USC Trojans 2023 Season Preview & Record Prediction
2022 Record: 11-3
As we delve into the USC Trojans’ 2023 season preview, it’s essential to revisit the highs and lows of the previous year. In 2022, the Trojans secured an impressive 11-3 record, asserting their dominance with an 8-1 performance in the Pac-12 Conference. While they had their sights set on clinching their inaugural college football playoff berth, their aspirations took a hit as they were soundly defeated by Utah, succumbing to a 47-24 loss in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
The disappointment continued in the Cotton Bowl, where they found themselves on the wrong side of a thrilling 46-45 score against Tulane. Amidst the ups and downs, one resounding success was the emergence of Caleb Williams, the Heisman Trophy recipient for 2022, as a quarterback with the potential to lead the Trojans to greatness. Yet, as we look ahead to the 2023 season, it’s clear that USC will require more than Williams’ prowess to turn their aspirations into reality.
Previewing the USC Offense
As we set our sights on the Trojans’ offensive prospects for the upcoming 2023 season, one name stands out prominently—Caleb Williams, the illustrious 2022 Heisman Trophy winner, who resumes his role as the linchpin of USC’s attack. Previously hailing from the Oklahoma Sooners, Williams wasted no time acclimating to his new role at Southern Cal, swiftly solidifying his reputation as one of college football’s most formidable passers. In his debut season with the Trojans, Williams dazzled by amassing over 4,500 passing yards, an astonishing 42 touchdowns through the air, and a mere five interceptions. Not content to be confined to the pocket, he also left his mark as a rushing threat, contributing an additional ten touchdowns on the ground.
Although Williams’ go-to target from last season, Jordan Addison, has since embarked on an NFL journey, the Trojans’ aerial assault remains poised for success. A roster brimming with seasoned talent, including Tahj Washington, Mario Williams, Brendan Rice, and Michael Jackson, ensures that the passing game will continue to flourish under the guidance of the 2022 Heisman victor.
Furthermore, the receiving corps welcomes a transfer from conference adversary, the Arizona Wildcats, adding depth and skill. On the ground, the departure of Travis Dye creates a void, but the Trojans are well-prepared to address it. The dynamic duo of Austin Jones and MarShawn Lloyd, a transfer from South Carolina, is set to invigorate the rushing attack with their explosive capabilities.
Previewing the USC Defense
If the Trojans had an efficient defense last season that could at least get off the field on the third down, they might have qualified for the playoffs. Back-to-Back losses to Utah and Tulane were clear indicators of where the Trojans needed to invest their resources regarding roster configuration. USC utilized the transfer portal to add three massive defensive tackles Kyon Barrs (Arizona), Jack Sullivan (Purdue), and Bear Alexander (Georgia), to address their issues within the interior. They also used the route of the transfer portal to add talent to their defensive end position by getting commitments from Amil Muhammad (Georgia State) and Anthony Lucas (Texas A&M) to go alongside Solomon Tuliaupupu.
But the most significant improvement for the Trojans’ defense is expected from the linebacker position. Shane Lee was second on the team with 78 tackles, while fellow teammate Eric Gentry was third with 71. Former Oklahoma State linebacker Mason Cobb is expected to play a significant role on the Trojans’ veteran-filled defense. In his final season with the Cowboys, Cobb started 13 games and recorded a team-high 96 tackles. He also had 13 tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception, and one forced fumble.
Notre Dame: (October 14)
Utah: (October 21)
Washington: (November 4)
Oregon: (November 11)
UCLA: (November 18)
While we believe Trojans will be in the race for a CFP berth, there is a slight cause for concern. Even though they have significantly improved their defense, is it enough to get past the gauntlet that awaits them in October? The Trojans’ schedule is relatively soft in the season’s opening months, but the test begins when they transition to the fall period. On October 29, USC takes a trip to South Bend, Indiana, to continue their rivalry with the Fighting Irish. Following their battle with Notre Dame, they take on Utah, a conference foe that defeated them twice last season. Other intriguing matchups on the Trojans’ schedule include Washington, Oregon, and crosstown rival UCLA.
If they can come away with only one loss during the later portion of their schedule, combined with winning the Pac-12 title, there would be no reason the committee would deny the Trojans a spot in the playoffs. But the keys to USC’s success this season are simple: Caleb Williams’s health and the defense’s ability to stop the run and get off the field on third down. Will that be sufficient for USC to win the entire thing? That’s a different conversation.