Schedules can be tricky to analyze, especially considering all the other dynamics that revolve around college football. But from strictly a game-by-game breakdown, with a few little bit of nuances thrown in, you can get a basic summary that will offer a glimpse into what might happen when the season gets here.
The University of Southern California Trojans are considered one of the favorites to win it all and although upsets can always be a part of a schedule's landscape, more than likely it will be the big games that make or break a season. With that said, the Trojans have several games on the calendar that will be huge battles but here's a review of the top three toughest games for USC in 2012 (listed as they fall on the calendar).
September 15 at Stanford Cardinal
The Trojans will have played two games up to this point against Hawaii and Syracuse, who although both seem capable teams, they are middle-of-the-road competition. Middle-of-the-road Stanford isn't. The Cardinal will be coming off two patsy games versus San Jose State and Duke - both played in Palo Alto. The Cardinal will probably be a Top 20 club in 2012 but will be missing one key ingredient from the past years: Andrew Luck.
In all probability, Luck will be the starting quarterback for the NFL's Indianapolis Colts. The USC Trojans are certainly happy about that. So Stanford has a difference-maker to replace and that may be enough to slow the Cardinal down in 2012. USC's offense has been able to score on Stanford but never was able to outscore Luck (0-3 versus Luck) - now with an improved Trojan defense, the tables may be turned. Remember that USC lost to the Cardinal in triple-overtime last year and two years ago on a last second field goal at Stanford Stadium.
October 4 at Utah Utes
This contest will be played on a Thursday night in Salt Lake City before a nationally televised audience. Both teams will be coming off a bye weekend. The Utes start the year off with a patsy and then have quality games against Utah State, BYU and Arizona State. None of those teams will scare anyone though, so Utah should come into this game undefeated at 4-0 and likely ranked in the Top 20.
Last season, the Utes played the Trojans tough before losing in the Coliseum 23-14. If USC can get by Stanford, they might be ranked #1 in the nation so Rice-Eccles Stadium will be jacked up and the pressure should be huge for a first half-of-the-season game. It's possible this game will decide the Pac-12 South Division but bigger goals may be in mind here.
Utah doesn't overwhelm and depth issues on both sides of the line are what they're staring down the barrel at next season. But the Utes have the pieces and schedule to make noise in 2012.
November 3 versus Oregon Ducks
This is a huge date on the college football calendar as this biggest game west of the Mississippi will be played while the biggest game east of the Mississippi will be going on in Baton Rouge between Alabama and LSU. Almost like two national semi-final games to see who makes it into the national championship game. Regardless, this matchup in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum between the Ducks and Trojans will be for all the marbles - at least in the Pac-12.
Yes, both these teams have big games after this humongous gridiron contest but everyone will have this particular date circled. There's a sense that if the Oregon defense can improve over 2011, which is plausible, they won't have to rely on outscoring everyone. The Ducks seemingly always have depth but their quarterback position is a big question.
Motivation will be the key to this game. Does Matt Barkley's 'unfinished business' mean more for USC or does the sting of losing to the Trojans in Eugene last season ramp up the motivation gauge with Oregon?
The conference road contest at Washington (after the Utah game) should be a test for USC; plus, the rivalry games against UCLA and Notre Dame at the end of the season are always a challenge. But the three biggest games listed will decide a lot for the men of Troy.
Sources - University of Southern California, ESPN
Daryle W. Hier lived in Los Angeles Ca. most of his life and has been a longtime fan of USC, having followed the Trojans since he was just a youngster. Fight On!
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- the Trojans
- USC Trojans