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On3 experts debate the ceiling and floor for the 2024 USC Trojans

Erik-McKinneyby:Erik McKinney05/13/24


Predicting The Win Total Ceiling, Floor For The Usc Trojans In 2024 | 05.13.24

With an offseason featuring significant changes on both sides of the ball and facing its first-ever Big Ten conference schedule, the 2024 USC Trojans are viewed nationally as a real wild card right now. On3 college football experts Andy Staples and Cody Bellaire discussed the floors and ceilings for each of the Big Ten teams, which includes a huge range for the USC Trojans.

It was telling that USC wasn’t listed among the “Big Four” Big Ten teams at the top of the show, as both agreed that Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon and Penn State have separated themselves from the rest of the conference. The Trojans will have a chance to change that narrative with games against both the Wolverines and Nittany Lions in the first half of the season.

Like most USC fans, Staples and Bellaire agreed that the Trojans’ defense will dictate the season.

“If USC is competent on defense, they could go to the playoff,” Staples said. “If USC stinks again on defense, they might not even make a bowl game.”

Bellaire agreed, saying the floor for USC might be 5-7.

“That’s the absolute bottom falling out,” he said, adding that means the defense isn’t fixed and USC winds up on the wrong side of a number of 50/50 games.

Both of them like a number of USC’s offensive players, including quarterback Miller Moss, offensive lineman Jonah Monehim, receivers Zachariah Branch and Duce Robinson and running back transfer Woody Marks. They also made note of the additions in the secondary, featuring safety Kamari Ramsey and cornerbacks John Humphrey and DeCarlos Nicholson.

But they aren’t signing off on the defense yet, and the discussion is growing with regard to whether Riley will ever be able to shore up that side of the ball.

“I think they’re going to be more right-sized on defense,” Staples said. “But again, I need to see it. I have never seen a good defense opposite Lincoln Riley’s offense. That says to me it’s more of a whole program holistic program issue than a defensive coordinator issue. I need to see it happen on the field. But if it does, we are talking about a playoff team.”

“If they have a pulse on defense, they could go 9-3, no problem,” Bellaire said.

The USC schedule was also a talking point.

“That schedule’s not fun,” Staples said, pointing to the conference slate as well as taking on LSU and Notre Dame. “They don’t get really any of the bottom of the league. They get a lot of the middle of the league.”

Ultimately, this season is going to be a real reflection on Riley and how he’s perceived nationally.

“If it doesn’t get better under D’Anton Lynn, I’m not blaming him for that,” Bellaire said of the USC defense.

“Until the culture of the program changes to allow them to be a more physical team — that also included up front on the offensive line,” Staples said. “That’s the part that scares you as they enter the Big Ten.”

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