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O/NSO: 2020 schedule – good news/bad news – Part 2 edition

The Obvious: The Trojans recently released their 2020 schedule, and some would argue that the second half of the season, especially November, is the far more challenging than the first half schedule.

The Not So Obvious: If you look at the second half of the 2020 season, you see names like Oregon, Washington, Notre Dame, and, yes, UCLA. There is always good and bad news when it comes to scheduling, and the O/NSO is happy to provide you with some info and tidbits along the way. Here is Part 2 of the 2020 Trojans schedule:

The Obvious schedule good news – Game 7 – at Arizona (2019: 4-8 overall, 2-7 Pac-12 South) – Oct. 17: It’s Arizona, for goodness sakes. The Wildcats lost five players to the NCAA Transfer Portal. The fact that the game is 7th on the schedule could mean that Wildcats’ head coach Kevin Sumlin could be right up there in hot seats coaches. The good? For starters, super athletic quarterback Khalil Tate is gone. Tough little running back J.J. Taylor has left early for the NFL. The Trojans will be happy to know that Arizona is also looking for help on both sides of the line of scrimmage, and that’s always a positive going down to Tucson.  This could be the Trojans’ easiest victory since the earlier played New Mexico game. The Wildcats are coming off two seasons without a bowl game.

The Not So Obvious schedule bad news: Arizona has been known for upsets, and Tucson can be an unforgiving venue if you let the fans get into it. Even though Tate has used up his eligibility, UA has an experienced signal caller in Grant Gunnell, who started some games in place of Tate. Arizona has a new defensive coordinator in Paul Rhoads, and by the time the Trojans play the Wildcats, UofA will be seasoned enough in Rhoads defensive system. New Trojans DC Todd Orlando will have to deal with experienced OC Noel Mazone, who has a habit of developing quarterbacks and executing solid game plans.It’s doubtful that Mazone will be surprised with any exotic blitzes from Orlando. And it should be mentioned that Arizona got an NCAA Transfer Portal addition in former Oregon wide receiver Brendan Schooler

The Trojans are hoping their trip to Tucson to play the Arizona Wildcats (photo above) on Oct. 17 will begin the second half of the season in good fashion.

The Obvious schedule good news: The Trojans draw a bye on Oct. 24, which gives the Men of Troy two weeks to get ready for a home game against Colorado.

The Not So Obvious bad news: Given the fact that the Trojans get the bye week following a game at Arizona, it could be problematic given the reality that the Men of Troy should be on a roll following its game in Tucson.  

The Obvious schedule good news – Game 8 – Colorado (2019: 5-6 overall, 3-6 Pac-12 South) – Oct. 31: Colorado hasn’t beaten the Trojans in its series against the Trojans. In fact, the series stands at 14-0 in USC’s favor. You don’t think that’s going to weigh heavy in the minds of the Colorado players? Given the game in 2020 is a Trojans’ home game, don’t bet against the Trojans being 15-0 after the final gun. The best news is that superstar athlete and WR Laviska Shenault has taken his talents to the NFL early. Shenault was a true difference-maker and his departure to the pros will certainly have an effect on the UC offense. Gone is quarterback Steven Montez.

The Not So Obvious schedule bad news: Last season in Colorado, the Buffs gave the Trojans quite a scare (35-31), and under second-year coach Mel Tucker, they appear to have a more defensive attitude. The Trojans had to have a rousing comeback last season to come away from Boulder with a victory. You know that the Buffs will come to Los Angeles knowing they can play with the cardinal and gold despite the losing streak. In terms of the NCAA Transfer Portal, there is the impending appeal for immediate eligibility of Alabama transfer defensive end Antonio Alfano, who figures to be a big boost to the Buffs defense if he gains clearance for 2020. Alfano could present a big test for the Trojans young offensive tackles. Colorado linebacker Nate Landman and defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson return as potential all-star performers.

The Trojans are 14-0 in their series with Colorado (photo above) and hope their Oct. 31 meeting in the Coliseum will continue that winning streak.

The Obvious schedule good news – Game 9 – at Oregon (2019: 21-2 overall, 8-1 Pac-12 North) – Nov. 7: Five Oregon Ducks went into the NCAA Transfer Portal, and star quarterback Justin Hebert has used up his eligibility. This is good news for the Trojans. Oregon will host Ohio State in the second game of their schedule, and who knows what will happen from a physical and mental standpoint, but you can bet the Trojans will be watching the game against the Buckeyes if they aren’t playing. Despite his success, there are still some questions regarding head football coach Mario Cristobal, which may seem silly, given his team won the 2019 Pac-12 title and the 2020 Rose Bowl. The Ducks must also replace four offensive line starters from its championship team, and replacing them won’t be easy. 

The Not So Obvious schedule bad news: The bad news is that nobody on the Oregon team applied to the NFL. The Trojans will also be making their first trip to earsplitting Autzen Stadium for the first time since 2015. No Ducks headed for the NFL early, and talented former Trojans young wide receiver Devon Williams could play against the Trojans. As usual, the Trojans will be tested physically, and we’ll see how much is left in the tank for the Cardinal and Gold in the fourth quarter. The Ducks have a new offensive coordinator in former Mississippi State head coach Joe Morehead. Even though Morehead won’t have Justin Herbert at quarterback, Outland Trophy winning tackle Penei Sewell returns, and there’s a deep group of running backs headlined by shifty and strong CJ Verdell. The Ducks have a host of returning outstanding defenders from its conference championship, and their freshman class includes the highly touted linebacker Justin Flowe, a SoCal linebacker that some felt was the best in the country. Flowe was considered by some the best player in California and his welcome to Eugene comes in knowing that he is the second No. 1 player in Cali in successive seasons to play for the Ducks, DE Kayvon Thibodeaux being the other.

The Trojans will be traveling to play Oregon in intimidating Autzen Stadium (photo above) for the first time since 2015.

The Obvious schedule good news – Game 10 – Washington (2019: 8-5 overall, 4-5 Pac-12 North) – Nov. 14: Trojan fans were pleased to learn that the Huskies coming to the Coliseum will not include former head coach Chris Petersen, who has taken a leave of absence from collegiate coaching and has been replaced by respected Husky defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake. The good news for the Trojans is that the Purple Gang lost some offensive talent to the NFL early. Quarterback Jacob Eason, who didn’t exactly live up to the hype last season, is gone. The Huskies will also be missing tight end Hunter Bryant, who led the team with 825 yards in receptions, and the Trojans still remember the damage caused by running back Salvon Ahmed, who in 2019 rushed for just over 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Huskies must also deal with the departures of receiver Aaron Fuller and decorated center Nick Harris.

The Not So Obvious schedule bad news: The Huskies are not without talent. Freshman RB Richard Newton, who was second on the team with 10 rushing touchdowns, is returning. The Huskies will be physical again and that will be a test of the Trojans – again. Even though Chris Petersen no longer calls the shots on offense, head coach Lake has brought in new play-caller John Donovan, who has spent the last four seasons in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars. While the UW offense is in transition, the defense is in much better shape with the return of standout defensive back Elijah Molden, lineman Levi Onwuzurike and linebackers Joe Tryon, Ryan Bowman and Edefuan Ulofoshio. The cupboard isn’t bare.

The Trojans will host the Washington Huskies on Nov. 14 in the Coliseum (photo above), and it will be the USC Homecoming Game.

The Obvious schedule good news – Game 11 – at UCLA (2019: 4-8 overall, 4-5 Pac-12 South) – Nov 21: The Trojans reestablished themselves with the Bruins and their head coach Chip Kelly with a resounding 52-35 victory over their crosstown rivals last season in the Coli. You need a road map to see how many Bruins are headed into the NCAA Transfer Portal. At last count, 14 Westwooders have entered the portal, and that somewhat overlooks the fact the Bruins lost outstanding running back Joshua Kelley, who has moved on to the NFL. Not only is Kelly gone, but so is standout cornerback Darnay Holmes, who left early for the NFL along with tight end Devin Asiasi. UCLA also lost six linebackers, which is a large amount to try and sustain productive defensively.

The Not So Obvious schedule bad news: The Bruins defense returns a number of experienced players up front defensively and in the secondary. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson seems primed to take a step forward after accounting for 2,899 total yards and 25 overall scores in 2019. All is not bare for the Bruins, who also return RB Demetric Felton and WR Kyle Philips (60 catches), who return to lead the receiving unit. The Westwooders have received a NCAA Transfer Portal running back Brittain Brown (Duke), who announced on Twitter that he has committed to continuing his collegiate playing career at UCLA. In terms of scheduling, the Bruins have a real scheduling winner in that they don’t play Oregon or Washington, which could have an impact on the Pac-12 South Division race. 

The Trojans will travel across town to play the UCLA Bruins on Nov. 21 in the storied Rose Bowl (photo above)

The Obvious schedule good news – Game 12 – Notre Dame (11-2 overall) – Nov. 28: Well, the Trojans get the Irish in Los Angeles, so that has to count for something.The better news is that ND will be without leading rusher Tony Jones Jr., premier tight end Cole Kmet, who was No. 2 in Irish receptions, yards and touchdowns, and tested defensive back Alohi Gilman – all of whom are headed for the NFL draft. The Irish will need to do some replacement work on offense, but when is ND lacking for physical offensive linemen? It’s always nice to have the Irish come to Los Angeles for the Thanksgiving Weekend. FYI, the Irish play Louisville in South Bend the weekend before coming to L.A. On Nov. 7, the Irish will host Clemson, and who knows how they will come out of that game physically and emotionally? BTW, the Irish have three players in the NCAA Transfer Portal, one of which is once highly recruited quarterback Phil Jurkovec, who has ended up at Boston College. FYI, the Irish were weak in Red-zone defense in 2019, 129th out of 130. Another area of Irish vulnerability in 2019 was third-down efficiency on offense. In their last two meetings, the Irish have barely escaped the Trojans – narrowly winning 24-17 (2018) and 30-27 (2019).

The Not So Obvious schedule bad news: You didn’t expect the Irish to come into the Coliseum looking like the Sisters of the Poor, did you? Quarterback Ian Book returns, and the last time we saw Ian was last season in Notre Dame Stadium leading a long drive in the fourth quarter to crush the Trojans hopes of an upset. Notre Dame has five returning starting offensive linemen returning (gulp). Those five include right tackle Robert Hainsey, left guard Aaron Banks, left tackle Liam Eichenberg, center Jarrett Patterson, and veteran guard Tommy Kraemer. With all the issues that the Irish offense had in third-down efficiency, the Domers now have a new offensive coordinator in Tommy Rees, the son of former UCLA assistant Bill Rees and brother of former UCLA quarterback Danny Rees. The last two seasons, the ND defense has produced 30-plus sacks. Since this will be the Irish’s 12th game, they should have recovered from any inexperience along the front line and should be led by a pair of young standouts in sophomore Justin Ademilola and freshman Isaiah Foskey. Those two could be key when the Irish take on the Trojans’ passing offense.

When the Trojans host the Irish during Thanksgiving Weekend in Los Angeles, anything can happen as it did back in 1964 with this late fourth quarter, game-winning TD grab by Trojans’ legendary wide receiver Rod Sherman (photo above) from quarterback Craig Fertig. The Trojans upset the undefeated Irish, 20-17.

The Obvious schedule good news: And finally, did you renew your Trojans season tickets yet?

The Not So Obvious schedule bad news: The O/NSO repeats, did you renew your Trojans season tickets yet?

Greg Katz

Now entering his 59th season of either writing, broadcasting, or just plain watching USC football, WeAreSC columnist Greg Katz began his affiliation with the website back in 2001, introducing his well-received O/NSO (The Obvious/The Not So Obvious) column and later adding his respected IMHO Sunday opinion and tidbits column. Greg, a former ESPN.com college football columnist covering USC, is also a member of the Football Writer's Association of America. He is also known in Southern California as a professional public address announcer, having called the the 1996 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Northwestern. Greg also holds a master's degree in athletic administration and was a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.

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