USC Trojans Preview 2022: Season Prediction, Breakdown, Key Games, Players




 

What college football program is better prepared for the new era of the sport than USC?

For all those crying about the recent changes being the end of college football as we know it … yup. You want the closest thing you're going to get to a professional college football team? Here you go (and it's going to be okay, really).

NIL? The transfer portal? Social media? Marketing opportunities? Endorsements? Celebrity stardom?

Tuscaloosa and Columbus are nice and all, but …

THIS. This is the place that knows how to do it right.

This city. This media market. This program. It's USC, and it pounced on the moment to go from depressing and dreary to showtime in a blip.

How good is USC at this? It pivoted fast to be the place for Pitt's Biletnikoff Award-winning receiver Jordan Addison, and get running back Travis Dye away from Oregon, and land a whole slew of fantastic other transfers and recruits.

And it was the one college job that made sense for Lincoln Riley to leave Oklahoma for - the guy could be the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys right now and no one would blink.

Everything is coming together at once to revive a superpower that should be able to keep all the top talent at home, and come after your top guys, too, because this is now the place every 2022-and-beyond-savvy college football player will want to be.

Now, there might be a downside to all of this.

It's certainly possible that all the outside distractions, and egos, and financial interests, and other parts of the new world puzzle make this implode in spectacular fashion, but that's part of the allure, too.

It's entertainment - who doesn't want to see what USC is going to do, or root for it to be an epic fail, or see just how great it might become?

Everyone will tune in to check out the show.

The coaching, the money, the opportunities, the schedule that's not the SEC West - like Riley wanted to beat his head against that wall - the high-powered offense, the defense that's going to attack …

USC is going to be a thing again.

And college football is going to be more fun because of it.

- Contact/Follow @ColFootballNews & @PeteFiutak

USC Trojans Preview
Head Coach: Lincoln Riley 0-0, 1st year at USC
6th year overall, 55-10, 2021 Preview
2021 Record: Overall: 4-8, Conference: 3-6
Offense, Defense Breakdown | Keys To The Season
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
USC Top 10 Players | USC Schedule & Analysis

USC Trojans Preview 2022: Offense, Defense NEXT

USC Trojans Preview 2022: Offense

Lost in all of the fun and fanfare is that USC had the No. 1 offense in the Pac-12 last season with a passing attack that averaged 300 yards per game. But what it didn't do enough of was score.

So if you're a USC fan, who would you want to become the C&J Elerding Head Football Coach to take over a good situation and make it otherworldly?

With Lincoln Riley comes the high-octane Oklahoma attack, the transfers who want to play for him, and the recruits that will line up to be part of the fun. Riley and offensive coordinator Josh Henson - who grew into a top assistant coaching up offensive lines - are about do wonders.

It starts by adding one of the best quarterbacks in college football and one of the nation's best receivers. Bryce Young - who would've probably stayed close to home to be a Trojan, by the way, if Riley was the coach a few years ago - might have won the Heisman, and there were other amazing quarterbacks throughout last year, but Caleb Williams was as good as any player in college football over the second half of last year.

Williams hit 65% of his passes for 1,912 yards and 21 touchdowns with just four picks, and he ran for 442 yards and six touchdowns. How good is he? Former Trojan starters Jaxson Dart will probably be the main man for Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss, and Kedon Slovis is taking over for Kenny Pickett at Pitt.

However, Slovis won't have Jordan Addison to throw to. The Biletnikoff Award winner and new Trojan caught 100 passes last season for close to 1,600 yards and 17 touchdowns. Former Oklahoma star recruit Mario Williams is coming over, too, and Colorado's Brenden Rice is a nice, big, physical get.

Those three go with 54-catch Tahj Washington, seven-touchdown grab Gary Bryant, and fourth-leading receiver Kyle Ford to boost up an already amazing receiving corps. Tight end Malcom Epps is a big play target who'll flourish.

Not to be outdone from the transfer portal is Travis Dye from Oregon - one of the most dynamic backs in the country - to go along with Stanford's Austin Jones and veteran Darwin Barlow to balance things out a bit.

But can the O line do its part? Center Brett Neilon, tackle Courtland Ford, and guard Andrew Voorhees will be in the NFL soon enough, but this group has to be steadier and more consistent. Henson will help take care of that.

The offense will be great, but …

List

USC Trojans Top 10 Players: College Football Preview 2022

 

USC Trojans Preview 2022: Defense

Can the defense hold up its end of the bargain?

As good as all the top transfers might be, none might be bigger than former Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, who took a miserable situation and made it a whole lot better in a hurry.

This is going to take a little work, though.

USC had the tenth-best defense in the Pac-12 allowing 409 yards and 32 points per game, the pass rush was meh, and this group couldn't buy a meaningful third down stop.

On the plus side, what would normally be the hardest part to fix might just be one of the team's bigger strengths. The line starts with Tuli Tuipulotu - one of the nation's top defensive tackles - and helped by a good rotation of big options on the nose and future NFL defensive end Nick Figueroa on the outside. Along with pass rusher Romeo Height from Auburn, this bunch has to be far more disruptive.

The linebackers are set in the 4-2-5. Ralen Goforth was second on the team with 62 stops, Shane Lee is a ready-made inside presence from Alabama, and Arizona State's Eric Gentry was a nice get to be a part of the rotation.

The secondary that needs to make more big plays got an infusion of new options at corner. Mekhi Blackmon is a solid all-around defender from Colorado, and Oklahoma's Latrell McCutchin could step in right away.

Xavion Alford is a strong young safety, and Calen Bullock made 40 stops last year - those two should be stronger after going through the battles as freshmen.

USC 2022 Preview | Keys To The Season
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
USC Top 10 Players | USC Schedule & Analysis

USC Trojans: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats NEXT

USC Trojans: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats

USC Trojans: Key To The 2022 Offense

Get the downfield passing game going.

Welcome to Jordan Addison and why the former Pitt star has to rock and roll right away.

Sort of lost in all the fun of the great Oklahoma offense last year was that 1) it wasn't terribly consistent, 2) it seemed to fall asleep for stretches, 3) it wasn't all that great on third downs which all tied into 4) a passing game that was hit-or-miss at connecting on the big plays down the field when it wasn't going to Marvin Mims.

USC wasn't bad on third downs, but it had many of the same problems, especially with the deep shots - Drake London getting hurt had something to do with that.

Williams was able to do far more down the field than Spencer Rattler did, and all will be fine if and when Williams and Addison have an instant big play chemistry.

USC Trojans: Key To The 2022 Defense

Get the pass rush going right out of the gate.

Even with a slew of excellent next-level talents the plays in the backfield were lacking. Drake Jackson was fine, but he didn't dominate for a defense that averaged just 1.75 sacks per game - by a mile the fewest in over ten years.

It has to be far more consistent - 16 of the 21 sacks came in four games - and several parts have to emerge on the outside to help out Tuli Tuipulotu - who led the team with 5.5 sacks - in the interior.

USC Trojans: Key Player To The 2022 Season

PK Alex Stadthaus, Sr.
Parker Lewis didn't have the deepest of legs, but he had 50-yard range and nailed 5-of-9 field goals from beyond 40 yards. He was all-star worthy, but he's gone off to the transfer portal.

Enter Stadthaus, a solid veteran who hit all six of his field goal attempts, but his longest was from 40 and four of them were inside 30 yards.

The placekicking didn't matter all that much last year in deciding outcomes, but considering just about everything else is in place thanks to the transfer portal, the difference between this being a great season and a College Football Playoff-worthy run might come down to Stadthaus being steady from 40ish.

Of course, the true key player to the season is …

USC Trojans: Key Transfer

QB Caleb Williams, Soph.
Go ahead and name any one of the gajillion star transfers coming in and you might have the right guy. However, if Williams isn't amazing, this thing won't get off the ground.

There was a late season stretch for Oklahoma when the passing game stalled a bit, but from the second half of the Texas game on, Williams was one of the nation's best all-around quarterbacks.

Yeah, yeah, he struggled in the win over Iowa State and in the loss to Baylor, but he was also a true freshman - there was bound to be a bit of a lull. Now that he has had a full offseason as the main man, look out.

USC Key Game To The 2022 Season

at Utah, Oct. 15
At UCLA, Notre Dame. Those are two of the three games that USC might not be favored in depending on just how good the opponents are. The trip to Utah could be the other one.

The Utes finally broke a the hex and beat USC in the greater LA area with a resounding 42-26 win. However, the previous two seasons the Trojans were able to pull off the win.

This time around - in a division-less Pac-12 and with no Oregon on the slate - beat Utah in Salt Lake City, and a conference title appearance should be right there for the taking.

USC Trojans: 2021 Fun Stats

- Field Goals: USC 23-of-28 - Opponents 6-of-11
- Onside Kicks: USC 0-for-8 - Opponents 0-for-1
- USC 1st Quarter Scoring: 57 - USC 2nd Quarter Scoring: 105

USC 2022 Preview
Offense, Defense Breakdown
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
USC Top 10 Players | USC Schedule & Analysis

USC Trojans Season Prediction, What Will Happen NEXT

USC Trojans Season Prediction, What Will Happen

Take a deep breath … take a deep breath … and another one … and another one …

There's still rebuilding to do … there's still rebuilding to do … there's still …

Whatever.

It's almost impossible to look at the all-star bevy of skill players brought in, the instant depth from other far reaches of the transfer portal, and all of it working around an already good base of talent and not think that Lincoln Riley is about to work wonders right away.

Of course there will be misfires somewhere, right?

After all, this is a USC program that lost five of the last six games, and this is a head coach that needed a minor miracle to get by Kansas last year and couldn't push through the inconsistencies to get to the Big 12 Championship.

So yeah, take a deep breath … this isn't going to happen right away … this isn't going to happen right away …

Oh yeah it is.

Set The USC Trojans Regular Season Win Total At … 10

Okay, let's change it to this - there's no reason what this can't happen right away, and by that, USC has to set the goal at Pac-12 Championship appearance or bust.

Maybe Oregon is just that amazing, and maybe UCLA has it all put together, and/or maybe Utah keeps on doing what it does and one of those three pulls off the Pac-12 title. But if we're talking several months from now about whether or not anyone saw a USC College Football Playoff appearance coming …

Yeah, it's not crazy. And that's partially because the schedule just isn't that awful.

There's no Oregon and there's no Washington. That's a plus.

Fresno State is going to be dangerous, and going to Stanford - remember 42-28 last year - won't be a breeze, but be miffed if the Trojans don't start the season 6-0 before going to Utah.

After a week off, at Arizona, Cal, Colorado - anything less than 9-1 going into the finishing kick of at UCLA and at home against Notre Dame will cause parts of Trojan nation to break something tasteful.

The team has to leave California three times and has to leave LA for just four games. More than that, if all goes according to plan, it should be favored in ten of the 12 games - at the very least.

No, there is no grace period - not with this coach and all the talent brought in.

Go win the Pac-12 Championship.

USC 2022 Preview
Offense, Defense Breakdown | Keys To The Season
USC Top 10 Players | USC Schedule & Analysis

- 2022 College Football Schedules: All 131 Teams

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