As the Pac-12 prepares to announce the 2020 conference-only football schedule, the WeAreSC staffers took a shot at putting together what their perfect USC schedule would look like.
Sept. 19 – @ UCLA
Sept. 26 – Colorado
Oct. 3 – @ Oregon
Oct. 10 – Cal
Oct. 17 – Washington
Oct. 24 – BYE
Oct. 31 – @ Utah
Nov. 7 – Washington State
Nov. 14 – @ Stanford
Nov. 21 – @ Arizona
Nov. 28 – Arizona State
If football happens this fall, this is going to be a weird season. So let’s embrace it right at the start. Nobody knows if the season is going to start on time or if teams are going to play a full schedule. But what I do know is that if there’s college football, I want to see USC play UCLA. And the best chance of seeing that happen would seem to be getting to it right away.
The trip to Oregon is earlier in the calendar and lets us figure out quickly whether USC has erased or at least significantly closed the gap between the two programs. The other tough road trip, to Utah, follows a bye week and likely without many fans (or any fans at all) in the stands, a Halloween road trip doesn’t seem as scary.
Stanford toward the end of the season would be fun for a change, and then closing with Arizona State could decide the Pac-12 South and provides a nice semi-rivalry game to close things out. USC is just 5-4 against ASU over the last nine games and the Sun Devils’ staff is trying to develop a real rivalry on the recruiting trail.
I didn’t alter the home/away schedule because the trips to Eugene and Salt Lake City seem like fair challenges for this team. But I have eliminated the Friday night game because duh.
Washington State – Opening game in the Coli, thus avoiding Pullman in November. However, opening up with the Cougars with a new head coach and a whole new program screams a USC rout. The Trojans should be primed for the Cougs, and would anybody be surprised it wasn’t? If the Trojans aren’t up for this season opener, somebody is going to scrutinize Clay Helton’s nearly $5 million dollars yearly contract.
At Arizona – Another program in turmoil and no fan attendance in Tucson eliminates any chance for a Wildcats upset. Only thing that could be challenging is the weather in September, but it’s worth the trade out. Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin is in a corner and can ill-afford a blowout to the Trojans. On talent level alone, the Trojans should glide through the contest.
At Stanford – Instead of opening up conference play against Stanford in the original 2020 schedule, the Trojans should now be 2-0 and fully ready for Cardinal head coach David Shaw and his physically and mentally disciplined brainiac players. It won’t be easy because Stanford will also have a couple of games under its belt, but the schedule timing should be an advantage for the Trojans.
Washington – With a new coach in Jimmy Lake, the Huskies, still physical, will still be trying to find themselves in October, and offensively the Huskies will still be searching after the Chris Petersen era. The Trojans will have the advantage of no travel and in this coronavirus environment, it avoids a real stress level travel experience.
Bye 1 – A chance to recover physically and mentally after two consecutive physical opponents in the Cardinal and Huskies. Timing works well with a week off in preparation for the physical Utah Utes.
At Utah – It’s still early, but it’s also still a treacherous Friday night game. However, there’s a strong possibility that there will be no fans in the stands at Rice-Eccles Stadium, which makes a huge difference. In addition, the Utes are rebuilding offensively – especially in the backfield.
Cal – The Trojans should be undefeated at this point, so there should be no letdown after playing at Utah. Cal still has some big question marks on both sides of the line of scrimmage, and a Coli home game should continue the Trojans spotless record of no losses for 2020. Doesn’t 6-0 sound nice?
At Oregon – This could be the first game the Trojans are true underdogs. But then again, Autzen Stadium should be vacant of fans or very little signs of human inhabitance if that is in the offering. Having been to Autzen enough times, obviously no fans in the stands won’t be a distraction, but the chilly weather could be. The Trojans defense should be adjusted to their new system under DC Todd Orlando, and the Ducks will still be trying to get it together offensively. However, beware of the Ducks running attack with another impressive offensive line.
Bye 2 – Another chance to regroup and get well if need be. With three consecutive Pac-12 South games to end the regular season and never having to leave Los Angeles, the Trojans are in a great position to win the South and advance to the Pac-12 title game.
ASU – Even though the game is being played in Los Angeles, this game could be the toughest of the season because (1) Sun Devils program has it going. (2) the Coli will probably be a ghost town, giving a neutral field vibe. (3) ASU head coach Herm Edwards’ program has won before in LA., and (4) the ASU talent level is compelling. This one could be for the Pac-12 South title, which brings a plethora of winning and losing ramifications.
Colorado – The Trojans will welcome former UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell, whose first-year Buffaloes program will be a little more advanced since it’s being played late in the season. However, Dorrell needs another two solid recruiting classes to approach the Trojans talent level. Given this will be USC’s senior recognition day, the Men of Troy should be inspired and ready to go.
At UCLA – The Trojans should win this game at an empty Rose Bowl but should is not a true guarantee if the Men of Troy have some injury issues – like QB Kedon Slovis doesn’t play. Of course, if Kedon does play and the Pac-12 South title is still on the line, this could be a very entertaining game if you’re a USC fan. A word of caution, we should all know that anything can happen when these two crosstown rivals get together and usually does.
Oregon State – away.
It’s nice to start with a bad team, and this is the safest W on the schedule. Yes, I know UCLA is on the schedule, and they might have something to say about that since Chip has turned the Bruins into arguably the worst program on the west coast. But we can’t open with a rivalry game. Save that cupcake for last. Bookend beatdowns.
Arizona – home.
It’s the “I owe my whole career to Johnny Football” v. “I owe my whole career to Sam Darnold” bowl. Clay gets the nod, of course, because he didn’t turn the most dangerous running QB since Tommie Frazier into a crappy pocket passer. Nice work, Kevin.
Oregon – away.
This is the hinge game on the schedule. No, not because Mario Cristobal steals California blue chips from Clay Helton the way an elementary school bully steals other kids’ lunch money. We don’t care about that. Talent doesn’t matter to us. We’ll just out-discipline and out-scheme them.
No, this is the hinge game because I don’t know how many of our guys will survive it. Ordinarily playing at Oregon without the crowd would be an advantage. But not this year. By the time this game rolls around, all of the elected officials in Portland will have ceded the state to massive gangs of anarchists, who will have re-named Oregon: STOOP – State of Oregon Organized Protest. Federal law enforcement officials will be gassing every person who crosses state lines. The local airport will be nothing more than a fog of tear gas. My only consolation is that the prevalence of weed might make the anarchists of Oregon relatively chill for anarchists. I expect 93% of the team to return home safely and 7% to defect to STOOP.
Cal – home.
You know Justin Wilcox hates Clay Helton. He may not say it, but he does. Helton essentially fired him before that first bowl game and decided he’d rather play without a defensive coordinator – or practices – than play with Justin Wilcox. No way Wilcox let’s that slide. The problem is, Wilcox might just be the worst offensive coach in Pac 12 history. One field goal by the Trojans should be good enough.
ASU – away.
The Movie Bowl. Nobody turns out more film talent than USC and ASU. Different types of films, sure, but that doesn’t make the statement any less true.
Stanford – away.
Stanford has more money than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Didn’t stop Stanford from cutting half of their sports programs. Though, in fairness, I didn’t realize that squash and lightweight rowing were varsity sports at the college level. This is why Stanford wins so many national titles. It literally fields teams that no other team in the country fields and then claims national titles in those sports. And, yes, in case you were wondering, Stanford’s Tic-Tac-Toe team has won the last 18 national championships. All by forfeit.
Colorado – away.
Are Kordell Stewart and Rashaan Salaam playing for Colorado this year? No? Then I’m not going to bother talking about Colorado. Nobody would read it anyway.
Utah – home.
Kyle Whittingham is everything that Clay Helton was supposed to be when Clay was hired. Except for one really inconvenient fact for Kyle: Clay beats him like a rented mule every time he walks into the Coliseum. It’s time to take your medicine, Kyle. Somebody make sure the medics are ready.
Washington – away.
That Chris Petersen resignation was weird. Something is going on we don’t understand. I think Hannibal Lecter is sending threatening letters to Washington football coaches. Expect Jimmy Lake to resign after week two. By this point in the season, Washington’s head coach will be a guy who started the season as a graduate assistant. Should be a thrilling coaching matchup, but I’m going with the guy with more experience.
UCLA – home.
I have been wrong about a great many things in my life. But thinking Chip Kelly would do big things at UCLA may be my all-time biggest miss. I have a theory, because there’s absolutely no way he can be this bad. I think Chip hates UCLA. I think he has always hated UCLA. I think he took the job for one reason: to destroy the program he hates more than anything. You know, the way Pat Haden did at USC.
So there you have it. I see this as a 10-0 season. Clay Helton signs a 10-year extension at halftime of the UCLA game. He gets that Alabama game after all, but in the college football playoff. Alabama wins that game 78-2. “Fire Clay” planes are in the air over LA immediately.
Just kidding. If even three of these games get played, I’ll be shocked.
@ Washington State
No Mike Leach a get the cold game out of the way, use that as a sparring partner.
Catch them early and at home for the season opener. Utah has not been able to overcome the mystique of the Coliseum.
Playing in Tuscan gives the Trojans a chance to fine tune against a program in rebuilding mode. Gives the team a chance to jell and build camaraderie. Those Arizona trips can be tricky but the key to them is to jump out to an early lead and force the Wildcats to play with pace.
Without Chris Peterson and Covid-19.
Playing the Sun Devils at home should be a nationally-televised game.
Always tricky but a game the Trojans should be able to dictate pace and rhythm.
Playing Oregon in the Coliseum could be must see TV if both teams enter the contest undefeated. While one might give the edge to Oregon, this game would mark Todd Orlando’s 7th game with this group of defensive talent.
Trap game. The Trojans could find themselves looking ahead to a potential undefeated season and Cal just might have a say in it all.
The last time the Trojans played in the Rose Bowl they were utterly embarrassed and throttled in the run game. That should sustain their attention.