Head Coach: Steve Sarkisian
2013-14 Record: 10-4, 6-3 Pac-12 Conference
2013-14 Bowl Result: 45-20 Win Over Fresno State in Las Vegas Bowl
Odds to Win National Championship: +4408
Offense: 7, Defense: 7
The Trojans welcome back plenty of firepower for Steve Sarkisian’s first year as the front man of the program after he spent five seasons at the University of Washington, with the biggest name being junior quarterback Cody Kessler.
Kessler completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 2,968 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, as he prepares to target star wide receiver Nelson Agholor regularly after the departure of Marqise Lee to the NFL.
USC will have one of the more balanced rushing attacks in the Pac-12, with two very capable runners in Javorius Allen and Tre Madden, but they’ll be running behind a mostly-untested offensive line.
First-year defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox will use a talented front seven to play an aggressive and attacking style, with junior All-American Leonard Williams leading the way after racking up 13.5 tackles for loss in 2013.
Senior linebacker Hayes Pullard will be the vocal leader of this group after finishing with a team-high 94 tackles last season, while strong safety Su’a Cravens looks to build off a fantastic year of earning Freshman All-American honors.
Starting the season off against Fresno State may be a bit of a luxury for the coaching staff, considering USC picked up a win in the same matchup in the 2013 Las Vega Bowl. It would be a tougher test if the Bulldogs welcomed back signal-caller Derek Carr.
The Trojans first major test will come on the road against the Stanford Cardinal in their conference opener, especially since they snapped a four-game losing streak in the series at the Coliseum last year.
Sarkisian shouldn’t experience too many bumps in the road over the course of the season, considering he’s been competing in the conference for more than a decade, but his first year on campus may be determined as a success or failure in how the program does finishing out against UCLA and Notre Dame.
USC is certainly in much better shape than it was to start the season last year, with athletic director Pat Haden having to install two interim coaches on the sidelines after firing Lane Kiffin.
The Trojans are hungry to become a major player on the national stage again after suffering through NCAA sanctions the last few years, while they also dodge playing Oregon and Washington on the schedule.
NCAA football handicappers should expect a nine-win season from this group.
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