Many prognosticators in the Pac-12 have predicted USC will be unbeaten in the conference. Some even have predicted USC will beat Oregon twice in its march to the national championship game.
In its path lay teams who, though underdogs, have other ideas than being the doormat to a USC march to the championship. Some teams might have even ventured to predict their contest with USC will be close, and some might have even ventured into the land of hopefulness by thinking it will be possible to beat USC.
The weaknesses of USC are apparent. A weak defensive line with only one starter returns, and the other, Devon Kennard, is injured with a torn pectoral. However, it is not the defense that the these teams are licking their chops over. It was the fragile nature of the USC offense.
One offensive weakness was their inability in the red zone to punch it in ranking 114th in the nation with seven rushing TDs. The meager 2.9 yards a carry inside the red zone left them 115th in touchdown percentage.
Teams like Utah feel that with healthy players and playing at the altitude of Salt Lake and in front of a home crowd, perhaps the outcome that beat them last year, a single play, will be different this year. Utah with Jordan Wynn healthy will be looking to put up some points just as it did last year, only more of them. The skitters of playing USC and in the Pac-12 are over now.
If last year is any indicator, Utah with Wynn should be able to put up far more than 17 points. Utah fans are hoping for Wynn to spank the USC defense with at least 24, or maybe as much as 35 points. Utah is at home; the air is thin; Wynn is healthy, and the timing of both will be critical.
Washington with Steve Sarkisian at the helm now has his house half full of the players he has recruited, and again, USC will be on the road. Washington's revamped defense this year is untested, but the offense is stronger than ever.
Syracuse, however, has no such hopes having gone 1-6 in a very weak Big East and 5-7 overall last year. Syracuse, likewise has USC at home, but the two teams just don’t match up. USC is bigger, faster and loaded with one of the best recruiting classes in football.
Stanford does have hope at No. 7 in some preseason polls and beat USC last year 56-48 at USC. Now for the bad news. No. 1 draft pick Andrew Luck is not at Stanford, and Matt Barkley, who may be this year's No. 1 draft pick is still at USC.
Among those with little hope are Hawaii, California, Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and Notre Dame, who has been pegged by some to go only 6-6.
And then there is Oregon, a preseason No. 4 pick.
All teams know Matt Barkley cannot beat them all on his own, though he is a sure first-round NFL draft choice and perhaps the top pick. There is no other quarterback in the Pac-12 matching up to Barkley. It will be hard to find another first-round pick among them.
One of the weaknesses in the USC game may be defense. Some claim it is depth with limited scholarships at 75. Others claim it is the running game of RB Curtis McNeal who had good numbers, but just couldn’t put the ball in the end zone. Enter running back Silas Redd, who transferred from Penns State.
Let’s look at the four keys that Silas Redd must bring to USC for them to go undefeated.