How to Judge a 7-5 Season and More USC Football News

Mar 8, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Clay Helton (right) and sports information director Tim Tessalone during spring practice at Howard Jones Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 8, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Clay Helton (right) and sports information director Tim Tessalone during spring practice at Howard Jones Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /
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What could a 7-5 season look like for USC football in 2016? Plus more Trojan news from around the web.

Can’t get enough USC football and basketball news? We’ve got your morning dose of all the best content from around the web concerning the men of Troy.

1st & 10:

First Take… On first glance, the Vegas oddsmakers’ projected win total for USC in 2016 seems quite low. Just 7.5 wins for the Trojans? Despite a roster as talented as any other? Despite playmakers on both sides of the ball?

An outrageously tough schedule doesn’t help USC’s chances, nor does a new coaching staff no one is quite sure how to judge. When it comes down to it, predicting anything about these unpredictable Trojans is futile.

The interesting thing isn’t that USC is projected to win between seven and eight games. It’s how the wins and losses shake out.

Consider this scenario within the 7-5 window:

USC play inspired on opening night, upsetting the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. They go to Stanford and avenge their loss in the Pac-12 title game. Then face a tough crowd at Rice-Eccles on a Friday night but emerge victorious.

In a no-loss November, they outpace Oregon in a thrilling shootout, then go north and win an ugly battle with Chris Petersen’s Washington. Back in Los Angeles, Clay Helton notches his second win in two against Jim Mora’s Bruins then take the fight to Notre Dame at the Coliseum and complete the sweep of their rivals.

That’s seven top notch wins, seven victories to celebrate in force. But there are five losses along the way.

There’s a body-blow hangover of an early kickoff against Utah State. The month of October is a nightmare. Arizona State takes advantage after an exhausting September for the Trojans. Colorado finally gets their upset. Arizona further tramples free-falling USC before Cal makes the most of a Thursday night pre-Halloween fright-fest.

How would you judge those 7-5 Trojans? Those rollercoaster merchants with the capacity for such highs and lows? Would the seven wins be a sign of

Here’s another scenario:

The month of September is rough.

Alabama proves too much for USC, who becomes the latest in a line of season-opening victims. The Trojans rally to dispatch of Utah State as expected but the trip up to Stanford ends in disappointment as the Cardinal notch their third win over USC in 365 days.

In Utah, the Trojans survive the Ute’s home-field of advantage setting up a successful October.

One by one Helton’s team takes care of business against ASU then Colorado. Traveling to Arizona is no problem and Cal sans-Jared Goff is even less of a concern.

The pendulum swings back the wrong direction in November. Oregon’s firepower is overwhelming even at the Coliseum. The northwest remains a fortress and Petersen’s rising Huskies check off a second win over USC in two years. Notre Dame finishes their season strong with a road victory.

But none of that matters because USC handles UCLA and completes a perfect record against the division

The Pac-12 South is theirs by virtue of tie breakers.

How would you judge those 7-5 Trojans? Those division champions who never quite reached the highs but got the postseason prize?

What matters more, the big games or the endgame?

And Ten USC Football and Basketball News Links…

  1. “Troy Polamalu Headlines CFB Hall of Fame Ballot” — Reign of TroyPolamalu made his first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot along with Matt Leinart and Mark Carrier.
  2. “Early Season Kickoff Times, TV Networks Released” — Reign of TroyUSC’s Week 2 match up with Utah State will kick off at 11:00 a.m. while kickoffs with Alabama and Stanford have been set for 5:00 p.m. As expected the Friday night Utah contest will be at 6:00 p.m.
  3. “USC Football Preview 2016: Keys To Success” — Campus InsidersRich Cirminiello breaks down USC’s 2016 season, citing JuJu Smith-Schuster and Adoree’ Jackson as the Trojans best players offensively and defensively but Rasheem Green as the key to a successful season.
  4. “College Football 2016 Team Rankings 1-128” — Athlon SportsUSC checks in at No. 22 in Athlon’s full rankings, behind No. 14 UCLA, No. 12 Stanford, No. 11 Washington and No. 8 Notre Dame. The Trojans are ahead of No. 23 Oregon though.
  5. “Top Ten USC Football Players For 2016” — Campus InsidersJuJu Smith-Schuster tops the list of USC’s top players followed by Adoree’ Jackson and Zach Banner.
  6. “Can JuJu Smith-Schuster Break Receiving Records?” — Reign of TroyWhat would it take for Smith-Schuster to surpass Robert Woods and Marqise Lee? Not much more than he did as a sophomore with a broken hand.
  7. “Time for a new look at the Pac-12 and Big 12” — USCFootball.comWhat if the Pac-12 and Big 12 solved both of their problems by joining together? Dan Weber makes the case for a California-Texas alliance.
  8. “Ranking Every State by Their CFB Teams” — Bleacher ReportThe state of California ranks No. 8 in Brian Pedersen’s listing, but Stanford is pulling the sled for the Golden State lately. A resurgent USC would surely see the state rise.
  9. “Linebacker Porter Gustin primed for success” — Conquest ChroniclesDanny Jaillet runs through Gustin’s 2015 debut and the skills which could see him replace the impact of Su’a Cravens.
  10. “5 Nice Things to Say About the USC in 2016” — Reign of TroySince Wednesday was National Say Something Nice Day, we ran down five nice things to say about USC, including a deep receiving corps, a strong shot at the division title, a lethal running back duo, a competent DC and historical trends.

Stat of the Day:

The 11:00 a.m. kick off for USC vs. Utah State will be the earliest game played by the Trojans since 1891 (as far as the available record can say).

Social Media Snapshot: