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USC football 2024 schedule notes: biggest game, hinge-point game, and more

When a new college football season schedule is revealed, we all have our opinions on what the biggest game is, what the pivotal game is, and which games should be easy, automatic wins. For USC football, it is no different. As we dive into the schedule for 2024 and the Trojans’ first season in the Big Ten Conference, there is plenty to discuss.

Which games fit into specific categories? Which games stand out for varying reasons? When all the different components of the schedule are broken apart and viewed individually, how do they compare to each other? Let’s talk about these topics in a first look at the USC football 2024 schedule:

BIGGEST GAME: LSU

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

It won’t be Caleb Williams versus Jayden Daniels. It will likely be Miller Moss versus Garrett Nussmeier. It’s the biggest football game in Las Vegas since Super Bowl LVIII. If USC wins this game, we can seriously think about the College Football Playoff. If USC loses, playoff talk will very quickly die down. That marks this as the biggest game on the slate, even though it’s not in the Big Ten.

LIKELY LOSS: AT MICHIGAN

USA TODAY Sports syndication — Detroit Free Press
USA TODAY Sports syndication — Detroit Free Press

If there’s one game USC is likely to lose in 2024, it’s this one. It’s in September. Michigan will be jacked up. The Wolverines do lose a lot from their 2023 national championship roster, but they are still expected to be very, very good. Crucially, Michigan’s strongest position goes up against a USC position group with question marks. We’re talking about UM’s defensive line against USC’s offensive line. The Trojan front might not be ready to win this game against this opponent on the road.

PIVOT POINT: PENN STATE

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

If USC beats LSU and gets to mid-October with only one loss, this game might determine whether the Trojans make the playoff. Penn State at home is not an easy game, but it is also a game USC should probably win. The Trojans’ defense should be much improved in 2024, and that’s what gives us confidence to pick USC over Penn State. The Nittany Lions simply haven’t developed their offense enough to merit the benefit of the doubt here. If this game was in Happy Valley, we would probably give PSU the edge, but not in Los Angeles.

MYSTERY GAME: AT WASHINGTON

 Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

This might be the most fascinating game on the slate. Washington is a total mystery with a new head coach and a dramatically different roster compared to last season. How will UW look in early November when USC visits Husky Stadium? Washington’s personnel losses might be so substantial that USC can beat UW, but Jedd Fisch is a good coach. He might have the Huskies ready by the time USC arrives.

STATEMENT GAME: NOTRE DAME

 Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame punched USC in the mouth last season. USC needs to prove it can punch back in the Coliseum. We will see how much this late-November game means for both teams relative to the new 12-team College Football Playoff.

Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire