Expectations are always sky-high when it comes to USC football, and this coming season won't be any different. As we walk through the Trojans' schedule, we've found some must-win spots.
The Trojans went 8-4 during the 2014 regular season, while going 6-3 in conference play, and they earned a number of significant wins along the way.
Whenever you top the likes of Stanford, Arizona and Notre Dame, you know you're doing something right, and USC was able to translate that success when bowl season came around. The Trojans outlasted Nebraska 45-42 in the Holiday Bowl in what was one of the most thrilling bowl matchups you'll see.
Cody Kessler enjoyed a fantastic season at the helm of the USC offense, compiling 3826 yards to go with a sparkling 39:5 TD:INT ratio. He completed 69.7 percent of his passes, threw up a ridiculous 167.1 QB rating, and quickly established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. Kessler returns for his senior year in 2015, a big reason why the Trojans are still considered a team to watch out for on the college football futures odds board - they're priced at right around +1600 to win the national championship here in early June.
With the schedules already released for the coming season, let's see which spots are most critical for Kessler and the rest of the Trojans.
2015 Look-Ahead: Must Wins
We know the Trojans are going to enter the season as one of the top dogs in all of college football, as they were already pretty darn talented to begin with before ending another top-notch recruiting class. The rich only get richer.
As we look over the schedule, however, there are certain games that stick out as potential traps for this very talented program, and it starts with a home matchup against Washington.
Thursday, October 8th: vs. Washington Huskies
The Trojans are going to be heavily favored here, but this may not be as straightforward as people think. For one, this matchup is sandwiched in-between road games against Arizona State and Notre Dame, and we've seen top programs falter in the past when they look ahead and forgot about the present.
That being said, if USC can keep the highly-touted showdown with the Fighting Irish on the back of their minds, they should be able to get past a solid Washington team that finished 8-6 last season. They have far more talent and will have the added benefit of being at home.
Saturday, October 31st: at California Golden Bears
Yes, the Golden Bears weren't a team to fear last season, but they did prove that they wouldn't go down easy on their home turf, which is where this season's contest will take place.
California hung with some heavyweights at Memorial Stadium in 2014. The Golden Bears lost by just two points to UCLA and then followed that up with a courageous effort in a 59-41 loss to Oregon. This matchup will also come a week before a battle royale with Arizona (at home), so once again the Trojans will have to come in with a focused effort to avoid the upset at the hands of a Cal team that knows how to put up points.
Friday, November 13th: at Colorado Buffaloes
Are we crazy? Perhaps. After all, the Buffaloes did go a dreadful 2-10 last season, losing by a wide margin a number of times. However, they did battle hard with some good football teams like UCLA, Arizona and Utah, so it's not like they were a total embarrassment.
Unsurprisingly, Colorado was far more competitive when at home, and you know that rowdy crowd is going to get up for this visit of the mighty Trojans. The Trojans are going to be heavily favored on the college football odds board here, but again it may not be as easy as the general public thinks.