USC Football: Way Too Early Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions for 2013
With their embattled head coach on the hottest seat in the Pac-12, the USC Trojans will embark on the 2013 season under the microscope after flopping in a historic manner last year.
Coming off of a 7-6 record in 2012 with a preseason No. 1 team, the Trojans will attempt to make up for those transgressions by bouncing back in a year when they will be replacing their team leader in quarterback Matt Barkley.
At the same time, head coach Lane Kiffin will be leading the program with his job on the line, and if there is not significant improvement in 2013, certainly USC will find itself with a new head man in 2014.
It is a daunting challenge to be sure, and for the Trojans to find success this year, a lot will have to go right.
Of course, the one invariable factor in all of this is who USC will play in 2013, and it is this component that may shed some light on how the season winds up for the men of Troy.
This slideshow will take a far-too-early look at this year's schedule and offer a game-by-game prediction on how the Trojans might do.
And although any forecasts this early can be construed as exercises in futility, they can serve as jumping-off points for those who lend any credence whatsoever to prognostication.
Of course, I reserve the right to completely change my mind as time goes by.
That's fair, isn't it?
At Hawaii (Aug. 29th)
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Thank goodness for the benevolent schedule maker who has blessed USC with a Hawaii team that went 3-9 in 2012 for former Trojans offensive coordinator Norm Chow.
Although USC will open on the road, it would appear that this game sets up well for a Trojan team that will be breaking in an inexperienced quarterback and an almost completely new defensive secondary.
However, this is not your typical great-offense-but-horrible-defense Hawaii team, as they finished a fairly respectable 41st in total defense last season but completely flopped on the offensive side of the ball as the third worst team in the nation.
Despite the role reversal—or perhaps because of it—look for the Trojans to get a much-needed win to open the season.
Prediction: USC 38-17
Washington State (Sept. 7)
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The Trojans follow up playing a 3-9 team on the road by facing 3-9 Washington State at home the following week.
Mike Leach's Cougars had a tough time in 2012, but should be better after a year in his system—but whether they are good enough to pull an upset on the road is highly unlikely.
Look for USC to go 2-0 against a game but overmatched WSU team who will have no answer for the Trojans' improved running game.
Prediction: USC 42-24
Boston College (Sept. 14)
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The Trojans welcome perhaps the best 2-10 team in the nation last year when the Boston College Eagles invade the Coliseum in the second week of September.
Despite their woeful record last year, the only game that the Eagles were dominated in was a 51-7 loss to Florida State on the 13th of October.
With only 15 seniors on last year's roster, Boston College should see significant improvement in 2013, although they will fall short in this game against a motivated Trojan team looking to go 3-0
Prediction: USC 28-17
Utah State (Sept. 21)
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USC entertains its first opponent with a winning record in 2012 when the Utah State Aggies invade the Coliseum on the 21st of September.
And this is not just a good team, but an excellent one that went 11-2 last year and whose two losses were by a combined five points (to Wisconsin and BYU).
To be certain, this will be a big test for a Trojan team that should be 3-0 entering this game but will not have faced anyone remotely as talented as the Aggies.
However, Utah State has lost 11 starters from its 2012 preseason depth chart, so the Aggies will have a different look from the team that finished the year by obliterating Toledo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Look for the Trojans to go to 4-0 with a nice win over a solid team.
Prediction: USC 27-17
At Arizona State (Sept. 28)
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Arizona State will be looking to avenge last year's 38-17 loss to USC on what promises to be a warm late September afternoon at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.
The Sun Devils should be better in 2013 than the 8-5 record they posted last year after a season under Todd Graham.
ASU finished 2012 with a three-game winning streak, including a 62-28 win over Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, so they will enter 2013 as a hot team. However, in the two weeks leading up to the USC game, ASU will play Wisconsin and Stanford, so it remains to be seen how they will survive those two tough games.
Still, this could be a tough game for the Trojans, and don't be surprised if they wilt under the hot Arizona sunshine..
Prediction: Arizona State 34-27
Arizona (Oct. 10)
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Following a bye week, USC will attempt to gain a measure of revenge against the Arizona Wildcats after losing in Tuscon, 39-36, last year in a game the Trojans should have won easily.
This started a streak during which the Trojans lost five of the next six en route to the ultimate collapse that was their 2012 season.
In addition, the Wildcats lose quarterback Matt Scott, wide receiver Dan Buckner and three players off of their offensive line.
USC will get back on the winning track in its first game of October.
Prediction: USC 35-13
At Notre Dame (Oct. 17)
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On the surface, this looks like a loss for the Trojans going into hostile South Bend, but there may be hope for USC on what is likely to be a chilly afternoon at Notre Dame Stadium.
That is because while the Fighting Irish are certain to be a solid team, they won't anywhere near as good as they were in 2012.
With 13 starters gone from its spring depth chart, including both of its running backs, tight end Tyler Eifert, linebacker Manti Te'o and four starters on the offensive line, Notre Dame will be looking not only to replace some excellent talent, but will also be hoping that its replacements gel quickly.
While this will be a tough game to be certain, look for USC to gain a measure of revenge for last year's loss at the Coliseum.
Prediction: USC 31-28
Utah (Oct. 26)
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Coming off a big win at Notre Dame, USC will be looking to avoid a letdown against a 5-7 Ute team that found the sledding to be tough in the Pac-12 in 2012.
Included in those seven losses was a 38-28 loss to USC at home in a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicated.
However, the Utes will be a more seasoned team in 2013 and should be improved because of that.
Despite losing record-setting running back John White, Utah has good depth and by the time it faces the Trojans, it should be hitting on all cylinders.
The Trojans will win this one, but it will be close.
Prediction: USC 28-21
At Oregon State (Nov. 1)
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The Trojans usher in November with a trip to their own personal chamber of horrors known as Reser Stadium in beautiful Corvallis, Oregon.
After going 9-4 (with three losses by a total of 11 points), the Beavers welcome back 13 starters from 2012, including quarterback Sean Mannion (or Cody Vaz) and running back Storm Woods.
Although Oregon State loses five players off its outstanding defense (including both defensive tackles), it has solid depth and should be just fine on that side of the ball.
Historically speaking, USC always struggles at Oregon State, and unfortunately for Trojans fans, 2013 will be no exception.
Prediction: Oregon State 31-17
At California (Nov. 9)
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Well, the Trojans don't have Jeff Tedford to kick around anymore, but will it matter in 2013?
Cal is coming off of a dismal 3-9 record last year, and while much of that can be attributed to a young team, the likelihood of a dramatic turnaround in 2013 seems remote.
USC should win this game fairly easily, but look out in 2014 when the Bears mature.
Prediction: USC 35-21
Stanford (Nov. 16)
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Will 2013 finally be the year that USC beats Stanford?
USC will get the Cardinal at home, so that is a benefit, but there is a reason that Stanford went 12-2 in 2012—the bad news for USC is that Stanford returns for 2013 with its roster largely intact.
While Stanford loses linebacker Chase Thomas, it does have some nice replacements such as James Vaughters waiting in the wings.
The Cardinal will also have to replace both of their running backs (Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gaffney), but they will find adequate replacements by the time this game rolls around.
All of which means the Trojans fall just short once again.
Prediction: Stanford 24-21
At Colorado (Nov. 23)
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This game is sure to be played in the elements at Folsom Field in Boulder, but at the end of the day, it just won't matter.
Colorado replaced its head coach Jon Embree after a 1-11 2012 season, but in 2013, don't look for much improvement.
USC will find a way to overcome the elements in 2013 and win this game easily.
Prediction: USC 45-14
UCLA (Nov. 30)
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After years of futility against the Trojans, UCLA finally had a breakout win in Pasadena when it won, 38-28, in a game in which Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley was injured and missed the rest of the season.
Now the Bruins are the kings of Los Angeles, and it will be up to USC to recapture the city by winning at home in 2013.
The question is, can they do it?
UCLA stumbled to the finish in 2012 by losing its last three games, but it does return talent, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Still, there will be questions on defense, and if they are not answered by the time this game rolls around, USC will win handily.
Prediction: USC 31 -21
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Though it may seem rather optimistic that this slideshow has USC going 10-3 in 2013, it really boils down to whether or not the Trojans can keep from shooting themselves in the foot like they did in 2012.
One thing that simply must improve is the Trojans' propensity to turn the ball over, which they did to the tune of being the third-worst team in the nation in this dubious statistic last year.
And of course, replacing quarterback Matt Barkley will be a daunting challenge, but there is talent waiting in the wings—the only question is whether the new QB can mature in time to make 2013 a success.
If so, USC will experience a rebirth this year and will save the job of its embattled head coach Lane Kiffin.
If not, USC will undergo even more significant changes in 2014 and the questions surrounding the program will reach a crescendo.
For USC fans' sake, the Trojans should hope the answers come this year and not next.