It didn't take long for USC to drop from annual national championship contention into near-irrelevance. Pete Carroll left the program in a bit of a pickle, and Lane Kiffin struggled with the NCAA sanctions – although really, who wouldn't?
Now it's Steve Sarkisian's job to get the Trojans back to the Big Time, playing for conference and national championships. And while it might not happen overnight, it might not take long, either. USC has a bunch of talent, especially on defense, and it wouldn't come as much of a surprise if the Trojans' game against UCLA on Nov. 22 decides the Pac-12 South.
USC Odds to Win Pac-12: 5/1 at [custom:bovada-link]
USC Odds to Win College Football Championship: 25/1 at [custom:bovada-link]
USC Regular Season Win Total: 9 at [custom:bovada-link]
USC Betting Props: Javorius Allen to Win Heisman 66/1 at [custom:bovada-link]
USC began the fourth season of the Kiffin era last year with hopes of winning the Pac-12 South, but an early, ugly home loss to Washington State and a bad loss at Arizona State (62 points?!) ended both those conference title hopes and the Kiffin regime. The Trojans actually played some good ball for interim head coach Ed Orgeron, winning three Pac-12 road games and upsetting Stanford, before falling to the rival Bruins for the second season in a row. USC then beat Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl to finish 10-4 SU, 7-7 ATS.
This year Sarkisian inherits 14 returning starters, seven on each side of the ball. QB Cody Kessler, WR Nelson Agholor and three starters on the line are back on offense, and five of the back seven return on defense. USC held foes to an average of 21 points per game last year, and that unit might be even better this year.
With a new coaching regime comes new systems on both sides of the ball, and that means a learning curve. But the Trojans jump right into this season with a rematch with Fresno State, then open conference play with a visit to Stanford, then make a cross-country trip to play at Boston College. After that USC hosts Oregon State, Arizona State and later Notre Dame, plays at Arizona and takes on UCLA at the Rose Bowl. The Trojans also miss Oregon and Washington. So all in all, while there are some tough tilts, the schedule isn't overwhelming.
Pac-12 Championship Odds at [custom:bovada-link] as of August 5
Arizona State 12/1
Oregon State 33/1
Washington State 50/1
Just a few seasons ago it looked like Southern Cal could go on forever winning conference championships, playing in Rose Bowls and BCS title games. But all dynasties come to an end, and in USC's case it got a little ugly, with off-field shenanigans leading to the departure of head coach Pete Carroll and the implementation of a two-year postseason ban. Then, when the Trojans became eligible for the conference championship game and big bowl bids last year, they fell flat on their collective face. Can USC return to some semblance of its former glory this year? Or will Trojan Nation have to suffer through another lost season?
Odds to Win Pac-12: +600 at 5Dimes
Regular Season Win Total: 9.5 at [custom:bovada-link]
After a two-year postseason ban USC had 16 starters back last year for what was supposed to be a run at another national title. The Trojans opened the season ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll, and led by Heisman candidate QB Matt Barkley appeared loaded for bear. But by the end of a long season Southern Cal couldn't even beat a 6-7 Georgia Tech team in the Sun Bowl.
The Trojans started 6-1, although some of the wins, such as the ones over Syracuse, Utah, and Washington, didn't come easy. They then blew a lead and lost at Arizona, gave up 62 points in losing at Oregon, struggled to beat Arizona State, lost for the first time in six seasons to UCLA (losing Barkley in the process), fell to Notre Dame in the season finale, and looked disinterested in losing the bowl to the Yellow Jackets. So USC finished 7-6 overall, 5-4 in the Pac-12, and a miserable 3-10 ATS, as the Trojans committed 34 turnovers on the season.
This year Southern Cal returns 15 starters, including eight on offense, led by RB Silas Redd, WR Marqise Lee (118 catches for 1,700 yards last year), and four along the offensive line, and seven on defense, including five of the front seven. But most notably the Trojans will have to replace four-year starting QB Barkley.
USC begins this season in Hawaii, then opens Pac-12 play with a home game against Washington State. After a couple more winnable non-conference home bouts they then get back into conference play with a road game at an improving Arizona State. From there on out the Trojans host Arizona, Utah, and Stanford, visit Oregon State, Cal, and Colorado, then end the season with the game that could decide the South Division, a bout with rival UCLA at the Coliseum. They also miss Oregon, which doesn't hurt.
Pac-12 Championship Odds at 5Dimes as of August 11
Oregon State +1050
Arizona State +1100
Washington State +6000