The lack of a bye week raises USC football’s level of difficulty in 2017, but other schedule advantages for the Trojans over rivals for the Pac-12 South crown even the playing field.
It’s easy to look at the 2017 USC football schedule and wonder what the Trojans did to deserve the short end of the stick.
USC finished the 2016 season on a nine-game winning streak, won the Rose Bowl and earned a Top 3 ranking in the AP poll. Their reward? A 2017 slate featuring 12 consecutive games from Sept. 2 to Nov. 18 with no bye week in between.
The Trojans won’t get their bye until the week of Thanksgiving, after their regular season schedule is concluded.
Considering the wear-and-tear a football season produces, playing 12 games without rest feels like a serious disadvantage for Clay Helton and company.
But will it seriously derail USC’s pursuit of a first Pac-12 championship since 2008?
It all comes down to whether or not the Trojans can secure a place in the conference title game. If they do, then the disadvantage flips towards major advantage, giving USC an extra week to prepare for their foe from the Pac-12 North, who will be on just six days of rest for the likely Friday night title game.
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USC’s ability to win the South is actually bolstered by the schedule, which no longer includes Washington or Oregon.
The Huskies are the great equalizer in the South race.
Last year, the Buffaloes missed Washington and notched a win over Washington State to help secure the South title over USC.
This year, Colorado, Utah, UCLA and ASU all take on Washington while USC and Arizona avoid the reigning Pac-12 champ in the regular season. The Bruins and the Utes will face them in Seattle.
In all likelihood, the Huskies will do USC a favor and hand each of their division rivals a conference loss. Meanwhile, the Trojans have a tough road match up with Washington State on tap, but they will be favored to win that game regardless.
The Ducks are a wildcard this season, but with talent on the roster and a highly-regarded head coach in Willie Taggart, the Trojans should be happy with facing Oregon State at home instead.
UCLA and Utah have the more unfavorable task of playing Oregon, with the Utes travelling to Autzen.
In fact, USC’s road slate in the conference is as generous as it could be.
Conference Road Games:
USC — Cal, WSU, ASU, ColoradoColorado — UCLA, Oregon State, WSU, ASU, UtahUtah — Arizona, USC, Oregon, WashingtonUCLA — Stanford, Arizona, Washington, Utah, USC
The toughest trip is a date with Colorado in November, which presents some obvious weather concerns. However, compared to USC’s competition, that’s not a bad group of games.
Colorado and UCLA both play five road games to the Trojans’ four.
The Buffaloes play Washington State on the road like USC, but also have to travel to UCLA and Utah.
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The Bruins might have the toughest road schedule in the division, facing Stanford, Washington and Utah, even if the trip to the Coliseum is less of an ask.
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Even Utah, with just four away games in conference, must go to difficult venues to play Oregon and Washington, on top of USC.
Moreover, the Trojans aren’t the only ones facing a long run of games.
Colorado’s bye week won’t come until Nov. 18, the week after they play USC. That’s 11 consecutive games the Buffaloes will play in 2017 before getting a break.
In the end, the bye week situation isn’t ideal for the Trojans, but nearly every other aspect of the 2017 schedule works in USC’s favor compared to their rivals in the South.
And the payoff of an extra week to prepare for the Pac-12 title game could be well worth the trouble.