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USC football news roundup: ESPN FPI projects Trojans’ playoff hopes

Alicia de Artola
May 1, 2020, 4:31 AM PDT
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 23: Quarterback Kedon Slovis #9 of the USC Trojans passes the ball in the first half of the game against the UCLA Bruins at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 23, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 23: Quarterback Kedon Slovis #9 of the USC Trojans passes the ball in the first half of the game against the UCLA Bruins at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 23, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
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ESPN FPI projects USC football’s playoff hopes, Clay Helton takes a pay cut and more Trojans news from the week.

We have good news and bad news for USC football’s playoff hopes.

The good news? The Trojans have the 14th-best percentage chance of reaching the playoff for the 2020 season, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.

The bad news? That chance is just five percent.

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The favorites to make the playoff include Clemson (81%), Ohio State (64%), Alabama (59%) and Wisconsin (33%).

The Pac-12’s best shot at getting in lies with Oregon with a 22 percent chance. That’s demonstratively better than USC, though the Ducks at least have a recent track record of winning the conference. Complaints can’t be too strong on USC’s end.

Realistically, for USC to make the playoff, the Trojans would have to make it through their difficult schedule, not just as Pac-12 champions but with no more than one loss on their resume. If the season proceeds as planned, that first loss could come as early as Week 1 against Alabama. Running the table from there would be quite the feat.

Clay Helton’s pay cut

Athletic director Mike Bohn, football head coach Clay Helton and basketball head coach Andy Enfield are taking pay cuts amid the coronavirus pandemic, Ryan Kartje of the Los Angeles Times reported on Friday.

The cut for the three combined totals $1 million, with Enfield’s cut upwards of 10 percent and Helton’s “slightly below” 10 percent.

On Reign of Troy This Week

Trojans in the Top 100

Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports released his preseason Top 100 Big Board for the 2021 draft and USC was represented by two players: No. 42 Jay Tufele and No. 44 Amon-Ra St. Brown.

Tufele is already getting first-round mock draft buzz for 2021, so it’s no surprise he’s in the mix among the best players in the country. A strong enough season could vault him into All-American contention.

St. Brown has already posted one 1,000-yard season and is in line to produce even more as USC progresses into the second season with the Air Raid offense. He will be expected to pick up the slack from Michael Pittman’s departure and could become a household name soon enough.

The one oversight from Trapasso’s list is Talanoa Hufanga. The Trojan safety has dealt with injury troubles over the last two years, so there’s a reason his profile isn’t bigger. Still, he’s arguably the best defender at USC.

All due respect to safeties like Oregon’s Javon Holland and ASU’s Aashari Crosswell, who made the ranking at No. 19 and No. 70 respectively, but Hufanga is better than both.

Tied rivalry

USC holds a clear advantage over UCLA in their rivalry win-losses column. The Trojans lead the series 48-32-7.

Interestingly enough, that third figure is unique in college football.

As ESPN Stats & Info pointed out, the Trojans and Bruins have tied more often than any other FBS vs. FBS matchup since 1936.

Tradition uniforms are the best uniforms

Speaking of the USC-UCLA rivalry, Stewart Mandel of The Athletic used the Trojans and Bruins as a prime example of what makes traditional uniforms so elite.

Mandel pointed to the striking image of USC and UCLA playing each other each in their home uniforms — the Trojans in the same cardinal tops and gold pants and the Bruins in the same powder blue they’ve worn going back more than 50 years.

“This is not meant as a ‘get off my lawn’ column,” Mandel said. “But I truly appreciate the small group of remaining schools — mainly USC, Alabama, Penn State, Texas and Auburn — that have stuck with their traditional look amid college football’s larger fixation with alternate uniforms…

“Today, there are so many schools wearing so many wild distortions of their school colors that it only makes the traditionalists stand out more.”

No argument there.

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