The USC Trojans are off to an seemingly unimpressive 5-1 start. The Trojans are ranked No. 13 in the AP Top 25 and are 3-1 in Pac-12 play, but the expectations were for the Trojans to make a run at an undefeated season and a spot in the College Football Playoff.
While USC’s performance thus far may be underwhelming, the Trojans are still in a good spot to compete for a Pac-12 championship and a spot in the playoff. The Trojans are undefeated at home and the upcoming schedule isn’t overly difficult, plus USC had a solid lead in the otherwise average Pac-12 South.
USC must get past a tough Utah team at the Coliseum this Saturday (5 p.m. PT on ABC). If USC is able to clear that hurdle the team and take out Notre Dame in South Bend on Oct. 21, they could be in a great spot heading into the season’s final month.
ESPN writer Alex Scarborough wrote on Wednesday that he expects the Trojans to win out. He also expects either Washington or Washington State to end the Pac-12 Championship game with an unblemished record, setting up what would essentially be a play-in game to the College Football Playoff.
The Apple Cup will be the country’s most consequential and interesting rivalry game. No. 8 Washington State is one of the biggest surprise stories of the first half of the season, but the Cougars will be in for another rude awakening when they play No. 5 Washington in Husky Stadium on Nov. 25.
Here comes the curveball: USC is going to run the table the rest of the regular season — the Trojans have an 84 percent chance to win the South, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index — and knock off Washington in the conference title game.
If last season showed us anything, it’s that the Trojans know how to finish strong. Quarterback Sam Darnold will cut down the interceptions and this time USC will be rewarded with a CFP berth.
It will result in a couple of angry one-loss teams from the state of Washington, and Mike Leach’s monologue on playoff expansion will be played on a loop inside the Pac-12 offices.
If USC is able to win out and either Washington or Washington State is able to go undefeated, it would set up the most important Pac-12 Championship game ever. Winner gets the playoff spot and the Rose Bowl, the loser goes home.
Sounds like a fun Friday night in December.
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