Most pundits predict USC will finish the 2011 season 9-3.
Some USC writers and bloggers will hope for an 11-1 or 10-2 season.
My conclusion is 12-0. That is a very different result than most everyone else predicts.
In a bit, I'll show you how I've come to this conclusion.
Let me say that most Pac-12 previews or USC predictions you read in print or online don't have the kahunas to put a hard prediction on paper or on the keyboard.
Those wishy-washy, blow-in-the-breeze blogs don't have the courage to put a prediction in black and white because it may come back to bite them.
Some online sources (with brave boys down below) predict a 9-3 season for USC:
National Football Authority prediction: 9-3
ESPN prediction: best case 10-2, worst case 5-7
GridironGoddess prediction: 9-3
Onsidekick prediction: 9-3
Scout prediction: 9-3
Athlon prediction: 9-3
Most of these predictions are predicated on last year's 8-5 record and point out that USC will only be slightly better in 2011.
Click on the "computer simulations" link and try a game.
WhatIfSports actually has Utah winning the Pac-12 South with a 9-3 overall record, while USC is predicted to finish second at an 8-4 record overall.
WhatIfSports is mentioned because each Vegas betting service does not have a bunch of boys in the back room with pencils, paper and TVs figuring the odds. The odds are generated by computers (programmed by totally unbiased humans, of course).
More importantly, WhatIfSports computer simulations have the USC Trojans victorious over the Minnesota Golden Gophers, but only by a score of 38-15.
This prediction was shown in the B/R article "2011 Pac-12 Football Simulation, Predictions and Preview."
Coincidentally, the Las Vegas odds for the Minnesota game have USC as a 21-point favorite with a 51.5 over/under. Basically, Vegas is saying the score will be 36-15.
CollegeFootballPoll.com listed USC as a favorite by 17.23 points, according to the Congrove Computer Rankings (along with USC as the 21-point Vegas spread).
So what does all this tell us?
1. It means that most writers won't put a prediction on paper, so they won't stick their necks out.
2. The few predictions published are typically based on last year's season record.
3. Computer simulations produce results based on programs with parameters that factor in last year's record and not this year's players or schemes.
4. Las Vegas odds (computer program parameters) are adjusted early in the season, usually during non-conference games.
My prediction for the Minnesota game: USC 48, Minnesota 6!
How many games did USC lose last year by 4 points or less?
USC stumbled to an 8-5 record last year for many reasons:
1. A complete coaching staff change.
2. New schemes that the offense/defense didn't know.
3. An injured starting quarterback (Notre Dame game).
4. Some poor officiating (Stanford game, which the Pac-12 apologized for).
5. The black cloud of upcoming sanctions demoralizing the team.
6. No depth at linebacker and putting Devon Kennard out of position.
7. A patched-together offensive line that also lacked depth.
8. Playing the spread poorly defensively (coaching)
Why will 2011 be different?
Because Nos. 1 through 8 above don't apply to USC anymore (so Vegas oddsmakers, or software engineers, need to put that in their parameters).
How do you think USC will finish the 2011 season?
Because the defense is faster with players practicing spread-option-busting plays.
Because there is more talent in key offensive positions.
Because the three teams that the "computer simulations" had USC losing to (Notre Dame, Stanford and Oregon) all have their own sets of huge problems this year that they didn't have last year.
Because I agree with Rick McMahan's assessment of Notre Dame's running game.
Because USC catches Colorado and Washington between Stanford and Oregon, whereas Oregon gets USC right after battling Stanford (black and blue).
Because Oregon has many black clouds (distractions) coming its way.
Because USC plays Stanford, the best team in the Pac-12 North, at home in the Coliseum.
Because Notre Dame is very overrated (lost to lousy Navy and Tulsa teams, plus a bunch more) and USC just dropped the ball against Notre Dame.
Because the team leader, QB Matt Barkley, said he was "approaching every game like a bowl and trying to win as many as we can." Then he added that his motivation is "to go undefeated" when he was asked about this season.
And the No. 1 reason:
Because USC is just better than any team on its schedule this year (although I am biased).