Recently, Pac-12 College Football reporter Jon Wilner ranked Pac-12 teams' strengths of schedules from most difficult to least difficult. He ranked USC football at No. 10, therefore ranking them as having the third-easiest schedule in the entire conference. It was a strange ranking.
USC of course plays Utah, the best team in the conference, as they are in the same division. They are the only program in America to not play FCS teams (Notre Dame just scheduled an FCS opponent for the future), and that continues this season. They also will play the blueblood Fighting Irish, as they do every year.
With these two non-conference items in mind, it proves once again that SC refuses to schedule the cupcakes that the other Pac-12 programs do. Need proof? There are EIGHT teams ranked as having harder schedules than SC that have FCS opponents on their schedules:
No. 9 Cal (UC Davis), No. 8 Oregon State (Montana State), No. 7 Washington State (Idaho), No. 6 Arizona State (Northern Arizona University), No. 5 Utah (Southern Utah), No. 4 Arizona (North Dakota State), No. 3 Oregon (Eastern Washington), and No. 2 Stanford (Colgate).
It is very odd as to why Jon Wilner has USC football as the No. 3 easiest schedule in the Pac-12, but he explained his ranking.
Jon Wilner did, however, at least explain that it's not the opponents on USC football's schedule that he considers easy, but rather the layout of the schedule.
"A near-perfect schedule to begin the Lincoln Riley era. We wouldn't call the lineup easy, but the order and locations (e.g., no back-to-back road games) create a potential launching pad for USC's return to relevance," commented Wilner.
It's still not accurate that a schedule with these types of opponents on it is the third-easiest schedule in the conference regardless of the other factors affecting the schedule, like not having back-to-back road games.
That being said, at least he admitted that this is certainly no cupcake schedule at least when it comes to the teams on the other sidelines. It is true that SC doesn't play Oregon this season, but that's the only good opponent in this conference that they miss. The other in Utah is one that they take on in brutal Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Oregon is playing Eastern Washington this year and of course doesn't play USC, and they're No. 3 on the list. Arizona State misses Oregon and plays Northern Arizona and they're No. 6, and Cal misses Utah while also playing UC Davis and is No. 9.
If none of this matters and USC's schedule really is as easy as Wilner says it is, though, then USC needs to win at LEAST nine games in Year 1 under their new head coach in Lincoln Riley.