Most programs would be very happy with a 9-4 final season record. The University of Southern California (USC), however, is not just another program. 2014 was a season of high hopes with an accomplished head coach in Steve Sarkisian who was taken the reigns of a team returning 16 starters combined on offense and defense from a team that somehow won 10 games the season before under 3 different head coaches.
While there were some encouraging signs, there were plenty of disappointments, as well. Studying this first 2014 season will help us look at some of the strengths of this team as well as some of the potential holes to fill, and take a look at what the 2015 season might bring. The good news for Trojan fans is that any rebuilding period will appear to be short…and if 9 wins is rebuilding when breaking in a new offense and defense, you know we’re doing some things seriously right.
The Reasons for Optimism in 2015
While USC fans might have been hoping for more than 9 wins, especially with pre-season expectations so high, there still are several reasons for thinking that 2015 could be a banner year for the Trojans.
- Most of the starters on offense are back, including QB Kody Kessler, who decided to come back for his senior year after a phenomenal season. I can’t wait to use a promo code for DraftKings.com on him next season. With another year in the system, an already loaded offense will be absolutely devastating to opponents.
- Three of last season’s losses were away games. These are at home this season, and Boston College isn’t on the schedule at all. They also finally beat Stanford, bringing back some badly needed mojo. Advantage: Trojans
- Even with multiple important starters injured and entirely new coaches on offense and defense, the Trojans still won 9 games. They should be able to build on that.
- According to Rivals.com recruiting rankings, USC is back to #1, bringing in the best recruiting class in the country with 26 total recruits divided among 4 five-star recruits, 17 four-star recruits, and 5 three-star recruits. The top 5 are all on defense, with a bevy of future offensive stars behind them. The defensive recruits may provide some immediate help or depth to a defense that lost several starters.
Challenges Coming In To 2015
- Better conference record, better against ranked teams. The Trojans had a 2-2 record against ranked teams (3-2 with a too close bowl win over Nebraska) and lost 3 times in conference. These numbers both need to improve for the national title hunt, and let’s face it, getting thumped by city rival UCLA is not going to sit well.
- A lot of defensive starters are lost. DT Leonard Williams declared for the draft, joining Linebackers Lamar Dawson, Hayes Pullard, and J.R. Tavai, as well as CB Josh Shaw. USC will have to find capable defenders fast to deal with the high octane offenses of the Pac-12.
- Oregon and UCLA. While UCLA is a home game this year, that’s still a major challenge, and good luck going to Oregon and pulling off the win.
There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about what the 2015 USC Trojans can do and fans’ expectations will reflect that optimism for the upcoming year.
Photo – Daniel Hartwig