USC 2023 Season Preview & Win Total Prediction 

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Caleb Williams #13 of the USC Trojans celebrates after defeating the UCLA Bruins in the game at Rose Bowl on November 19, 2022. Harry How/Getty Images/AFP

NCAAF Pick: Over 10 Wins (-110) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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USC will be playing its last season in the Pac-12 before the Trojans move to the Big Ten, a move that kicked off a wave of realignment moves that may result in this being the last season for the Pac-12 as a conference.

Coach Lincoln Riley hopes to leave the conference with a Pac-12 championship and a trip to the College Football Playoff, something that seemed almost a routine occurrence during his time coaching Oklahoma. Riley came close last season, his first at USC, playing for the league title in the Pac-12 championship game after an 11-1 regular season.  

Key Facts 

  • Lincoln Riley has a returning starting quarterback for the first time since the start of his head coaching career 
  • Caleb Williams returns as the defending Heisman Trophy winner 
  • The USC defense added several high profile transfers in an effort to improve 


It’s no surprise that Riley will have one of the best quarterbacks in college football. In his last six years as a head coach, Riley has had three quarterbacks win the Heisman trophy and another go on to win NFL MVP.  

What’s more surprising is that Riley will also have experience lining up and taking snaps for him. Not since he inherited Baker Mayfield—one of the Heisman winners—in his first two years as Oklahoma coach has Riley returned a team’s starting quarterback from the previous season.  

That changes this year, as Heisman winner Caleb Williams will once again quarterback the Trojans. Williams came with Riley from Oklahoma after an outstanding freshman season and set USC records for total offense, touchdown responsibility, passing yards and efficiency in his first year with the Trojans.  

Clearly, offense was the key to USC’s success in 2022. The Trojans ranked third in the nation in scoring, topping 40 points in 10 of 13 games, and third in total offense.  

Replacing Top Players

USC has to replace its top rusher in Travis Dye and top receiver in Jordan Addison, but it’s more of a came of reloading as most of the depth at the skill positions returns, bolstered by big-name additions from the transfer portal. Austin Jones rushed for 705 yards and five touchdowns last year (and Williams had 10 rushing touchdowns on his own). He’ll be joined by Mar’Shawn Lloyd, who had nine touchdowns running the ball for “the other USC”—South Carolina—last season.  

USC also returns four of the top six receivers from last year and add Dorian Singer, who was Arizona’s top receiver, with 66 catches and 1,100 yards last year.  USC also has several promising freshmen who might make an impact, most notably tight end Duce Robinson.  

The offensive line has talent but not much experience together after Riley brought in three starters through the transfer portal—from Florida, Wyoming and Washington State—to fill holes.  


USC led the nation in turnover margin, so the defense wasn’t bad last season. Compared to the offense, however, it was clearly the team’s weak spot, and it appeared to get worse as the year went on. The Trojans gave up 35 points or more in six of the team’s last eight games, including season-ending losses in the Pac-12 title game and Cotton Bowl. USC twice lost games in which the Trojans scored over 40 points.  

The top five linemen might be transfers as Georgia’s Bear Alexander joins Arizona’s Kyon Barrs and Purdue’s Jack Sullivan in a college all-star team at defensive tackle. The team also brought in ends from Georgia State and Texas A&M.  

Top Tacklers Return

USC returns its top three tacklers, and two of them are at linebacker, in Shane Lee and Eric Gentry. They’re joined by Oklahoma State transfer Mason Cobb.  

Safety Max Williams was the leading tackler and fellow safety Calen Bullock led USC with five interceptions. They’re joined by Bryson Shaw, and the home-grown safeties will be combined with imported corners in the USC secondary. The Trojans will lean on Arizona’s Christian Roland-Wallace and Alabama’s Tre’Quan Fegans at corner.


USC will need to get a team loaded with star transfers used to playing together, and the Trojans will get a long runway to the season to help get up to speed. They open with three home games—against non-conference foes San Jose State (Week 0) and 2-10 Nevada (Week 1) as well as Stanford (Week 2). 

After a week off, USC travels to Arizona State (Week 4) and Colorado (Week 5) before hosting Arizona (Week 6). For those scoring at home, that’s six games, four at home, none against a Power Five opponent who had a winning record last year. The first half of the schedule combined for a 21-51 mark, including 7-29 in the Pac-12.  

Things ramp up after that, with a trip to Notre Dame (Week 7) and a visit from Pac-12 champion Utah (Week 8), the only team to beat USC last year. Currently, the Trojans are giving up 7 points in the NCAAF odds for this game. 

The two weeks to close the season—at Oregon (Week 11) and home against UCLA (Week 12)—will also be a gauntlet to run.  

The Pick

The top offshore sportsbooks also did the Trojans a favor. The over-under is set at 10 games, meaning that USC would have to lose three regular-season games to avoid a win or push. A .500 record in the four toughest games on the schedule seems like a reasonable expectation. Put USC down for 10 wins with your NCAAF picks.  

If we have to pick one way or the other, we’d expect the Trojans to be at full strength by the time the schedule challenges them and see 3-1 more likely than 1-3 in the games that will determine how successful the year is.  

NCAAF Pick: Over 10 Wins (-110) at BetOnline

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Over 10 Wins (-110)
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