With USC Football ranked No. 15, the ESPN Football Power Index predicts a step back for the Trojans with just over eight projected victories in 2018.
ESPN released their full Football Power Index preseason projections on Wednesday, with USC Football expected to trail behind Washington and Stanford in the race for the Pac-12 crown.
FPI aims to predict a team’s performance going forward with ranks determined by how many points above or below average each team has, based on 10,000 simulations in the preseason and updated with results and remaining schedule once the season begins.
Going into the 2018 season, No. 15 USC is projected to win 8.7 games, losing four. That would be a slight step down from 2017 when the Trojans won 11 games en route to a Pac-12 Championship.
FPI gives the Trojans a 25.4 percent chance of repeating as Pac-12 Champions. Washington boasts the top odds with a 51.6 percent chance of winning the conference while Stanford trails at 10 percent.
There is also a 0.3 percent chance of the Trojans going undefeated. The projections for USC being one of the Top 4 teams heading into playoff selection time is slightly greater at seven percent.
Specific to the playoff, the men of Troy are expected to play a critical role in determining the final four teams, even if they’re not predicted to be among them themselves. USC’s annual rivalry tilt with Notre Dame was highlighted as one of the most important games in the College Football Playoff race as the Irish pursue their first ever appearance. USC has a 41 percent chance to win that game and spoil their rival’s hopes.
The Trojans have one of the toughest schedules in the nation once again, according to FPI calculations. The 2018 slate, which includes out-of-conference dates against Texas and Notre Dame, ranks 14th nationally. Of the Top 15, only Stanford and Michigan will face a tougher schedule.
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Five USC opponents rank in the Top 35, including No. 5 Notre Dame, No. 13 Stanford, No. 17 Texas, No. 27 Cal and No. 32 Utah.
Further down the line, Arizona ranks No. 42, UCLA ranks No. 48, ASU ranks No. 51 and Washington State ranks No. 52.
No. 79 Colorado, No. 100 Oregon State and No. 102 UNLV figure to be USC’s easiest opponents.