How USC football will benefit greatly from Pac-12 schedule tweaks for 2020

USC football lining up against Utah. (Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
USC football lining up against Utah. (Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) /
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The Pac-12’s 10-game slate in 2020 could help USC football contend for the conference title.

USC football’s 2020 schedule looks quite a bit different today than it did last month.

The Trojans lost their out of conference schedule when the Pac-12 decided to go conference-only in response to the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic.

As a result, the conference is reportedly on the verge of finalizing a 10-game schedule with each team taking on an additional Pac-12 opponent for this season.

That’s according to Brett McMurphy of Stadium after initial reporting from Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News.

How does the new schedule benefit USC football?

As McMurphy tells it, the Trojans will add Washington State to a schedule that already included each member of the Pac-12 South as well as Washington, Oregon, Cal and Stanford.

Washington State is the tougher of the two opponents USC could have picked up, compared to Oregon State. On the plus side, the Beavers are beginning to show signs of improvement under Jonathan Smith while the Cougars are in transition mode welcoming new head coach Nick Rolovich and an inexperienced starting quarterback.

The benefit to USC is less about who the Trojans will face and more about who everyone else will add.

Utah gets Oregon

The reigning Pac-12 South champions came into 2020 with a major rebuild job on their hands. However, they lucked out missing Oregon and Washington, the two toughest teams in the North. That’s no longer the case.

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The Utes will have to take on the Ducks in a game that could prove to be the great equalizer in the Pac-12 South standings. Now that all the contenders in the division will have to face Oregon. No one has the advantage of missing them.

Since Utah already had to face Washington, wins and losses in the North will be critical.

ASU gets Stanford

ASU could have ended up playing Washington, so they were a bit fortunate to land Stanford instead.

Even so, that’s another potentially difficult opponent for Herm Edwards’ squad to battle especially if you buy into Phil Steele’s preseason projection of Stanford boasting the best offensive line in the Pac-12.

Perhaps more critically, the game should take place at Stanford since five of the Sun Devils’ original conference games were scheduled for Tempe. Last year ASU was 3-3 on the road.

UCLA gets Washington

The final dark horse contender for the Pac-12 South is UCLA. Though Chip Kelly has struggled to get off the ground in Westwood, Year 3 would be the time for his methods to finally work if they’re going to work at all.

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The Bruins had a breezy schedule to begin with. They were supposed to miss Oregon and Washington while facing Utah at the Rose Bowl.

Their luck held out by avoiding Oregon, but Washington is still one of the stronger teams in the North. The game should also be played at Husky Stadium. Even without a crowd, that road trip won’t be easy.

Pac-12 South leftovers

Since Arizona and Colorado aren’t expected to contend for the division title, there’s no point lingering on their matchups.

For the Wildcats, adding Cal will only make Kevin Sumlin’s life harder.

For the Buffaloes, an Oregon State matchup is as generous as Karl Dorrell could hope for.

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The official Pac-12 schedule for 2020 is expected to be announced shortly. As it stands, USC has to feel good about their chances to take the Pac-12 South.

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