USC Trojans – 2012
Few teams in college football have a gap between them and the overall talent of the next best team in their conference. If it wasn’t for poor scheduling in the past, the Trojans would have played in many more national title games. Clearly, their talent levels have seen little drop off in the last 4 years even with the sanctions.
While the program took a fall in wins during the Carroll/Kiffin transition, this team is always poised for a BCS title berth run. They remain above the CFBMatrix BCS NCG berth line, 21 of the last 22 winners and losers of NCG have been above it to start the season, and should do so through the end of the sanctions period.
Over half the starters on defense, over half on offense and both kickers. While returning starting QBs have meant little in the PAC12 over the last 6 years to year over year records, 7+ on D and both kickers have proven to make a big difference. Nevertheless, USC is an elite team and I have already shown that returning starter numbers mean little to elite recruiters as they do, in fact, simply reload.
The one area that I cannot quantify is emotion. These are still just kids, many of which are accustomed to winning, who can be very emotionally vulnerable. I worry that there is too much being put onto Matt Barkley (best overall FB Trojan ever IMO) and if he gets hurt, the whole thing collapses, even though the talent is there to be successful. But if that happens, then coaching comes into play and that is where the CFBMatrix hesitates.
Coach Kiffin has always under coached the talent at the college level. He recruited great at Tennessee but their record in his one year (2009) was a net -3 game effect. He has been great in recruiting to USC but in his coach effect in 2010, -5 and 2011 a -1 season. Over 3 years he has lost over 2 games per year in which his team held a talent advantage in the CFBMatrix charts. So why would one expect the Trojans to go 13-1 or 14-0 in 2012? It goes against the trends and the CFBMatrix goes with them.
2012 Schedule Breakdown
There are just 6 other teams in AQ college football that have a better field adjusted recruiting rank than all 12 of the teams they face. The nutshell on the schedule is 12-0 or the Trojans were out coached and/or suffered a lot of injuries. Given Coach Kiffin’s profile, the best place to start are with team profiles he hasn’t suffered a loss.
In the 2 years of the Kiffin tenure, the Trojans are 10-0 against teams with a 4 year field adjusted ranking of #35 or worse. In 2012 those teams that project that profile are Hawaii, Syracuse, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Arizona State. Win. Win. Win. Win. Win. Win. 6-0. The toughest of these is at Utah and the best game coach in the PAC12 going in to 2012. It comes after a bye so the Trojans should be ready. However, they may be looking past the Utes, who are also coming off a bye, to Washington and some revenge for the last loss in Seattle.
The troublemakers for USC are the teams with adjusted talent rankings of #25-#35 both on the road and at home. Kiffin has faced this profile 6 times and is 2-4. I have no idea why it breaks down this way. But an idea is over confidence. These are not ‘huge’ games but talented teams. You come to USC to win big games and it is all too easy to overlook a team with good talent that is well coached but not that ‘big game’. There is only one team that meets this profile on the 2012 schedule. Cal. Upset Special.
In big games against teams with a top #25 field adjusted recruiting rank the Trojans in the last 2 years are 5-2 with the two loses coming from at Stanford and hosting Oregon. In 2012 there are a total of 5 games, on one of the 5 toughest overall schedules in CFB, that meet the top 25 profile. At Stanford, Oregon, at Washington, at UCLA and Notre Dame. The odds, based on the previous win/lose ratio would pick USC to go down to one of these teams. I see the two teams in the middle of the season Washington and Oregon as well as a tough road team in Notre Dame, the most likely candidates to upset the Trojans.
The Trojans will win the PAC12 south. Hands down. They will beat Oregon in LA in November. However, their track record tells me that beating 6 top 25 teams, including Oregon twice, is too much for the coaching staff. Win the South and lose to Oregon or vice versa. While a NCG berth is not out of reach, I see it as very difficult to bet they string together 12 or 13 wins to get into the title game. If they do, they will be a good bet to win regardless of their opponent. Either way they should have 11+ wins and looking at a BCS bowl or automatic berth into my favorite, the Rose Bowl.
- Dave Bartoo, The CFBMatrix Follow me @cfbmatrix or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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|SOS Rank||SPG Rank||SOS #||SPG #|
SPG = Schedule Power Gap is SOS minus the FARR ranking of the team. The smaller the SPG # the more likely the team is to win more games with average coaching versus teams with larger SPGs.