2023 Season Preview – USC Trojans

2022 Record – 11-3; 8-1 Pac-12

Bowl: VS. Tulane in Cotton Bowl (L 46-45)

2023 Schedule

  • 8/26 – VS San Jose State
  • 9/2 – VS Nevada
  • 9/9 – VS Stanford
  • 9/23 – at Arizona State
  • 9/30 – at Colorado
  • 10/7 – VS Arizona
  • 10/14 – at Notre Dame
  • 10/21 – VS Utah
  • 10/28 – at California
  • 11/4 – VS Washington
  • 11/11 – at Oregon
  • 11/18 – VS UCLA

2022 Recap

USC came into the 2022 season looking to step up big after many lackluster years. They made a splash by bringing in Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma who brought Caleb Williams in with him as the new starting quarterback.

The season started off well, pulling off easy victories in their first three games against Rice, Stanford, and Fresno State. They faced their first battle with adversity on the road against Oregon State, a team that ended up being a lot better than people expected at the time.

After a couple more easy victories, the Trojans went on the road to Utah. This was one of the most exciting games in all of college football in 2022. It was a high scoring affair that went back and forth the entire night. In the end, Utah scored a touchdown with 48 seconds remaining and decided to go for two instead of tying the game up. The conversion was successful and USC suffered their first defeat of the season 43-42.

This would be the Trojans only loss of the regular season, though most of the way it wasn’t pretty. In four of their last five victories (taking away a Colorado blowout) the average margin of victory was just seven points. Still, they were able to win them all and make it to the Pac12 championship game.

In the championship game, USC once again met up with Utah. This time it wasn’t close, but again the Trojans were on the losing side. This took USC out of the playoff picture and sent them to the Cotton Bowl. In the bowl game, the defense again struggled and Tulane was able to pull off a huge upset. USC finished the season at 11-3, with an 8-1 record in conference play.

2023 Preview

Let’s start off with the easy statement. Caleb Williams is back after winning the Heisman trophy, throwing for 42 touchdowns and rushing for 10 more. This automatically means the USC offense will be tough notch. The offense was dominant in 2022, and more of the same can be expected for this campaign.

Williams has weapons around him as well. Top receiver Jordan Addison has moved on to the NFL, but the next three leaders are all returning with Tahj Washington, Mario Williams, and Brenden Rice. In the backfield, leading rusher Travis Dye is gone as well. Austin Jones does return though, after rushing for over 700 yards. MarShawn Lloyd transfers in from South Carolina to possibly make an impact and don’t forget that Williams can put in some good runs in as well when called upon.

The question for this team, as it seems to be for every Lincoln Riley coached team, is on the defensive side of the ball. The funny thing is the Trojans led the country in turnover margin with a +22 thanks to 29 takeaways. That actually makes what the defense did seem a little worse. They gave up almost 30 points a game even with all those takeaways.

The defense is relying heavily on the transfer portal. On one side that means you can go and get talent you need. But, on the other side, that talent has to come in and mesh with the rest of the team quickly to make a difference. The linebacking core should be the key to this team. Shane Lee and Eric Gentry return after coming in first and third in tackles, respectively. Plus, Mason Cobb transfers from Oklahoma State to add some more depth there.

2023 Projection

The USC schedule is the story of two halves. The first half of the season could be one of the easiest in the country. It starts off with two non-conference games at home against Mountain West teams San Jose State and Nevada. This is followed by four conference games that should all be easy wins against Stanford, Arizona State, Colorado, and Arizona.

Things finally start picking up in mid-October with a road trip to Notre Dame. This is followed up by an interesting match-up against Utah after losing to them twice in 2022.

After a should-be easy match up against Cal, the final three games are against Washington, Oregon, and UCLA. USC has the chance to make it through unscathed, but until the defense can show up consistently, they will probably slip up once or twice along the way.

Still, the Trojans have what it takes to make it to the PAC-12 Championship and if they pull off a victory there possibly make the playoffs as well.

Prediction – 10-2

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