Potential Opponents on the Future 2020 USC Football Schedule

Dec 27, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; USC Trojans center Max Tuerk (75) prepares to snap the ball against the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the second quarter in the 2014 Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 27, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; USC Trojans center Max Tuerk (75) prepares to snap the ball against the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the second quarter in the 2014 Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

In June, the future USC football schedule got a bit clearer with the announcement of a three-game series with Fresno State. Who could be next?

The Trojans’ non-conference slate for the next four years are all locked up, and only two open dates remain until 2023. That’s single openings to start the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

So what are the Trojans’ options moving forward?

In 2020, USC is set to host New Mexico on September 19th and Notre Dame on November 28th.

Given the Pac-12’s logistical need to have both the Trojans and Stanford play a conference game by Week 2 because of the Notre Dame series, one can assume that a road game in Palo Alto is a formality in early September that year.

In 2021, the Trojans close the season with BYU at home on November 28th, and travel to Notre Dame in mid-October.

RELATED: USC Adds Rice to 2022 Schedule

Consider that for years, USC’s scheduling strategy has been rather simple: play Notre Dame yearly, schedule a respected Power 5 opponent, and then a manageable Group of 5 opponent, all to ensure at least six home games, and seven when possible.

It’s created marquee schedules year in and year out, including the 2016 slate, which is expected to be the nation’s toughest, beginning with defending national champion Alabama.

Put it all together and it’s likely that USC goes one of two routes.

Either they schedule a home and home series with a Power 5 to start in 2020, or the Trojans schedule a pair of one-off games, with a major neutral site game in 2020 and a fill-in Group of 5 opponent in 2021, treating BYU as a Power 5 team.

Here’s potential opponents for the following scenarios with some help from FBSchedules.com, based on availability due to already scheduled future games.

If USC schedules a home & home for 2020-21:

Northwestern: Stanford would warn USC not to do it, but a two-game series with the Wildcats would be fun for a pair of like-minded private schools.

NU’s 2020 and 2021 schedules are without opening games as of now, and if the Trojans start the series on the road, they could potentially travel to the Chicagoland area in four successive seasons, if your definition is somewhat liberal and includes South Bend.

SEE MORE: 4 Observations on USC’s 2016 Schedule

That would also allow the Coliseum to host the 2021 season opener, in tandem with what should be a Pac-12 home game in Week 2. The teams haven’t met since the 1996 Rose Bowl, and USC hasn’t played at Ryan Field since 1968.


Somehow, someway, the Trojans have never played Louisville. But 2020 could change that. The Cardinals only have an ACC-mandated trip to South Bend on the docket, and if their 2018 season opener against Alabama shows anything, it’s a willingness to schedule a major program.

That could make Louisville a candidate to be in a one-off game, as they’ve got three neutral site games scheduled between 2017 and 2023.

RELATED: Tennessee No Longer on Future USC Football Schedule

Would the Cards be an enticing opponent for USC in a place like Dallas though? That’s tough to say, which could make them more suitable for a home and home series.

Though, Louisville has only traveled west of the Mississippi once since 2009, and that was in 2011 against Oregon State.

Sep 5, 2015; Iowa City, IA, USA; A general view of Kinnick Stadium prior to the game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Illinois State Redbirds. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 5, 2015; Iowa City, IA, USA; A general view of Kinnick Stadium prior to the game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Illinois State Redbirds. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports /


USC and Iowa rekindling their series for the first time since the 2003 Orange Bowl would be intriguing. The Hawkeyes have the space to do it, with only Northern Illinois and Iowa State on the schedule in 2020 and 2021.

While the Northern Illinois game would have to be moved off of September 5th to accommodate USC –which is doable since both Iowa and NIU have September 19th open– the question is whether or not Iowa would be willing to schedule a major opponent.

Outside of five-time defending FCS champ North Dakota State this year, no one on Iowa’s future schedules should be a threat.

RELATED: USC’s 2016 Schedule Brutal But Not Invincible

Going back several years, only Arizona and Pittsburgh have served as quality non-conference opponents. Scheduling USC would buck that trend.


Like when the Trojans inked Minnesota, Syracuse and Boston College to successive non-conference series, USC playing Kansas would not push the needle in terms of interest.

But it logistically works. The Jayhawks travel to Houston on September 12, 2020, but are open on September 5th.

Plus, they would make a soft opponent for USC to add in 2021, when the Trojans play BYU and Notre Dame, while still technically being a Power 5 program.


Just last year, UGA athletic director Greg McGarity made it known that he wanted to bring the Bulldogs to LA to play USC or UCLA in a historic venue.

They ended up scheduling UCLA to a two-game series in 2025 and 2026, making a USC series pretty unlikely for now.

READ MORE: Georgia Considering Series With USC

However, outside of the yearly rivalry with Georgia Tech, UGA only has a single FCS tilt with Eastern Tennessee State locked down for 2020 or 2021.


USC’s two-year romp of the Razorbacks a decade ago to tune of a 120-33 aggregate score is still fresh on the minds of those in Fayetteville.

But Arkansas does have a schedule that lends itself to the Trojans once again. Only a trip one-off hosting of Texas in 2021 is on their future schedule beyond 2019.

The Hogs travel to TCU in 2016 and Michigan in 2018, which seemingly makes them open to a potential trek back to Los Angeles. Could it happen? We’ll see.

If USC opens 2020 with a neutral site game:


The Badgers are one of the few teams unafraid to play true road games out west, having traveled to Fresno State, UNLV and Arizona State in the last few years. While that could potentially open the door to a USC-Wisconsin home and home, the Badgers have a two-game series with Syracuse planned for 2020 and 2021.

The new nine-game Big Ten schedule makes it a burden to double down and add the Trojans to both schedules. However, Wisconsin gets the Orange at Camp Randall in 2020, and have an open date on September 5th.

Considering they’ve scheduled neutral site games with Alabama in 2015 and LSU for this year, that makes the other UW as good of a potential opponent for USC as anyone, in a 2015 Holiday Bowl rematch.

REWIND: USC Falls to Wisconsin in 2015 Holiday Bowl

The question would be where? If the LSU game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay goes well, that could become a hub for one-off games. Solider Field in Chicago has also hosted neutral sites games in the past, and USC has history there with Notre Dame.

Then there’s new NFL stadiums that could foot the bill, like a potential stadium in Las Vegas for the Raiders, or even the Rams’ new digs in Inglewood.


The Huskers haven’t played a neutral site game since 1998 when they played Oklahoma State in the Western Star Trucks Classic in Kansas City. Yeah, that was a thing. But Nebraska’s schedule in 2020 is ripe for a one-off game.

They’ve got an open date on September 5th, followed by a pair of home games with Cincinnati and Central Michigan. They also are completed booked every year prior, and in 2021, making a home and home unlikely.

So the Huskers have two options: book an FCS team at Memorial Stadium to open the season at home for the 21st-straight year or find someone to play a neutral site game for a good sum of money.

The landscape of the College Football Playoff prioritizing teams with tough schedules could nudge their hand.


While a home and home between the Trojans and Sooners for the first time since 1992 would be a big deal for both programs, Oklahoma restarting their rivalry with Nebraska in 2021 prevents that from happening.

But OU only has a road game at Army scheduled in 2020, opening the door to potentially playing USC in a place like Dallas or Houston.

The only drawback is that should the Big 12 stay with 10 teams on a nine-game schedule, Army on the road plus a tilt with USC would mean that Oklahoma would only have five home games, because of the neutral site rivalry with Texas.

RELATED: Bret Bielema’s Criticism of 9-Game Schedule is Absurd

The good news is that the chances of the Big 12 expanding and revising their nine-game schedule is high.

More from Reign of Troy

Alabama, Auburn, Florida or Tennessee:

It’s easiest to lump the SEC teams with an opening together. While Tennessee is the only of the bunch to routinely travel and schedule home and homes, it’s hard to project an SEC team coming to Southern California until they do.

Of the four, Florida might be the intriguing one, despite only three projected SEC home games in 2020. The Gators haven’t played a non-conference game out of the state since 1991, but they’ve scheduled a pair of neutral site games, with Michigan at Jerry World in 2017, and Miami at the Citrus Bowl in 2019.

If those go well, a return to the Dallas area could be a recruiting play for the Gators, in tandem with getting Florida State and two mid-major non-conference games in Gainesville.