NCAA: USC Trojans +4500, Odds to win the Championship
We have all been waiting for the USC Trojans to emerge from their slumber and be back as a contender, and while they did not go all the way last season, they did end up as the PAC 12 conference champions. It was a big step forward for a program that is still recovering from sanctions placed on them years ago, but you have to wonder if their progress will stall and perhaps even take a backward step. This is a team that lost a lot of talented players to the NFL, leaving coach Clay Helton with some very big holes to fill ahead of the 2018 season. It was a down year for the conference last season, but these losses for the Trojans could open the door for some other team to take control. Let’s take a closer look at the 2018 version of the USC Trojans and their chances to win the Championship.
— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) August 12, 2018
Here is where Clay Helton is going to have the toughest job, as he needs to replace his starting QB, #1 receiver, and #1 running back. As is the case for every team, it all starts at the QB position, with the loss of Sam Darnold to the NFL being particularly tough. The big issue for the Trojans here is that they do not have a QB in the line-up who has started a game in college. Sophomore Matt Fink is likely going to get the nod, but he only took to the field 3 times last season, all in games that were already out of control. He will not have Deontay Burnett to throw to this season, but Tyler Vaughns could prove to be an adequate replacement. The O-line returns 4 of 5 starters, which should help the QB.
Leading rusher in 2017 Ronald Jones is off to the NFL, and while his numbers are going to be tough to replace, the Trojans have a trio of adequate RB’s to pick up the slack. It is likely to be running by a committee unless one of the 3 can emerge as a legitimate every-down back. Stephen Carr is most likely to be that man, and it also helps that he has some receiving skills to bring to the table, too.
The Trojans defense was brilliant at wreaking havoc on opposing QB’s last season, delivering 46 sacks on the year, which tied them for first with Clemson. They lost Rasheem Green, who led the team in sacks, but with the talent that they still have in the front seven, they should not fall off too dramatically in the sacks department. One thing that does need to be cleaned up is the number of big plays, particularly against the run, that the Trojans gave up last season. That may mean easing up on pressuring the QB a little to focus more on stopping the ground and pound game.
The toughest part of the season for the Trojans comes in the month of September. If they can successfully navigate that, they should be able to have fairly smooth sailing the rest of the way. It’s a big if, though, as there are a lot of offensive pieces that need to gel quickly for this team to repeat as PAC 12 champs. I think they fall just short this season.