The USC Trojans had a fantastic off-season following a sub-par 2021 campaign. The Trojans went 4-8 in 2021, including a 3-6 record in the Pac-12. Head football coach Clay Helton was fired two games into the season and was replaced, on an interim basis, by Donte Williams, who would finish out the season as the Trojans’ head coach. The Trojans finished the 2021 season with four straight losses and entered the off-season, searching for any sign of hope for 2022. The first sign of hope arrived in the form of new head coach Lincoln Riley who posted an impressive 55-10 record in his five seasons at Oklahoma. USC and UCLA decided to leave the Pac-12 and join the Big 10 in 2024.
Not only did USC hire a superbly talented offensive mind and head football coach during the off-season, they were also able to add an explosive set of offensive weapons for their new head coach. No team was more successful in exploiting the transfer portal than USC. Heisman Trophy candidate and former OU quarterback Caleb Williams transferred to SC following his former head coach to Norman, Oklahoma. As a freshman, Williams threw for over 1,900 yards with 21 touchdowns and only four interceptions. The Trojans also added a pair of wide receivers in Jordan Addison from Pitt and Mario Williams from OU. Jordan Addison has accumulated over 2,220 yards receiving and 21 touchdowns in two seasons at Pitt. Running back Travis Dye transferred from conference rival Oregon, where he had over 3,100 yards rushing, averaging six yards-per-carry and 21 touchdowns during his four years in Eugene.
What should USC fans expect from their beloved 2022 Trojans? Will they have a winning record? Can they compete for a conference title? These are all reasonable questions, given the excitement and success of the Trojans’ off-season. USC won back-to-back national championships in 2003 & 2004. The university was stripped of the 2004 BCS championship by the committee citing improper benefits given to Reggie Bush. According to bleacherreport.com, “Bush was accused of receiving improper benefits from an agent during his time with the Trojans,” resulting in USC’s forfeit of 14 wins from 2004-2005.
The Trojans have a favorable schedule early and should start the season 3-1, beginning with a home win against Rice in the season opener, followed by a win on the road at Stanford, and then back home to pick up a third victory at home against Fresno State. The Trojans will get their first loss of the season on the road against Oregon State on September 24th. USC will go 3-1 in September as they wrap up the first month of the 2022 season. The 2021 iteration of the Trojans went 2-2 during September in 2021.
October should be an exciting time for the Trojans as they look to improve on the 4-8 record from a season ago. The men of Troy should pick up a pair of wins against the Arizona schools and another against Washington State. The only October blemish for the Trojans will come when they go on the road against the Pac-12 defending champion Utah Utes on October 15th. USC will find themselves in the top 25 after posting a 6-2 record entering the November home stretch of the season.
November 5th-November 26th
The Trojans continue to collect victories as they defeat Cal, Colorado, and UCLA to set up a monster showdown against hated rival Notre Dame to wrap up the regular season. The Coliseum will be rocking as the Irish come to town on November 26th. The last USC victory over the Irish came in 2016 when the Trojans defeated Notre Dame 45-27 at home. As Notre Dame fans will tell anyone who will listen, it has been over 2,000 days since the Trojans last defeated the Irish. I do not expect that trend to change this year as Notre Dame beats USC to conclude the 2022 regular season. The Trojans will end the 2022 regular season with a 9-3 record and will have a chance to make a New Year’s 6 Bowl game with a win in the Pac 12 title game.
Pac 12 Championship Game
In May of 2022, the NCAA Division I Council announced that it would allow conferences to determine which teams would play in the conference championship games. The Pac 12 stated its intention to have the two teams with the highest conference winning percentages play in the Pac 12 title game. Pac 12 commissioner George Kliavkoff said, “Our goal is to place our two best teams in our Pac-12 Football Championship Game, which we believe will provide our conference with the best opportunity to optimize CFP invitations and ultimately win national championships.” This announcement effectively eliminated the separate divisions within the Pac 12. I expect the USC Trojans to have the second-best winning percentage in the Pac 12 and will therefore face the Utah Utes in the Pac 12 title game. The Utes will prove to be to much for the Trojans in the conference title game and defeat USC in a close game.
2022 Season Wrap Up
2021 version. The Trojans will win nine regular season games and become bowl eligible in Lincoln Riley’s first season as the USC head coach. Ultimately, the Trojans are one year away from winning a conference championship and joining the conversation for the college football playoffs. However, USC is on the road back to national relevance in the college football world. The improvement of USC will attract highly talented recruits from high school, and the transfer portal as the Riley system enters year two of implementation at USC. A New Year’s 6 Bowl game is unlikely in year one, but a return to the top 25 is a reasonable expectation this season. The Trojans should be peaking at just the right time as they join the Big 10 in 2024. The Trojans will look to shift the balance of power from Columbus and Ann Arbor to the West Coast beginning in 2024. Better times are on the horizon for the USC Trojans.