#12 USC Football 2021 Preview

USC Trojans
Overall Rank: #12
#2 Pac-12
 USC Logo
Despite finishing 5-1 overall and nearly winning the Pac-12 title, it felt like USC underperformed. The offense put up good numbers through the air, but they were inconsistent. Although they did enough to finish 5-0 in the regular season before falling to Oregon 31-24 in the Pac-12 Championship game.
2020 Record: 5-1, 5-0
2020 Bowl: None
Coach: Clay Helton (45-23 at USC, 45-23 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Graham Harrell
Defensive Coordinator: Todd Orlando
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Vavae Malepeai, RB, 238 yards
Passing: Kedon Slovis, QB, 1,921 yards
Receiving: Drake London, WR, 502 yards
Tackles: Kana’i Mauga, LB, 41        
Sacks: Nick Figueroa, DL, 3.5
Interceptions: 4 tied with 1
Other Key Returnees: WR Bru McCoy, S Isaiah Pola-Mao, LB Ralen Goforth, CB Chris Steele, LB Drake Jackson, P Ben Griffiths, K Parker Lewis
Key Losses: RB Stephen Carr, RB Markese Stepp, WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR Tyler Vaughns, OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, DL Marlon Tuipulotu, DB Talanoa Hufanga, DB Olaijah Griffin
The offense does lose some key skill players, but Coach Clay Helton has brought in pieces to fill the holes. He also has a proven quarterback under center. Kedon Slovis threw for 1,921 yards and 17 touchdowns in six games. A couple very good receivers are gone, but top pass catcher Drake London returns after catching 33 passes for 502 yards. Bru McCoy is another big target who caught 21 passes for 236 yards and two scores in 2020. The addition of KD Nixon from Colorado and Tahj Washington from Memphis should give Slovis plenty of options down the field. The problem though is the ground game. The Trojans ranked dead last in the Pac-12 in rushing offense, averaging just 97.3 yards per game on the ground. With Stephen Carr and Markese Stepp moving to the Big Ten, Vavae Malepeai is left to carry the load. He led the team with 238 rushing yards in 2020. He will team up with Texas transfer Keontay Ingram, who rushed for 1,811 yards and 11 touchdowns during his three years with the Longhorns.
The USC defense was great at creating turnovers and getting to the quarterback. The secondary should be the strongest unit. Safety Isaiah Pola-Malo will be playing in the NFL very soon and Chris Steele and Isaac Taylor-Stuart are both very talented cornerbacks. At linebacker, Kana’i Mauga is the team’s top returning tackler with 41 and Ralen Goforth added 38 tackles. Drake Jackson is a superb pass rushing outside linebacker and he will get plenty of help from linemen Nick Figueroa and superstar incoming freshman Korey Foreman to help keep USC very strong in the pass rush.
The Bottom Line:
This group clearly has the talent to win the Pac-12 South. However, the Trojans will be eyeing more than another trip to the conference championship game; they want to win it. Once again, it could be Oregon that stands in their way. Those two do not meet in the regular season. Games against Utah, Arizona State and UCLA will not be easy, but USC has the talent to make a lot of noise on the national stage.
Projected Bowl:  Holiday Bowl
2020 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 97.3 (120th in nation, 12th in conference)
Passing Offense: 319.3 (11, 1)
Total Offense: 416.7 (46, 4)
Scoring Offense: 33.3 (31, 3)
Rushing Defense: 153.3 (49, 3)
Pass Defense: 216,3 (43, 4)
Total Defense: 369.7 (40, 4)
Scoring Defense: 26.0 (46, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.83 (17, 3)
Sacks: 2.50 (45, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 2.50 (84, 10)