USC Football: Predicting How Trojans Will Perform Against Biggest Rivals in 2012

Kristen RodgersCorrespondent IIJune 6, 2012

USC Football: Predicting How Trojans Will Perform Against Biggest Rivals in 2012

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    The 2012 USC Trojans will make their first bowl-eligible year a quest for the National Championship title, but their road to the top has a few challenges.

    The Trojans’ hunt for the National Championship started when Matt Barkley gave the Trojans an early Christmas present and announced he would stay for his senior year.

    “This 2012 team has some serious unfinished business to attend to and I plan to play a part in it,” Barkley said. “I have firmly decided to forgo the 2012 NFL draft and finish that.”

    #UnfinishedBusiness quickly began to trend on Twitter, and the Trojans' chances to be No. 1 in the country grew.

    ESPN’s College Football Live has ranked USC as its preseason No. 1, and with returning talent like Robert Woods, Marquise Lee and T.J. McDonald led by Heisman-candidate Barkley, the Trojans have the tools to go all the way.

    From no BCS bowl chance to a potential National Championship, here is the road—and potential roadblocks—the Trojans face in the 2012. 

Sept. 15: Stanford

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    The Trojans will face a Luck-less Stanford early in the season, but with a 0-3 record against the Cardinal over the past three years, this remains a pivotal game for the Trojans.

    Stanford doesn’t really need a strong quarterback just yet. Head coach David Shaw’s blueprint includes a strong offensive line and running the ball up the middle.

    This is where USC has the advantage. Stanford lost offensive linemen David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin to the NFL draft, which will create a weaker O-line that a stronger Trojan defense can disrupt.

    USC was barely edged out by Stanford in a triple-overtime loss, but with more defensive speed, the Trojans should be able to win in 2012 in regulation.

Oct. 13: Washington

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    With a 40-17 win over Washington last year, most Trojans have forgotten the missed field goal of 2010 that led to a disappointing Trojan loss to Washington.

    However, USC will return to Washington for the 2012 game, where they will be in unfamiliar territory at Seattle Seahawks’ stadium.

    This matchup will be the Trojans’ third away game of the season and second in a row on the road.

    To come away with a win, the Trojans will have to be in great physical shape, so the potentially rainy conditions don’t throw them off.

    Washington’s head coach Steve Sarkisian recently added Cal’s top recruiter and defensive specialist, Tosh Lupoi, to the Husky staff, so we can expect an improved defense from Washington.

Nov. 3: Oregon

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    This will likely be the biggest game for the Trojans in 2012.

    USC pulled off an unforgettable win on the road in 2011 after an epic battle against the No. 4 Ducks, and they will look to do the same this season at home. The Trojans sealed the win at Autzen Stadium after Oregon kicker Alejandro Maldonado missed a 37-yard field goal to tie the game.

    The Ducks have lost some of their superstars from last year, including running back LaMichael James and quarterback Darron Thomas, but Oregon’s head coach Chip Kelly has always engineered an explosive Oregon offense, so we can expect their new guys to be up to the challenge.

    USC’s advantages stem from having won at Oregon last year and the maturity of the 2012 team coupled with a healthy Marquise Lee and Robert Woods. Woods was not healthy in Eugene last year, but should be ready to go this time around.

    We should see a battle of the offenses in 2012 with USC the victor.

Nov. 17: UCLA

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    An unbelievable score and an unbelievable game by the Trojans in 2011.

    Although the Trojans should have a repeat performance against the UCLA Bruins in 2012, the crosstown rivalry still makes for a very exciting game in 2012.

    UCLA is currently a work in progress with a new head coach in Jim Mora Jr. and an undecided quarterback. The Bruins are looking at Kevin Price, Richard Brehaut and Brett Hundley, but with no real front-runner, UCLA is shaping up to be a sub-performing Pac-12 team.

    USC should have no trouble against the Bruins—especially against their defense—with the speed from Curtis McNeal, Robert Woods and Marquise Lee.

    My prediction: 100-0 (wishful thinking, I know). 

Nov. 24: Notre Dame

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    Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish is one of USC’s oldest—and best—rivals.

    After an incredible USC win in South Bend, Ind., thanks to Trojan safety Jawanza Starling's sensational fumble recovery, the Trojans will close out their 2012 season at home against the Irish with hopefully another victory.

    Both teams will be battling for spots in BCS bowl games on Nov. 24, but the big storyline of this game will be centered on Manti Te’o’s last season with Notre Dame.

    Te’o was expected to don cardinal and gold in 2009, but a last minute commitment to Notre Dame put the imposing middle linebacker under Brian Kelly instead of Pete Carroll.

    With such a strong presence on the Notre Dame defensive line, USC’s offensive linemen better come into this game prepared. With five of the six offensive line starters returning for USC—including Khaled Holmes—the Trojans should end their season with a win.