October 24, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans interim head coach Clay Helton watches game action against the Utah Utes during the first half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The 2016 USC football schedule is widely considered the toughest in the country, featuring a Murderer’s Row of elite teams. But who’s the toughest?
The jury is out on whether or not ESPN’s FPI metric is worth consideration. But that it says an average FBS team would win just three games with USC’s schedule is rather telling.
A year after Clay Helton was thrown into the fire as the Trojans’ interim head coach, his first full year features a first month with three teams that were ranked as high as No. 3 in the AP Poll last year.
And despite getting both classic rivalry games in Los Angeles, it’s the second year of the on-on-off-off format that sees the Trojans draw the two toughest teams out of the Pac-12 North: Oregon and Washington.
It makes 2016 a season in which Helton’s team might not be best judged by its record. But of the 12 foes, who are the most likely to topple Troy?
Here’s a look at the 12 opponents on USC’s schedule, ranked by difficulty:
12. California Golden Bears | Threat Level: Low
It’s been a crazy offseason in Berkeley. Quarterback Jared Goff went No. 1 overall to the Rams in the NFL Draft, Sonny Dykes finally got a contract extension, and they gobbled up Texas A&M castoff and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital.
But Spavital inherits an offense with as much of an exodus at the skill positions as the team he himself left, with Cal’s top six receivers from 2015 no where to be found on the roster.
Yes, they add five-star wide out Demetris Robertson and former USC commit Melquise Stovall was impressive in spring camp, but the Bears have a long way to go on offense, even with Texas Tech transfer Davis Webb
Defensively, there’s no end in sight for a team that finished 86th in defensive FEI.
The Trojans haven’t lost to the Bears since 2003, and if they do so in 2016, it would be a big surprise.
Then again…Cal does come to the Coliseum on a Thursday night. Hmmm.