Is Idaho the Worst Team USC Will Ever Face?


One of the proud factoids around the USC football program is that the Trojans are one of three schools who have never played an FCS opponent. This Saturday however, they’ll face a team that has toyed with the idea of dropping to Division I’s second tier.

RELATED: Ranking USC’s 2015 Opponents By Threat Level

That’s Idaho, who has won just four games over FBS opponents in the last four seasons and competes in the Big Sky in every sport but football.

Quite simply, the Vandals aren’t a very good football team, as noted with a five-year program FEI ranking of 124th in the nation. They’re also 124th in recruiting over a five-year span.

Throw it all together and it doesn’t seem entirely inappropriate to ask if Idaho will be the worst team that USC will ever face.

The answer is no. And surprisingly, not by a long shot.

In the eight years since USC last played Idaho, the Trojans have played 15 schools that finished with an FEI rating of minus-0.1 or worse. This year’s band of Vandals is projected to rank as the seventh-worst during that stretch, using preseason FEI projections from Football Outsiders.

The most futile opponent? The 2008 Washington State Cougars, whom the Trojans ripped for a 69-0 win.

They were beyond bad that season, going 2-11 with the only wins coming against FCS Portland State and the 0-12 Washington team that got Tyrone Willingham fired and Steve Sarkisian hired.

10 Worst USC Opponents Since 2007

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Interestingly enough, not a single bottom-10 opponent was scheduled since Pat Haden was hired as the athletic director in January of 2011.

The list features Pac-12 addition Colorado, previously scheduled teams Minnesota and Hawaii, and then longtime conference foes like Cal and the aforementioned Washington State.

This year’s scheduling of Idaho is actually the second leg of a two-game series agreement that was reached back when former Pete Carroll assistant Nick Holt was the Vandal head coach.

It says a lot that Pac-12 opponents are littered throughout the list. For one, it’s a critique on the level of coaching prior to the conference’s infusion of revenue after expanding to 12 teams in 2011.

And secondly, it goes back to the Trojans’ refusal to play FCS opponents. Despite playing some bad football teams over the years, USC has done it naturally, as opposed to seeking out low-rung paycheck games to pad the win column and sell tickets.

Compare that to anyone who schedules schools from the dregs of Division-I like Savannah State, who has won a total of two games against FCS programs in the last seven seasons.

Playing Idaho will be as close as the Trojans get to playing an FCS-level team.

They aren’t a sexy opponent and they won’t improve USC’s strength of schedule. But thanks to a few really bad Paul Wulff teams, they aren’t exactly the worst team to play at the Coliseum.

Talent wise? Now that’s a different story.

Albeit the Vandals have a punter/kicker with one of the strongest legs on the planet. Any way you cut it, that’s pretty awesome.

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