Can USC Make The College Football Playoffs?

Posted on August 25, 2019

Experts don’t expect a dramatic turnaround for the USC Trojans coming off one of their worst seasons of the century. The 2020 USC College Football Playoff odds are further evidence of that.

A tough conference schedule, inexperience on the defensive side of the ball and uncertainty about the quarterback’s ability to handle hostile road conditions all hurt the Trojans’ chances to play on college football’s biggest stage.

2020 USC College Football Playoff odds: Offseason recap

There’s no bigger storyline for USC’s offseason than losses on the defensive side. Most of the Trojans’ starters in the linebacking corps and secondary won’t be back.

The defensive line will be the source of experience in 2019-20. If USC contends for a Pac-12 title, it will be because its deep D-line was able to generate enormous pressure and stuff opponents’ running games.

Whether the defensive line can account for deficiencies elsewhere is the mirror opposite of the Trojans’ offense.

The offensive line is the biggest liability for USC on that side of the ball. Last season the Trojans allowed 27 sacks en route to their first losing season since 2000.

USC also ranked 107th in the nation in rushing yards per game, so improving the play of the offensive line will be a priority for head coach Clay Helton. A new offensive scheme could help as well.

New offensive coordinator Graham Harrell will install his version of the Air Raid attack, getting the ball out of sophomore quarterback J.T. Daniels’ hands and into the arms of his talented receiving corps quickly. That’s a battle plan for success.

Senior Michael Pittman Jr., sophomore Amon-Ra St. Brown and redshirt junior Tyler Vaughns accounted for over 150 receptions, more than 2,100 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. They will be a challenge for opposing defenses this year, as well.

Daniels has to get more efficient in road games to maximize their impact, however. Ten of Daniels’ 14 touchdown passes from last season came in home games.

Also harming the Trojans’ predicted fate is the schedule. Pac-12 North contenders Stanford, Oregon and Washington are all on the docket, although Washington is the only road game of those three.

If Daniels responds well to the new offense and the inexperience on the defense is overcome quickly, USC might make some noise in the Pac-12.

Sportsbooks aren’t expecting that, however.

Breaking down the 2020 USC College Football Playoff odds

As California sports betting is still illegal pending a possible constitutional amendment, the closest place California residents can bet on Trojans futures and games is Las Vegas.

Vegas odds currently put USC at 200/1 to win the 2020 College Football Playoff. Other legal books have the Trojans at similar long odds to do the same.

  • DraftKings +10000
  • FanDuel +10000
  • PointsBet +12500

DraftKings has USC as a similarly long shot to be one of four teams selected by the committee for the College Football Playoff. The current line on that is +5000.

Winning the Pac-12 Conference could go a long way toward beating those odds. Bets on the Trojans’ performance in the Pac-12 are also available at various books.

USC Pac-12 futures and win expectancy

The Trojans are among the mid-tier of teams at sportsbooks as far as odds on them winning the Pac-12’s South division goes. Currently, the best line on that lives on FanDuel, which is +300.

Winning the Pac-12 title game is much more of a long shot, however. DraftKings, SugarHouse and William Hill all list USC at +1200 to do so.

Those odds are easily explained given the Trojans’ win expectancy. DraftKings has the over/under set at 7.5. PointsBet has the best line on the under, although its expectancy is set at seven instead of 7.5.

If the Trojans can win at least eight games and contend for a Pac-12 title, that will probably boost the likelihood of Daniels winning some hardware.

2020 Heisman Trophy odds feature Daniels

The most coveted award in college football is the Heisman Trophy, and Daniels is among the long shots to have his name called. Vegas lists him at 60/1 to win the Heisman in 2020.

The best odds outside of Vegas are on DraftKings and SugarHouse, which both list Daniels at +6600 to win the Heisman. If those bets end up paying off, it will represent an enormous accomplishment by USC.

Because of Daniels and other players, sportsbooks do expect the Trojans to get back to bowl eligibility this season. Playing in one of the playoff bowl games is a long shot, however, but it would make those bets pay off handsomely.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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