2015 USC Football Schedule: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly


The 2015 USC football schedule was released on Tuesday night, featuring key matchups at Oregon and against Steve Sarkisian’s former employer, Washington.

Due to how the calendar shakes out, the season kicks off a week later in 2015, on September 5th. That means that USC will have just one bye week next season –coming on October 3rd — instead of the traditional two.

To break down the schedule, let’s look at the good, the bad and the ugly of the Trojans’ 2015 slate.

The Good:

The best part of the 2015 schedule for USC has to be how it shakes down with the numbers. The Trojans only have four Pac-12 road games, plus Notre Dame, allowing for seven home games overall. The first three weeks are home games for the Trojans, in addition to six of the first nine games. Perhaps most mind-boggling start is that seven of the first nine games come in the state of California. And not only is the schedule home-game heavy, USC gets Stanford, Washington, Utah, Arizona and UCLA all at home, all of which are tough teams to play on the road.

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Thursdays are frowned upon by the USC fan base, but playing Washington on a Thursday is a godsend, solely because it’ll reduce the time for the media hype machine  to sink they teeth into “Sarkisian vs. Washington”. Even with a bye week leading into the game, it’s two fewer days on game week, and the college football world will have forgotten the story lines by the time Saturday comes around for the rest of the week’s games.

Playing Stanford in the Pac-12 opener for the third time in four years might be an indication that it’s a semi-permanent spot for the in-state rivals. And that’s refreshing, as it creates a new wrinkle to the schedule that can foster an iconic tradition in what has become a boiling-hot rivalry of late. Think of all of the other great early season rivalries in college football, like Florida-Tennessee,

Michigan-Notre Dame

and Georgia-South Carolina. Plus, while it can be problematic to look ahead, the Trojans opening up with two  cupcakes from the Sun Belt while Stanford plays a pair of respectful foes –Northwestern and UCF– means that Sarkisian could theoretically have eight months to game plan for David Shaw’s Cardinal. That’s if he doesn’t overthink himself, that is.

The Bad:

  • Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

    The popular mantra of the playoff era in college football has been that strength of schedule matters. So it doesn’t look good for USC to be playing two Sun Belt teams to start the season: Arkansas State and Idaho. Neither of which are FCS schools, but they might as well be, given how little of value they can bring to the Trojans’ .  But that’s that kind of scheduling that happens when the Pac-12 plays nine conference games and plus the annual Notre Dame game. Luckily for USC fans, the awfulness of the 2015 non-conference schedule aside from the Irish is just a dry valley before fertile schedules. The Trojans have eight games against Alabama, Texas, BYU and Tennessee scheduled for the following eight years.

  • Perhaps even more important than whether or not a game is at home or away, is when it’s played. For the Trojans, if playing Oregon on the road wasn’t bad enough, they get the Ducks at the end of the season, as opposed to the beginning. Why’s it matter? It’s almost a foregone conclusion at this point that quarterback Marcus Mariota is headed to the NFL after this season. Playing Oregon earlier in the career of his successor –say in Week 3 instead of Stanford– would presumably give Trojans’ defense somewhat of an an edge in an already treacherous trip to Eugene.

The Ugly:

  • USC’s dreaded Pac-12 road opener takes place in Tempe for the third time in five years. The Trojans lost the first two matchups, and the 2015 affair comes the week after a meeting with Stanford. Body Blow Theory + Pac-12 Road Opener Curse = plenty of potential for disaster.
  • The Pac-12 crossover rotation brings forth a yo-yo in strength of schedule for both USC and UCLA, courtesy of imbalanced scheduling. In 2015, USC draws Oregon and Washington as they did two years ago, while UCLA gets Oregon State and Washington State after a two year hiatus. That gives the Bruins quite an edge on paper in the Pac-12 South race.
  • The month of November is beyond brutal for the Trojans, as they face Arizona, Colorado, Oregon and UCLA. USC and Arizona have played seven straight games decided by a touchdown or less, and the trip to Colorado the week after marks the third straight time that the Trojans are heading to Boulder in frigid November. And then there’s Oregon on the road and UCLA at home, neither of which need an introduction. The only bright side?  If USC winds up able to get through those two games that late in the season, it could effectively eliminate the softness of the non-conference schedule.