It's been a busy offseason for USC.
The Trojans made one of the most talked about moves in recent history, prying Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley away from Norman, who in turn brought stud quarterback Caleb Williams with him. The team also made the shocking move to the Big Ten starting in 2024.
It's no longer about headlines though, it's about the games, and USC enters this season with high expectations, will they achieve it? Or will the Riley tenure get off to a slow start despite an easy schedule?
Let's see what the Trojans have on hand in 2022:
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
USC Football in 2022: National Championship, SEC, Win Total Odds
- USC: +2500
- PAC-12 Championship: +220
- Win Total: 9.5 (Over -110/Under -110)
USC Offense Preview
The offense should be explosive, as is most of Riley's units. He has someone who is comfortable in his system in Williams, a former five-star recruit, who dazzled in half of a season in Norman. Williams passed for 1,912 yards in seven starts, adding 21 touchdowns and throwing just four interceptions.
Williams was the big fish of the transfer portal, but nabbing Pittsburgh's Jordan Addison wasn't so bad either. Addison won the Biletnikoff Award last year for the best wide receiver in the country after racking up 1,593 receiving yards.
This will be the best offense in the conference as Williams and Addison will be a lethal duo. The offensive line will also give Williams time to operate both inside and outside the pocket as a dual threat quarterback. The team only allowed 18 sacks last year, a top 25 mark in the country and nearly everyone is back in the trenches.
Riley also picked up two PAC-12 running backs to help fill in for near-1,000 yard rusher Keaontay Ingram in Travis Dye (Oregon) and Austin Jones (Stanford). Williams is a capable rusher as well and Riley has all the tools in place to name a number on the scoreboard.
USC Defense Preview
For all the praise the offense will get, the defense is set to be the opposite. The defense was 93rd in yards per play and allowed touchdowns on more than 72% of red zone drives. There was little pass rush and the team couldn't get off the field on third down, ranking outside the top 100 in third down conversion rate allowed.
Riley brought his DC with him from Oklahoma, Alex Grinch, who fielded an elite defense in 2020, but a mediocre one the other two years. OU was prone to shootouts and I expect the same in SoCal. There is a completely revamped secondary that will rely completely on Power 5 transfers, and a defensive line that generated only 21 sacks last season.
Oklahoma was bottom half of the country in stopping explosive pass plays and completion percentage allowed and there was more talent with the Sooners D in 2021 than the Trojans in 2022. This defense is going to be the Achilles heel to the team.
USC Special Teams Preview
USC will turn to two new specialists in 2022, as well as a new special teams coordinator. The likely starting kicker is Alex Stadthaus, who made six of his field goal attempts as a backup last season in addition to all of his 11 extra points.
As well, the punter is projected to be Australian freshman Atticus Bertrams.
For what it's worth, Riley consistently had great special teams at Oklahoma and has a ton of speed to put on punts and kick returns. Riley also hired Ryan Dougherty to be the special teams coordinator after being part of his staff in Norman since 2017.
USC Schedule Breakdown
USC has an incredibly favorable schedule this season, avoiding Oregon and Washington in crossover play. But it's not all perfect for the Trojans, who have to go to Salt Lake City to take on defending PAC-12 Champion Utah on October 15th.
The Trojans do project to be considerable favorites in all but three games this season: the aforementioned Utah game, at UCLA on November 19th and Notre Dame the following week.
The team goes to Stanford in Week 2 in an early test and also gets Fresno State at home in between that conference opener and another PAC-12 foe Oregon State the following week.
Arizona State and Washington State both come to Los Angeles the first two weeks in October as frisky conference foes, but the Trojans will be most likely lined as double digit favorites in those two matchups. As well they get a stretch of at Arizona, California and Colorado, three of the worst teams in the PAC-12, before they close the season against the Bruins and Irish.
This is surely one of the easier schedules in the country, but will the Trojans defense hold up their end of the bargain?
2022 USC Football Betting Preview, Predictions, Best Bets
While I outlined an easy schedule for USC, I am going under on this win total.
For starters, the team could lose the three games they are going to be lined within one score and that cashes this ticket, but I also don't trust this defense to not cost them at least one game as big favorites.
The offense will put up points, but Washington State, Oregon State and Fresno State will all have high octane offenses that could go toe-to-toe with them if Riley and the team isn't ready for a fight.
This win total is implying that this team is going to be a College Football Playoff contender right out of the gate, but this defense is going to hold them back.
I am much more interested in backing Utah to win the PAC-12, as I did in June, and going under on the Trojans win total. I project the Trojans for 7.5 wins, which could be underselling the ease of the schedule but also shows that their name is underscoring their roster deficiencies.
PICK: Utah to Win PAC-12 (+250), USC UNDER 9.5 Wins
Track all of Reed's bets at Betstamp HERE!