The most important number for USC this year? You have three choices

When we talked to Mountain West Wire about this Saturday’s season opener against San Jose State, we noted something specific about the 2022 USC season.

We pointed out that “The offense should score at least 30 in every game this season. You’re probably not going to see a 17-point clunker akin to last year at Oregon State. This is a complete offense with a generational talent at quarterback and an elite play-caller at the controls on the sideline.”

In 2022, USC’s offense played one very bad game, the one we referenced at Oregon State. Remarkably, the defense bailed out the offense. This year, the offense isn’t likely to produce a stinker like that, so if this 2023 season is going to be defined by extremes (or the lack thereof), it’s all going to focus on the defensive side of the ball. How many clunkers will this defense serve up?

We told Mountain West Wire that “the Trojans will give up at least 40 in one game, maybe two.”

Therein lies the whole key to this season from a numerical perspective.

If you look at the 2022 Trojans, they allowed 43 or more points four times. USC’s three losses came in those four games. The one exception was the 48-45 win over UCLA.

When the 2022 Trojans allowed 37 or fewer points in a game, they never lost: 10-0.

If you’re looking for the three biggest numbers of the 2023 USC football season, you have your answers: 43, 37, and 2. The “2” refers to the defense’s ability to have fewer than two clunkers, as defined by games with more than 37 points allowed.

We will say it here — explicitly — so that no one can possibly be confused or misled:

If USC’s defense allows more than 37 points exactly once (fewer than two times) this season, the Trojans will make the College Football Playoff. They will go 12-1 if that happens.

If the defense can at least reduce its clunker count by half — from last year’s total of four to only two this year — the offense could probably bail out the defense in one of those two clunkers. The Trojans could still go 12-1.

The only question is if the USC defense can actually make it a reality.

Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire