The USC Trojans finally have a chance to hit the field on November 7 for the first week of the Pac-12 football season. They will face Herm Edwards and the Arizona State Sun Devils in their first game of 2020 and they will finish the shortened season against their crosstown rivals UCLA Bruins on December 12.
Their first test is Arizona State, followed by Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Washington State, and UCLA.
Compared to the Pac-12 football schedule released prior to the cancellation of the season, the Trojans are facing an easier road. They are facing all South division opponents except Washington State.
They avoided the Oregon Ducks, who are currently ranked 12th in the AP Top 25 before playing a single game.
The Sun Devils finished last season in fourth place with an 8-5 overall record and a 4-5 conference record. Their offense this season is made up of mostly underclassmen, led by quarterback Jayden Daniels, a sophomore from San Bernardino, Calif., who threw for almost 3,000 yards with over 60 percent completion, 17 touchdowns, and two interceptions as a freshman. The experienced defense of the Trojans will likely test Daniels’ abilities, and the sophomore quarterback for the Trojans, Kedon Slovis, will test his luck with the ASU defense.
The Arizona Wildcats finished last season in last place with a 4-8 overall record and a 2-7 conference record, going into their third season under head coach Kevin Sumlin. The team is going in a different direction on offense, with sophomore quarterback Grant Gunnell as the projected starter. Gunnell played limited snaps in eight games last season, throwing almost 200 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception against the Trojans.
The Utah Utes will be the biggest test for the Trojans this season coming off of an 11-3 overall record and an 8-1 conference record. The Utes were ranked 16th in the AP Top 25 to end the season and lost to the Ducks in the conference championship game. Despite their good season, their only conference loss came at the hands of the Trojans, who beat them end to end in the first week of conference play. Their starter from 2019 moved on to the league and the projected starter, Jake Bentley, is a graduate transfer from South Carolina who was sidelined in 2019 with a foot injury that required surgery.
The Colorado Buffaloes finished last season in fifth place with a 5-7 overall record and a 3-6 conference record. The Buffaloes will be starting from scratch after their starting quarterback moved on and their new starter Tyler Lytle, a junior from Redondo Beach, hasn’t seen any playtime in his two seasons with the team. The offense may have to rely heavily on their running back led by junior Alex Fontenot, who rushed for 874 yards and five touchdowns last season.
The Washington State Cougars finished last season in fifth place in the North Division with a 6-7 overall record and a 3-6 conference record. Their starting quarterback from last season moved on, and the projected starter, Cammon Cooper, is a sophomore with two games of experience in back to back Crimson and Gray Spring games. The offense will have to rely heavily on junior running back Max Borghi, who rushed for 817 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
The UCLA Bruins finished in third place last season with a 4-8 overall record and a 4-5 conference record. Their starting quarterback, junior Dorian Thompson-Robinson, will be returning to give the Trojans a headache in the yearly rivalry game. Thompson-Robinson finished the season with 2,701 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions as well as almost 200 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground. He also had a standout game against the Trojans last season, throwing for 367 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception in the loss. The Bruins also lost their starting running back Joshua Kelley to the NFL, but senior Demetric Felton will be able to fill in despite not getting many touches last season. Thompson-Robinson will also have his favorite receiver, Kyle Philips, back on the field.
After breaking down the schedule week by week, it became apparent that head coach Clay Helton’s Trojans can easily go undefeated this season if they play well enough and remain healthy. Slovis threw for more than 3,500 yards, 30 touchdowns, and nine interceptions last season. The Trojans also get back all three of their top running backs from last season — Vavae Malepeai, Stephen Carr, and Markese Stepp — a trio that combined for over 1,200 yards rushing and 14 total touchdowns. Slovis lost his top receiver Michael Pittman Jr. to the NFL but keeps around a solid duo in Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns, who combined for over 2,000 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns last season. Add in sophomore Drake London and a bevy of young talent and the Trojans boast one of the top receiving units in the country.
According to ESPN Analytics, the Trojans are 10th-most likely to make the playoffs with a 13 percent chance. ESPN senior writer Chris Low has the Trojans at No. 13 in his college football power rankings for Week 5, even though they will not see action until Week 10.
College football is back. Let’s hope it’s set in stone this time.
Depth charts are according to projections by OurLads.com.