Ackerman: Game-by-Game Predictions for USC in 2020

The Trojans aren't likely to go undefeated but, would likely play in the title game with one loss

Posted on October 8, 2020

Nathan Ackerman
  By Nathan Ackerman of Dash Sports TV for SportsPac12

The new Pac-12 football schedule is glorious, if only in its existence. Best of all, it gives us some real football to talk about, both here and on Dash Sports TV.

Here’s how I see the Trojans faring in each of their seven conference games this season.

Week 1: vs. Arizona State
This season USC-Arizona State game could decide the South title. | AP Photo/Matt York

I’ve touched on this via Twitter and in my recent work at the Daily Trojan, but I’ll triple up on it in case I’ve left but a speck of ambiguity: Do not sleep on the Sun Devils in this matchup. 

As much as me and my co-host Reagan Griffin Jr. like to lambast Devil Dash for their incredibly asinine takes such as their absurd assertion that ASU—and not USC—is Wide Receiver U, I’ll give credit where credit is due: Arizona State is a good football team. 

Kedon Slovis is undoubtedly the best quarterback in the Pac-12, but right before a massive drop-off in the pecking order, comes Jayden Daniels, who put up a ridiculous 17-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his freshman year.

ASU and USC squared off in a week 11 matchup that the Trojans won by 5—but only after USC jumped out to a 28-7 lead in the first quarter, and proceeded to be outscored 19-3 in the final three, barely hanging on with a late interception. 

USC has started slow in Week 1 each of its last four seasons. It followed a 2016 beatdown by Alabama with three wins that shouldn’t have been nearly as close as late as they were. If the Trojans start slow again, they’re in trouble. 

It’ll be close, don’t get me wrong, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the Trojans take it by two possessions. 

But here’s for the bold takes. USC drops to 0-1.

Arizona State 35, USC 34

Week 2: at Arizona
Arizona figures to be the easiest game on USC’s schedule this season. |


USC 52, Arizona 10

Week 3: at Utah
Utah lost a lot of players, but can still cause the trojans problems. |

I know, I know, USC hasn’t won in Salt Lake City in its last three attempts.

But this is a different Utes team, one that lacks both Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss, the two guys that were probably 80% responsible for bringing Utah to the 2019 Pac-12 Championship in the first place (come on, they allowed a combined 75 points in their final two games of the season, the defense was always slightly above average at best). 

USC took down the Utes last year with this game plan: Have Matt Fink throw the ball up, get on your knees and pray, have one of the guys from *ahem* Wide Receiver U come down with it. It worked, and the Trojans won. 

They’ll have a real game plan this year; they win again.

USC 30, Utah 17

Week 4: vs. Colorado
Colorado came up just short in upset bid of USC in 2019 |

Laviska Shenault Jr.? Gone. Any chance the Buffaloes had of giving the Trojans a fight? Gone with him. 

This was actually a close matchup in Boulder last year, but one that felt like the flukiest of all flukes. The Trojans, seemingly affected by the altitude, actually trailed that game 31-21 entering the fourth quarter, before they realized they were by far the better team, flipped the switch and turned on the gas, winning by 4. 

That fourth quarter charge was led by Michael Pittman Jr., who is now an Indianapolis Colt. Still, the Trojans have plenty of receivers to play that role this year—but honestly, it won’t be necessary. 

USC 34, Colorado 13

Week 5: vs. Washington State
WSU must adjust to a new identity with a new head coach. | Harry How/Getty Images

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Of all the possible crossover matchups for USC, this was one of the worst for the Trojans to land —a matchup that won’t look particularly impressive if they come out on top, and one that will ruin a season and end the Clay Helton era if things go totally disastrously awry. 

I’m feeling more of the former — much more, actually. 

USC 27, Washington State 7

Week 6: at UCLA
The USC-UCLA rivalry always draws national attention regardless of their records. |

As much as I may be inclined, I will never find it within me to pencil in the Bruins as an automatic victory for USC, and I won’t fall into that trap here, either. 

Here’s the thing: UCLA might actually be somewhat decent. It has a fairly talented roster, and maybe by default, it has a shot to push for a third-place finish in the Pac-12 (I’m completely out on Utah).

The Bruins will have something to play for in Week 6—standings-wise, in addition to the mere prospect of topping their hated rivals—and a motivated Dorian Thompson-Robinson will walk into the Rose Bowl with a chip on his shoulder.

It won’t be enough.

USC 30, UCLA 20

Week 7: Pac-12 Championship at Oregon
The Oregon-USC rivalry has been intense on and off the field. |

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

Back up. 

How did we get here, you might ask? 

How does USC make the Pac-12 Championship after losing to Arizona State, its toughest competitor in the Pac-12 South?

Fair question. Here’s how: Arizona State loses to California at home and falls victim to the Colorado altitude on the road. USC is 5-1, ASU is 4-2. Bang. 

The Ducks, by virtue of a 6-0 conference record, host the conference championship—which winds up being a dogfight until the very end. 

USC, tired of being the little brother for the last several years on both the field and the recruiting trail, shocks the college football world and guarantees the Helton era one more year. 

USC 20, Oregon 17 

You can watch Ackerman’s companion Trojan Dash Sports Talk Show on Dash Sports TV, and read his other work at the Daily Trojan.

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