USC went into the 2015 season with expectations of winning the Pac-12 and making the playoffs. Those hopes were thrown out the window after a 3-3 start.

It also marked the end of the era for head coach Steve Sarkisian less than two years after getting hired. Sarkisian was let go due to a drinking problem.

It opened the door for offensive coordinator Clay Helton to show what he can do. He guided the Trojans to a 5-1 finish and Pac-12 South title.  From there they would lose to Stanford in the title game and later to Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl. Giving them an overall record of 8-6.

Helton got the head coaching job for good and will try and get USC back in the national spotlight. Something they have been striving for since Pete Carroll’s departure.

Last Season
Pac-12 (South)
Record
ATS Record
Over/Under
Points For
Points Against
6-3 (T-1st)
8-6
6-8
7-7
33.9
25.7
2016 Schedule
DateOpponentSpread (Est.)Win Chance
9/3Alabama (Arlington)
9/10Utah State
9/17@ Stanford
9/23@ Utah
10/1Arizona State
10/8Colorado
10/15@ Arizona
10/27California
11/5Oregon
11/12@ Washington
11/19@ UCLA
11/26Notre Dame
Estimated Wins: TBD

*We take the win chance by using the college football win percentage chart for each point spread.

The Trojans will go into 2016 with what looks to be the hardest schedule of any team in the country. USC will get a chance to shine early, as they take on defending champion Alabama in Arlington to open the year.

They get a minor breather with a home game against Utah State, before back-to-back road games against Stanford and Utah. That’s about as tough as it gets for a Power 5 team in their first 4 games of the season.

There is a 4-game stretch where USC should be able to gain some momentum in the middle of the schedule. They get home games against Arizona State, Colorado and California and a road game at Arizona.

USC has another brutal 4-game slate to close out 2016. First they have to host Oregon. Then they go on the road for two against Washington and UCLA. After that they host rival Notre Dame in the finale.

Roster Breakdown

The Trojans will have 10 starters back from an offense that put up 33.9 ppg and 438 ypg. That’s the good news. The bad news is they have to replace starting quarterback Cody Kessler. No easy task. Kessler didn’t get a lot of attention, but completed 67% of his passes for 3,536 yards and 29 touchdowns.

The frontrunner to win the job is junior Max Browne, who was the top recruit out of his high school class. Though I wouldn’t count out red-shirt freshman Sam Darnold or true freshman Matt Fink.

If someone emerges out the pack at quarterback, USC is going to be hard to stop. The Trojans get back their dynamic duo at running back in Ronald Jones and Justin Davis. The two combined for 1,889 yards and 15 touchdowns. Both averaging more than 5.0 yards/carry.

They also return all of their weapons in the passing game. Most noteably All-American wide out JuJu Smith-Schuster. He had a monster sophomore season, catching 89 passes for 1,454 yards and 10 touchdowns.

What really makes the Trojans scary on offense is the talent they have back on the offensive line. All 5 starters are returning from last year. It’s not just the best offensive line in the Pac-12, but arguably the best in the country.

Not as much talent is returning on defense. USC only has 5 of their 11 starters back from 2015. All 6 of the starters loss come from the front 7, so it’s definitely a concern.

On the flip side, the Trojans still recruit extremely well and have a ton of talent ready to step in. All 4 starters must be replaced on the defensive line. It’s hard telling what this unit will look like, expect for the fact that it will be very young. Defensive end Jabari Ruffin might be the only junior or senior in the mix.

The lone starter back at linebacker is sophomore Cameron Smith. He’s really good. He finished second in tackles with 78 and had 3 interceptions, despite only playing in 10 games.

The strength of the defense will be the secondary, which is a good thing in the pass-happy Pac-12. All four starters are back. That includes two of the conferences best corners in Adoree’ Jackson and Iman Marshall. As well as one of the league’s best safeties in Marvell Tell.

Future Odds
Regular Season Win Total
Pac-12 South Odds
Pac-12 Championship Odds
Playoff Odds
National Championship Odds
7.5
+245
+640
+425
+6000
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes

*Odds updated live on our college football odds page

Season Predictions

As you can see, I have the Trojans picked to finish 6-3 in the conference and 8-4 overall. That would be quite an accomplishment, if you ask me. Keep in mind the schedule, a head coach in his first full year and a new starting quarterback. It’s why Vegas only has their win total at 7.5 games.

It’s really unfortunate for USC that they have such a tough schedule. The Trojans are arguably the most talented team in the Pac-12 in 2016. It’s simply asking too much for this team to run the table given who they play in the first 4 and last 4 games.

One thing I want to point out, is the Trojans could be absolutely loaded in 2017. That is assuming they don’t have a lot of early entrants to the NFL. Even if they do, there’s only 5 senior starters projected for 2016 and 3 of those can be easily replaced.

2016 Projections
Pac-12 (South)
Pac-12 Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
2nd
6-3
8-4
OVER 7.5
More College Football Predictions
Pac-12 North
California
Oregon
Oregon State
Stanford
Washington
Washington State
Pac-12 South
Arizona
Arizona State
Colorado
UCLA
USC
Utah