One of the things that fans often do with the season vastl..."/> One of the things that fans often do with the season vastl..."/>

2008 USC Football Preview: The Schedule


One of the things that fans often do with the season vastly approaching is to take a quick glance at the schedule and start marking a “W” for just about every single game. Instead of writing “W’s” for the USC and UCLA games this year, I thought it would be more appropriate to categorize the games and discuss their significance for the team.

The Opener: Virginia
When the season kicks off in Charlottesville, it will be the first ever meeting between USC and Virginia. Against current ACC schools USC is 10-6 so obviously they don’t have much of a track-record against the Cavaliers or any ACC school either. Despite their lack of experience against the ACC, USC should be able to start off the season with a victory. While Virginia won nine games and played in the Gator Bowl last season, they return just eleven starters from a year ago and must replace top NFL draft pick Chris Long and quarterback Jameel Sewell. Because of this many preseason magazines have suggested that the ‘Hoos will struggle in 2008 so look for the Trojans to take advantage of their inexperience. In addition to Virginia’s projected struggles, the Trojans have won ten straight season openers and seven straight non-conference BCS road games so the odds are truly stacked in their favor.

The Game of the Year: Ohio State
This game is going to get bigger and bigger every single week, as’s Stewart Mandel has already proclaimed this matchup number one on his list of the ten potentially season-defining games of 2008. When the Trojans and Buckeyes square off in the Coliseum on September 13th, both teams will likely be ranked in the top five with a birth in the BCS title game already on the line. This showdown might actually be even more important for the Buckeyes as they look to increase the Big Ten’s credibility after consecutive BCS title game beatdowns at the hands of SEC powers Florida and Georgia. According to Mandel, “[The Buckeyes] desperately need a win, or at least a down-to-the-wire finish, to show they’re capable of competing at the highest level.” This game will be the first real test for the Trojans’ new starter at quarterback, Mark Sanchez, who will be starting just his second game of the season and fifth of his career. As strange as this sounds, a win for the Trojans and a strong performance from Sanchez, would put both USC and Sanchez in the driver’s seat for the national title game and a trip to New York City for the Heisman Trophy.

The Trap Game: Oregon State
Over the past few seasons, USC’s losses have typically come against middle of the road Pac Ten teams such as UCLA, Oregon State, and even Stanford. For this reason, I am often looking out for these dangerous trap games where USC is not expecting their opponents to really challenge them at all. Such was the case when USC traveled to Corvallis, Oregon, two years ago as an undefeated Pac Ten juggernaut that had won 27 consecutive conference games. To their astonishment, the Beavers outplayed them and eventually won the game when a John David Booty pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage. The Trojans face the Beavers on a Thursday night, September 25th, and it will be their first trip to Corvallis since their infamous loss to the Beavers in 2006. The game will be the first time the Trojans have ever played on a Thursday night and it is the first game after the big showdown against Ohio State. Therefore, look for the Trojans to suffer a little post-Buckeye syndrome and possibly come out a little flat against the Beavers. If they have to play from behind, Oregon State might be good enough to upset the Trojans again.

The Beach Game: Washington State
By definition, a beach game is when the final result is so certain that a Southern California sports fan is able to go to the beach instead of watching the pending result of the game. The October 18th matchup between the USC and Washington State is such a game, because by all accounts Washington State is going to be absolutely terrible this season. Even Washington State homer Sean Hawkins of the AOL Fanhouse has stated that the Cougs will at best win five games this season under new coach Paul Wulff. After last season’s Stanford debacle, I am hesitant to label any game a certain victory, but the matchup with Washington State is really in the Trojans’ favor this year.

The Stanford II Game: Washington
I am sure that if you’re the slightest bit of a college football fan than you’re most likely aware of USC’s horrific loss to the Stanford Cardinal last season. An upset of that magnitude only comes around a quarter of a century, but lightning could strike twice. You never really know. To tell you the truth, Washington scares me this year. While most Huskie fans are calling for Tyrone Willingham’s head right now, they do indeed have one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Jake Locker, whom ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit has dubbed “Tim Tebow West.” The comparison to Tebow is certainly a legitimate one as both quarterbacks have the ability to score touchdowns with their arm and their legs. Historically, USC has struggled with these dual threat quarterbacks (see:Dennis Dixon and Vince Young). If Locker continues his improvement than it’s not out of the question that he could pull a Tavita Pritchard and upset the Trojans this November.

The Rivalry Game: Notre Dame
The Battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh between USC and Notre Dame is often considered the greatest intersectional rivalry of all college athletics. Last year the Trojans put a beating on the Irish, despite the fact that Digger Phelps insisted that Notre Dame wasn’t dead yet. Truth be told, the Irish were quite dead as they won just three games total last season, but many prognosticators are expecting a major turn around for Charlie Weis and company in 2008. With last year’s beating on their mind, look for Notre Dame to be even more determined to upset their heated rivals. While I am by no means predicting a Notre Dame upset, I do feel that this year’s contest might be a little more competitive.