USC Set To Pounce On “Near Perfect” Schedule

Pac-12 football: Ranking the 2022 schedules; UCLA has easiest in the conference

USC has a near-perfect schedule to begin the Lincoln Riley era and a potential launching pad for program’s return to relevance

Jon Wilner (OCRegister.com)  —  The Pac-12 last week announced two additional components to the 2022 football schedule, revealing the kickoff times for early-season games and the finalized lineup of weeknight matchups.

For the purposes of this exercise, the latter of the two disclosures was more significant: No assessment of schedule strength is complete without accounting for the logistics of Thursday and Friday games.

Overall, the Pac-12 has 11 dates with Power Five opponents, including Notre Dame (three games), Georgia, Florida and Michigan State.

Three teams won’t play any non-conference road games.

One team doesn’t leave home until October.

Here we go, with schedules ranked from most to least difficult …

1. Colorado

Home games (six): TCU (Friday), UCLA, Cal, Arizona State, Oregon, Utah

Road games (six): Air Force, Minnesota, Arizona, Oregon State, USC (Friday), Washington

Pac-12 misses: Stanford and Washington State

Notable nugget: The Buffs face Oregon, USC, Washington and Utah in succession in November. Yikes.

Comment: Every aspect of CU’s schedule is akin to a Category 5 storm, from the absence of non-conference cupcakes to the cross-division misses to the brutal finishing stretch. All this for a team that seemingly would struggle with an average schedule.

2. Stanford

Home games (six): Colgate, BYU, USC, Oregon State, Arizona State, Washington State

Road games (six): Notre Dame, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Cal, UCLA

Pac-12 misses: Arizona and Colorado

Notable nugget: Stanford is the only team with a September bye (Week Three), which forces the Cardinal to play 10 weeks in a row. Good luck with that.

Comment: We considered ranking this lineup No. 1, but at least the Cardinal has one cupcake (Colgate). The road schedule is comically difficult (per usual in even years).

3. Oregon

Home games (six): BYU, Eastern Washington, Stanford, UCLA, Washington, Utah

Road/neutral games (six): Georgia (neutral), Washington State, Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Oregon State

Pac-12 misses: USC and ASU

Notable nugget: The Washington game (Nov. 12) will be played later in the season than any year since 2002 (Nov. 16).

Comment: Our assessment of the schedule starts with the opener against the defending champions, but all of Oregon’s losses to Stanford and derailments in the desert serve to increase the degree of difficulty.

4. Arizona

Home games (seven): Mississippi State, North Dakota State, Colorado, USC, Oregon, WSU, ASU (Friday)

Road games (five): San Diego State, Cal, Washington, Utah, UCLA

Pac-12 misses: Stanford and Oregon State

Notable nugget: NDSU has won nine of the past 11 FCS national titles. Consider that game a toss-up.

Comment: This stands as Arizona’s toughest schedule in years with the wrong cross-division misses and no non-conference cupcakes. (Then again, after last season, can anyone be considered a cupcake for the Cats?)

5. Utah

Home games (six): Southern Utah, San Diego State, Oregon State, USC, Arizona, Stanford

Road games (six): Florida, Arizona State, UCLA, Washington State (Thursday), Oregon, Colorado

Pac-12 misses: Washington and Cal

Notable nugget: The WSU duel (Oct. 27) will be the Pac-12’s first conference game on a Thursday since Stanford-UCLA in the 2019 season.

Comment: The perfect schedule for a playoff contender, with just enough challenges to satisfy the selection committee but no nasty twists or turns and a revenge game (SDSU) in what might otherwise be a trap situation. The Utes are a 1.5-point favorite at Florida, by the way.

6. Arizona State

Home games (six): NAU (Thursday), Eastern Michigan, Utah, Washington, UCLA, Oregon State

Road games (six): Oklahoma State, Colorado, Stanford, Washington State, USC, Arizona (Friday)

Pac-12 misses: Cal and Oregon

Notable nugget: ASU is the only team that plays four of its final six games on the road.

Comment: Circumstances make the schedule more difficult than it might seem initially: The Sun Devils and their rebuilt roster have three early dates with teams (Oklahoma State, Utah and USC) that should be in the top 15 of the AP preseason poll.

7. Washington State

Home games (seven): Idaho, Colorado State, Oregon, Cal, Utah (Thursday), Arizona State, Washington

Road games (five): Wisconsin, USC, Oregon State, Stanford, Arizona

Pac-12 misses: UCLA and Colorado

Notable nugget: The Cougars are the only team that opens conference play with two consecutive home games.

Comment: Nice to see a Power Five opponent on the schedule (for the first time since 2015), but it’s a manageable lineup overall, especially with OSU, Stanford and Arizona making up 75 percent of the conference road schedule.

8. Oregon State

Home games (seven): Boise State, Montana State, USC, Washington State, Colorado, Cal, Oregon

Road games (five): Fresno State, Utah, Stanford, Washington (Friday), Arizona State

Pac-12 misses: UCLA and Arizona

Notable nugget: The Beavers haven’t won a season opener since beating Weber State in 2015.

Comment: Boise State isn’t as daunting as it once was, but Fresno State will be a significant challenge in the Central Valley’s September heat. Add USC and Utah to the early-season schedule, and there is zero room for a slow start for a program that starts slow.

9. Cal

Home games (seven): UC Davis, UNLV, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA (Friday)

Road games (five): Notre Dame, Washington State, Colorado, USC, Oregon State

Pac-12 misses: Utah and ASU

Notable nugget: The Bears face Notre Dame for the first time since 1967 and have not scored more than eight points against the Irish in any of the four previous meetings.

Comment: Combine two non-conference cupcakes with a favorable lineup of conference home games and a critical cross-division miss (Utah), and this schedule should support a postseason push.

10. USC

Home games (seven): Rice, Fresno State, Notre Dame, Arizona State, Washington State, Cal, Colorado (Friday)

Road games (five): Stanford, Oregon State, Utah, Arizona, UCLA

Pac-12 misses: Oregon and Washington

Notable: USC, UCLA and Washington are the only teams that play all three non-conference games at home.

Comment: A near-perfect schedule to begin the Lincoln Riley era. We wouldn’t call the lineup easy, but the order and locations (e.g., no back-to-back road games) create a potential launching pad for USC’s return to relevance.

11. Washington

Home games (seven): Kent State, Portland State, Michigan State, Stanford, Arizona, Oregon State (Friday), Colorado

Road games (five): UCLA (Friday), Arizona State, Cal, Oregon, Washington State

Pac-12 misses: USC and Utah

Notable nugget: Washington doesn’t play its first road game until Oct. 1 (at UCLA)

Comment: Sure, Michigan State poses a first-rate challenge, and the conference road lineup is difficult and there are two Friday games. But the key to our assessment of UW’s schedule is the absence of USC and Utah. Kalen DeBoer couldn’t have asked for more.

12. UCLA

Home games (eight): Bowling Green, Alabama State, South Alabama, Washington (Friday), Utah, Stanford, Arizona, USC

Road games (four): Colorado, Oregon, Arizona State, Cal (Friday)

Pac-12 misses: Oregon State and Washington State

Notable nugget: UCLA was supposed to visit Michigan in the fall, but the Wolverines canceled the home-and-home series — and reportedly paid the Bruins $1.5 million to void the contract.

Comment: With three non-conference cupcakes and eight home games, including USC and Utah, the schedule should allow Chip Kelly to build on his 2021 momentum.

ocregister.com

________

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Jamaica
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June 5, 2022 5:51 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

One of the reasons LR didn’t win a National Championship at Oklahoma, and he had chances to, was not having a defense that could shut a good opponent down when it had to. LR has made it clear he intends to build a great defense here at USC and understands to win it all, you must play good defense. It will take a few years time to build a great defense. Sure his offensive mind attracts offensive skilled players and all but the better defensive players are not going Portal as well. I say by LR’s 3rd season we should… Read more »

Golden Trojan
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June 5, 2022 7:31 pm
Reply to  Jamaica

I think after this next season the portal will light up with O Linemen and defensive players wanting to come to SC. The defense will depend though on Grinch’s rep as a coach. If they can somehow make the playoffs in this coming season even if they get beat they will attract players on defense. I know I’m saying a lot thinking a playoff spot this next season but it is not out of the realm of possibility.

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June 5, 2022 1:56 pm

The USC men’s basketball team, fresh off a school record-tying season for wins in 2022, will begin a home-and-home series with perennial Southeastern Conference power Auburn on Dec. 18, 2022 at the Galen Center, it was announced today (June 3). The Trojans will then make a trip to face the Tigers at the Neville Arena in Auburn, Ala. in December of 2023. The 2021-22 Trojans tied the school single-season wins record by going 26-8, finishing third in the Pac-12 and advancing to the 2022 NCAA Tournament.   The 2022-23 Trojans will be led by a strong returning core of guards Boogie Ellis… Read more »

Golden Trojan
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June 4, 2022 2:40 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Shoot for the moon Mike Bohn! 🤑

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June 5, 2022 9:21 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

The NCAA Baseball Tournament currently going on looks like fertile ground to get a very good coach. As soon as Bohn drops the hammer on Gill his phone will light up with agents of coaches. If Bohn can get LR to come and resurrect USC football, I’m sure he can put together a package for a great hire to do the same for USC baseball. I agree NILs sure has to be in the mix as well.

Golden Trojan
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June 5, 2022 4:13 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

If Checketts was smart enough not to want to work for Lynn Swann, he’s got my vote!

PN4SC
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June 4, 2022 3:10 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Really hope this is true. Gill stinks. This last season was such an embarrassment, and there is no reason SC can’t field a team worthy of post season play every year. I don’t know if another ” Lincoln Riley” hire is out there, but there are plenty of quality candidates out there. SC baseball has been so bad for so long, time to get real, and hire a proven winner.

TrojanRJJ
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June 4, 2022 12:59 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I really liked the first part of the article with Wilner’s view of the possible future of collegiate football. He thinks about 35 teams will form a mini-NFL. The rest will simply play on a lower level, more resembling D2 or so. But, he thinks it is about 10 years away. He also thinks that when the shift occurs, Cal and Stanford may drop major football. I would not be surprised if UCLA dropped it as well. If I were Condie Rice, I would be preparing for that shift, which means David Shaw stays in place. I never thought Stanford… Read more »

Golden Trojan
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June 3, 2022 5:27 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Everybody getting along new and old was one of the 2 issues I thought would hold this team back. The other will be everybody executing on the field as one. I think Riley is showing a lot of humility here. It is his people skills that have separated who should stay, who should go and who should come in and build a comradery in the locker room. The hard part is done now it is hard work and practice. I can’t help but have high expectations. We have been used to such mediocrity these past 5-6 years we have lost… Read more »

Steveg
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June 3, 2022 5:57 pm
Reply to  Golden Trojan

Weren’t most of the players that sat out the last game told to hit the road? I think most of the players loyal to the Cat are not on the roster anymore. This shows true leadership by the staff and it immediately created a whole new culture at USC.

Jamaica
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June 3, 2022 10:01 am

I know everyone does it now using various reasons why, but scheduling easy wins just doesn’t do much for a fan unless he/she gets excited watching a boring game where the 1st string players are on the bench after the route is on and the playcalling leaves out the better plays? And what is accomplished for the players who need to work on their game playing slower, less skilled opponents? If & when the Power 5 conferences split from the NCAA division 1, maybe we will see schedules where teams have to earn their victories at a true level. Of… Read more »

TrojanRJJ
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June 3, 2022 11:27 am
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This projected All League team shows why we need to put the brakes on the 2022 Trojans as being a top 5 team. Notice only ONE D player on the first or second team. And, look at the second team Offense OL choices – dominated by Oregon State. And, we play our 4th game at Corvallis. I know everyone keeps telling me that the O will simply outscore our opponents, that D only needs two stops a game. Last year’s tOSU showed that is simply not true. That O was probably better than the 2022 Trojan O. And it lost… Read more »

Jamaica
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June 3, 2022 12:45 pm
Reply to  TrojanRJJ

I like your thinking. On teams that can grind out yardage like OSU, ND and “at” Stanford who can work the clock away from opposing offenses, these will be close hard games vs. USC unless our defense is or becomes better than what the prognosticators believe. I am hoping our DL can keep blockers away from our talented LBs so they can be aggressive in making the timely needed plays.

Last edited 21 days ago by Jamaica
Jamaica
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June 3, 2022 12:58 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I do respect David Shaw’s running game when he has a physical OL. That and passing to his offensive ends is how he likes to control the ball & the clock. You just know everyone will try to keep the ball away from LR’s offense as much as they can.

Last edited 21 days ago by Jamaica
TrojanRJJ
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June 3, 2022 3:01 pm
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Allen, Thanks for correcting me below on Trigg. I am certain that Epps would be shocked to learn his is now playing for MS. On this post, I did not say Stanford would be “very difficult”. I said “difficult”. And I think it will be. For whatever reason, Stanford always plays SC tough. Recently, Stanford has chosen to show up for a couple of games a year. Last year, it was SC and Oregon. I am fairly confident the game is Palo Alto will be a challenge. SC should win, but I would be surprised if it were the walk… Read more »

Steveg
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June 3, 2022 3:08 pm
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RJJ, I am agreeing with you on all three games. Be prepared for Stanford, play your butt off against Fresno, and definitely bring your A game to Oregon State. I hope all three of those teams get ranked, it will boost USC’s standing as the season progresses. I do have my doubts about Stanford getting ranked though.

Last edited 21 days ago by Steveg
TrojanRJJ
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June 3, 2022 9:10 pm
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Allen, I also really like the schedule. If this team is going to compete nationally, it needs to beat Oregon State in Corvallis, which is going to be a real challenge particularly given the weakest part of SC is its run D, which is a strength for the Beavers. I think the Stanford game is great prep, which will be followed by an even better Fresno State team. These two games will push the Trojans. If they do not show up ready to play tough and disciplined football those games, they will lose. As you said, Colgate will not prepare… Read more »

illinoisusc
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June 5, 2022 7:04 pm
Reply to  TrojanRJJ

Personally….I’am also at 9-3. Lots of new parts sometimes takes a little time to mesh.

illinoisusc
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June 6, 2022 12:48 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Yep……like a breeze just after a big storm in the middle west….The stench is gone. Thank heaven. I would be thrilled with a pac 12 championship…..I’d also be thrilled if the next year’s recruiting class (including transfers) adds 8 to 9 of the big, nasty, quick and strong OL/DL rated recruits carrying 4/5 stars……and I expect it to happen. As you know: Beating Utah at Utah is a tough one for a new coach. Could happen…..but they have a really good QB, coach and some nice players. Beating ND, with the level of talent that was left there is also… Read more »

John Weld
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June 2, 2022 3:31 pm

More on NIL from Ryan Day…. From Cleveland.com: Day said the Buckeyes have been gathering information by talking to recruits and their families and getting a sense of what other schools might be discussing with NIL deals. He said he believes right now top-shelf quarterbacks require $2 million in NIL money. Major offensive tackles and edge rushers he said are about $1 million. If you can’t match that, other teams might have a chance to pluck key players from your roster. Day told the assembled potential NIL donors that every player on the team could go in the transfer portal… Read more »

Steveg
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June 2, 2022 4:21 pm
Reply to  John Weld

Wow, college football sure changed it seems overnight. I guess with all the money they make they will be expected to be able to handle the negatives that come their way if they don’t perform as expected. Coaches can now cut players irregardless of their NIL, I hope these young kids can handle the pressure they have had put on them or taken upon themselves.

San Diego Trojan
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June 2, 2022 7:20 pm
Reply to  John Weld

I guess a team doesn’t have to have an elite recruiter on the staff anymore as long as you have the best NIL package to offer.

TrojanRJJ
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June 3, 2022 11:34 am

San Diego, You nailed it. Recruiting still matters, but coaching is far more important now. You need top level coaches who can develop their talent and produce winning, which will draw attention and NIL money. Right now, there are only a few programs in collegiate football that will be able to compete nationally and SC is one of them. In fact, it is probably the best positioned to do so in the nation. But, it has to win and attract national attention – that will draw the sponsors and the NIL money. And, as I wrote earlier, I see no… Read more »

Steveg
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June 3, 2022 3:03 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I am anxious to see how Trigg does in Kiffens offense. I to wish we still had him but I think Epps and McCree will stand out this season. Trigg was above all of them as far as being a receiver.

Steveg
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June 3, 2022 3:04 pm
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It’s funny RJJ, we all know who you meant.

John Weld
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June 2, 2022 8:05 am
ATL D.D.S.
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June 2, 2022 8:49 am
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I thought this was a done deal weeks ago. I did not know the issue of Peterson returning was still in doubt. Glad he is coming back!

Steveg
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June 1, 2022 3:48 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

If it was a stock I would say buy, things are only going to get better from this point on. Especially as the season progresses the bandwagon is going to be filled up.

ATL D.D.S.
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June 2, 2022 6:40 am
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Prior to the LR hire, USC Football had degraded to a penny stock!

Rock2112
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June 1, 2022 4:47 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

The patchwork is in place on the lines to have a decent season in 2022. But the future there is not secure. Thus, to me, despite a little too much hype around us for my comfort level at the moment, USC is still a buy. I’m going to bank that LR should make enough progress on improvement to start making a case for top lineman to become Trojans. Once that happens, the program is truly back, and could be consistently good on a national basis for as long as LR is around.

ATL D.D.S.
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June 2, 2022 6:46 am
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Maverick is a success because the producers and Cruise decided to be “un-woke” for the movie. The Taiwan flag is back on Mavericks leather flight jacket–the ChiComs wanted it gone. At first the producers acquiesced, but apparently came to their senses and let the Taiwan flag fly–thumbing their noses to the Winnie the Pooh look-alike Chinese dictator. Yeah, baby!

San Diego Trojan
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June 1, 2022 8:07 pm
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To me, success in the first year will be entirely on the defense. Last years was probably the worst I can remember. Little talent, depth, and desire. I have no doubt the offense will score points with talent and scheme, but they are going to have to outscore to win a bunch of 35-30 type of games. If Alex Grinch can make that unit competitive next season, then the turnaround will be ahead of schedule and set the tone for recruitment on that side of the ball.

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June 1, 2022 10:59 am

This is a perfect schedule for the Pac 12 to return to prominence quickly. There are four teams that have serious top 10 opportunity: SC, UCLA, Oregon & Utah, with Utah probably having the best overall team in the Pac in 2022. And the best chance of playing in the Final 4. The downside for the Utes is they must play UCLA and then SC back to back. That really helps the Trojans. UCLA is the weakest team of the group, but has by far the best schedule. UCLA will play only three top 25 teams all year: SC, Oregon… Read more »

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June 1, 2022 11:35 am
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I see USC similar to a good spaghetti sauce or red wine. As it matures it just gets better every time. I think LR, as compared to Helton, will be able to watch film and truly make adjustments. Also, I think he is capable and qualified to make in game adjustments which of course we are not used to.

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June 1, 2022 2:27 pm
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Steveg, Not fair to comparing LR to Helton. That is like comparing my ability to sculpt (which is zero) to Michelangelo’s! .

Steveg
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June 1, 2022 3:52 pm
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You don’t sculpt in your spare time off the golf course? The comparison was about how Helton wouldn’t know what to look at in the film room, LR could slice and dice it down to minimal items to be concerned with. And of course we simply are not used to USC making in game adjustments so with that taken care of I see a little bit of a brighter future, so call me a sunshine pumper. It’s about time. We have all been patient.

Last edited 23 days ago by Steveg
ATL D.D.S.
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June 2, 2022 6:14 am
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Your comparison doesn’t go far enough, TRJJ. What I leave in the commode in the morning compared to a Michelangelo’s sculptures of “David” or “La Pieta” is a better comparison of helton vs. LR. Just sayin’.

Last edited 22 days ago by ATL D.D.S.
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June 1, 2022 8:56 am

There are no easy schedules (except Ucla-they don’t play a real game for a long stretch) Take the Rice game, played in the afternoon at the coliseum. Which is hotter on September 3, Houston or Los Angeles? USC will get to use substitutes if the game goes right. I seem to remember Palo Alto being warmer and further inland, so no cool down there. The remnants of last year’s team should be motivated, while all the transfers might not worry about Stanford. Everyone takes Fresno lightly ask Larry Smith. What does Fresno do? They make raisins. If USC goes through… Read more »

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June 1, 2022 9:19 am
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Fresno makes wine, some of it pretty darn good too. Sun Maid makes raisins. They even have a wine store on campus. The place to go if you want to become a wine maker. Fresno to me is a big threat to USC, much bigger than what most people think. Tedford is a very good coach with a very good QB and a lot of returning players. They even signed a LB from USC who obviously was told to transfer. USC should win the game but it will be tough.

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June 1, 2022 9:39 am
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Don’t diss Fresno eh Steveg? But you are right, Fresno will play tough for the first half at least. I think USC talent will pull ahead in the second half. That is unless the offense doesn’t blow their draws off in the first quarter!

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June 1, 2022 11:38 am
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We live south of Fresno and this area is rabid about the Bulldogs. But they do make some pretty good wines. I agree with you, Fresno will play hard for a while but USC will run away with it in the end.

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June 1, 2022 12:07 pm
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Fresno St. has been known to be a giant killer, that much is well documented. Heck, they even have beat up on baby bears. Many of the inland empire football stars consider Fresno to be their first choice. USC cannot look past anybody this year.

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June 2, 2022 4:55 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

If I read you right Tedford will be a disappointment and USC will coast through the game. I hope you are right about the game, but I hope you are wrong about the coach. He is a very good coach.

Steveg
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June 1, 2022 8:13 am

The USC schedule is just what LR needs. A tuneup game, then a payback game and the season continues to get harder as USC gets better. This schedule should help them in the playoff rankings if they continue winning. I cannot see a game where USC has no chance of winning it, even ND which is in my opinion going to be a HUGE game for the winner.

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June 1, 2022 8:08 am

I have to laugh at the ucla schedule. Why no Fresno State this season, what are they afraid of. Whoever scheduled these non conference games must have been feeling very desperate and would do anything to save Chips job.