Calculating USC football wins needed for College Football Playoff at-large bid

A 12-team College Football Playoff means teams don't have to win their conference for a bid. Recent calculations indicate how many wins each team needs to compete for at-large consideration.
Dec 27, 2023; San Diego, CA, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Kyron Hudson (10) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Louisville Cardinals during the first half at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 27, 2023; San Diego, CA, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Kyron Hudson (10) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Louisville Cardinals during the first half at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports / Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

In the new College Football Playoff (CFP) format, the Big Ten, SEC, ACC, and Big 12 champions are guaranteed bids. Thus, winning the Big Ten is obviously in USC's best interests. However, the Trojans will unlikely win the conference in their first season as members and with a tough regular season schedule. Realistically, USC is in a fierce competition for an at-large CFP bid in 2024.

How many wins does USC need for at-large CFP bid consideration?

According to Kelley Ford, the Trojans must win nine games in 2024 to remain in the conversation for at-large CFP selection. The college football statistician made no guarantees but factored schedule difficulty, conference prestige, and projected win totals.

Another vital factor in Ford's projections is where USC ranks among the teams needing at least nine wins. Ford lists 15 college football teams in the nine-win tier. Georgia, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Alabama, South Carolina, Purdue, UCLA, and Auburn all rank ahead of the Trojans. Thus, per Ford, a nine-win Vanderbilt team is more impressive and likelier to receive an at-large CFP bid than a nine-win USC squad.

In reality, Lincoln Riley's team would need chaos within college football's ranks to receive a CFP bid with only nine wins.

Predicting nine potential teams USC will beat in 2024

Predicting nine Trojan wins begins with identifying their easiest opponents. Of course, any inferior opponent brings upset potential, especially if Riley's team shows up flat to kickoff. Nevertheless, we're projecting USC wins over Utah State (Sep. 7), Minnesota (Oct. 5), Maryland (Oct. 19), Rutgers (Oct. 25), and UCLA (Nov. 30).

Projecting four additional Trojan wins is difficult because their in-conference competition is stiff. By using the process of elimination, we've crossed off Michigan (Sep. 21) and Penn State (Oct. 12) as potential victories. USC has the talent to win both games, but the Wolverines and Nittany Lions are heavy favorites.

We think USC has an excellent chance to upset the LSU Tigers (Sep. 1) in their Week 1 kickoff game at Allegiant Stadium. The neutral site location favors the Trojans, and Brian Kelly's team is 0-2 in high-profile Week 1 games since he took over the program. Moreover, LSU's roster currently rivals USC's roster regarding a new starting quarterback and a new defensive coaching staff and defensive scheme.

New starting quarterbacks on opposing depth charts fuels our optimism.

Look for the Trojans to avenge their 2023 loss when they travel to Seattle to play Washington (Nov. 2). The Huskies are coming off an incredible CFP run. Still, they are adapting to life with a new coaching staff following Kalen DeBoer's departure for Alabama. Washington is also fielding a roster void of multiple key players from 2023, including Michael Penix Jr. and Rome Odunze.

We think USC has excellent potential to beat Wisconsin (Sep. 28) or Nebraska (Nov. 16). Both games a slated for kickoff at the LA Memorial Coliseum, thus requiring significant travel for the Badgers and Huskers. Wisconsin and Nebraska will also roll out new starting quarterbacks in 2024. We're not overly impressed with Tyler Van Dyke for the Badgers, and project Matt Rhule will spend the season flip-flopping between Georgia Tech transfer Jeff Sims and true freshman Dylan Raiola.

Lastly, our early projection includes a Trojans win over Notre Dame (Nov. 30) to close the regular season. The Irish enter 2024 ranked No. 5 and carry high expectations. However, the home team has won the game in their last four matchups and USC has such an advantage in 2024.

Next. Story Link. USC football fans' interesting 2024 predictions. dark

In our early projection, beating Notre Dame will result in USC's ninth regular season win, which, according to Ford, will be enough for the Trojans to be in the CFP at-large discussion. USC could also build a better CFP resume by moving into the 10-win bracket with wins over Wisconsin and Nebraska.