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The USC Trojans may very well be allergic to consistency.
Head coach Clay Helton has experienced as many highs (a PAC-12 crown and 11-3 record in 2017) as he has lows (5-7 without a bowl bid in 2018). After a season in which the Trojans overcame key injuries en route to an 8-5 record, what can we expect in 2020?
Probably more chaos. Every result is on the table when it comes to projecting USC.
Let's dive into the Trojans' win total for the 2020 season, including which way we'd bet.
The freshman delivered, and then some.
With the help of coordinator Graham Harrell, the Trojans finished No. 9 in SP+ offense. They scored 35 points or more against five Power 5 defenses and finished third in the conference in points per game (32.5).
The Trojans finished the year ranked 60th in the country in SP+ defense. The unit started off better than expected before crumbling down the stretch. USC allowed an average of 35.6 points per game over its final six tilts after holding its first seven opponents to 30 or fewer.
USC's recruiting outlook for the foreseeable future is bleak. If this is to be the last hurrah, at least Helton has the pieces to do some damage.
Only four teams in the entire country return more production from last year than the Trojans. USC is bringing 77% of its offense back, good for 25th nationally. Slovis is back, as are multiple high-upside wide receivers.
Despite losing last year's leading pass-catcher in Michael Pittman Jr. (101 catches for 1,275 yards and 11 touchdowns), the Trojans will reload with Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns. The pair combined for 151 catches, nearly 2,000 yards, and 12 scores in 2019.
The Trojans' defense is in even better shape. It returns a whopping 87% of last year's production, good for No. 7 in the nation.
|1||vs. Alabama (N)|
|2||vs. New Mexico State|
|4||vs. Arizona State|
|12||vs. Notre Dame|
If USC's path looks tough, it's because it is: The Trojans have the second-toughest schedule in the entire country, with non-conference games against Notre Dame and Alabama and a bulk of their heavyweight PAC-12 clashes on the road.
USC will score its way to nine wins in 2020. There will be weeks in which you question the defensive approach - especially under new coordinator Todd Orlando - but you'll come to learn such things are routine.
A lot of talent and a brutal schedule is a recipe for mayhem. Still, the Trojans passed the advanced metrics test in 2019 - they were half a win better than expected - and return a glut of production.
Over, but not by much.
Alex Kolodziej is a betting writer for theScore. He's a graduate of Eastern Illinois who has been involved in the sports betting industry for 12 years. He can quote every line from "Rounders" and appreciates franchises that regularly wear alternate jerseys. Find him on Twitter @AJKolodziej.