasn’t traditionally given USC too many problems. The Buffaloes are one of those teams that have yet to find solid footing within the Pac-12. This game could present the Trojans with a chance to open things and experiment.
Week 8 – Oct. 20 at Utah (Salt Lake City)
Utah has been one of the Pac-12 programs capable of matching the Trojans in physicality. The Utes get this game at home and that has been helpful in this series. USC could get caught napping coming off the Colorado game.
Week 9 – Oct. 27 vs. Arizona State (Los Angeles)
Herm Edwards begins his era at Arizona State and things have been… well, interesting to say the least. This is one of those contests that has been one to watch, but that was under Todd Graham. We’ve yet to see if Edwards can generate that kind of fire in collegiate players.
Week 10 – Nov. 3 at Oregon State (Corvallis, Ore.)
Oregon State is yet another program with a new head coach. Jonathan Smith comes to the Beavers from the Huskies, where he was the offensive coordinator and the quarterbacks coach. Smith knows how to bring it and hopefully this contest turns into one of the Pac-12’s better games.
Week 11 – Nov. 10 vs. California (Los Angeles)
Cal has grown under Justin Wilcox and they gave the Trojans problems in 2017. If the Golden Bears are able to keep it going and Wilcox is able to show improvement as a head coach, the Bears could finally get a win over the Trojans for the first time in ages.
Week 12 – Nov. 17 at UCLA (Pasadena, Calif.)
This game features two things that will motivate the Trojans to be at their best – UCLA and Chip Kelly. After failing to maintain momentum as a head coach in the NFL, Kelly made his return to the collegiate ranks and the Bruins weren’t going to miss this chance. They’ve long wanted a head coach capable of bringing a championship and Kelly’s brand of football has shown it can do just that.
Week 13 – Nov. 24 vs. Notre Dame (Los Angeles)
Notre Dame brought the Hammer of Thor down upon the heads of the Trojans last year. If losing to Washington State hurt their chances at getting into the playoff, the beatdown issued by the Irish brought an end to any hope they had. It wasn’t just the fact that USC lost, it was the fashion in which it lost; the Trojans were humiliated. As always, this series is bound to deliver the goods.