USC Trojans Football: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2011 Season
Over the past few years, USC football has fallen far from the glory it saw in the "Pete Carroll Era."
Fans have forgotten the two-straight national championships, the three Heisman Trophy winners in four years and the seven-consecutive Pac-10 titles from 2002-08.
With a 9-4 season in 2009 (topped off with a Pete Carroll exit), an 8-5 season in 2010, and severe sanctions that the NCAA imposed last year, it's no wonder why the "glory days" have been forgotten.
Despite all that has gone on over the past couple seasons, the Trojans still have a lot going for them. They have continued to bring in elite recruiting classes, and remain one of the most talented teams in the nation.
With the addition of Colorado and Utah to the new Pac-12, USC has the opportunity to make a significant step toward renewing the illustrious tradition of Trojans football.
Let me preface this list by saying these are bold predictions...seriously. I'm not predicting things that will probably happen and calling them "bold" to make myself look smart.
That being said:
Here are five bold predictions for the Trojans heading into the 2011 football season.
USC Will Beat Stanford
With many early preseason polls putting Stanford in the top five in the country, this is certainly a bold prediction.
Last season, the Trojans lost to Stanford in Palo Alto 37-35 on a last-second field goal by the Cardinal at the end of regulation.
Despite the loss, one could argue that this was the Trojans' best offensive performance of the year, with quarterback Matt Barkley throwing for 390 yards and three touchdowns to Robert Woods, who had 224 yards on 12 receptions.
Although Andrew Luck will be back under center for Stanford, the loss of Luck's two favorite targets (Doug Baldwin and Ryan Whalen), the starting tight end, and the loss of the kicker who delivered the game-winning field goal in 2010, will hurt the Cardinal.
But what might hurt them the most is the absence of Jim Harbaugh, who led Stanford to three victories over the Trojans in four years. This includes one of the greatest upsets of all-time when Stanford beat the No. 1-ranked Trojans 24-23 when USC was favored to win by 41 points.
With the Barkley-Woods combo returning for another year and the Trojans getting Stanford at home in the 2011 season, look for USC to end a two-year losing streak against the Cardinal.
Matt Barkley Will Be a Heisman Finalist
Matt Barkley's junior year will be his best yet.
Last year as a sophomore, Barkley improved in virtually every statistical category. He improved his completion percentage three points to 62.6 percent, threw for more yards (2,971), and went from throwing 15 touchdowns his freshman season to 26 the next year.
Barkley will also be able to connect with returning Freshman All-American Robert Woods, who had just under 800 yards receiving in 2010. Along with Woods, the USC receiving corp will feature former top prospect Kyle Prater and incoming freshman George Farmer.
In addition to the new weapons, Barkley will also be behind an offensive line anchored by one of the top 2012 NFL prospects, Matt Kalil, who will play at left tackle.
If USC manages to get 10 wins, Barkley will likely get the media attention necessary to put him in the Heisman mix.
Trojans Will Win the Pac-12 South
The division of the Pac-12 couldn't have gone any better for the Trojans. With the North-South setup, USC won't have to worry about competing with Oregon, Washington or Stanford for a chance to get to the Pac-12 championship game.
The divisions look like this:
North: Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford and California.
South: USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah.
Now, although USC's schedule features both a game against Stanford and a game on the road against Oregon, the Trojans were extremely fortunate to avoid those powerhouses in their division.
Instead, USC will have to compete against newcomers Colorado and Utah, which will have to adjust to the Pac-12 style of play; Arizona and Arizona State, which the Trojans have traditionally fared well against; and crosstown-rival UCLA, which seems to be in a continual rebuilding process.
If USC can stay healthy through a tough non-division/non-conference schedule, the Trojans should have a great chance to represent the South Division in the Pac-12 championship game.
USC Will Play in a Bowl Game
This is perhaps the boldest prediction possible concerning USC football.
The Trojans are currently in the middle of a two-year bowl ban sanctioned by the NCAA due to former USC running back and Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush receiving improper benefits. The Trojans immediately appealed the ruling by the NCAA and are currently awaiting a ruling.
It's unclear whether or not the appeal will go through in time for the 2011-12 bowl season, but should the Trojans somehow win the appeal, they would undoubtedly play in a bowl game.
Recent problems with multiple NCAA programs including Auburn and Ohio State could help the Trojans case, but it's become clear that no one can predict what the NCAA will do in these situations.
Matt Barkley Will Stay for His Senior Year
Yes, this is a bold list of predictions.
Most draft experts have Matt Barkley near the top of their lists for quarterbacks available in the 2012 NFL Draft. I have no doubt that, should Barkley decide to leave after his junior season at USC, he would be a great pick. However, the reality is that the 2012 NFL Draft will be one of the most quarterback-rich drafts ever.
Andrew Luck will again likely be the consensus No. 1 pick, with Barkley and Landry Jones battling for the No. 2 quarterback on the board. Terrelle Pryor and Nick Foles are also potential first-rounders, and as we see in the NFL draft year in and year out, quarterbacks seem to always be picked out of order (see Tim Tebow).
Should Barkley stay for his senior year, not only would he gain valuable development and experience in the college game, but he might also increase his draft status. The amount of NFL-ready quarterback talent would be dramatically less than the 2012 class, which could make Barkley likely the top quarterback rather than the No. 2 or No. 3 QB.
Don't be surprised if Barkley follows in Luck's footsteps and plays for the Trojans for the 2012 season.