USC’s 2020 football schedule presents daunting challenge, starting with Alabama

USC coach Clay Helton leads the Trojans unto the field before a game against Oregon on Nov. 2 at the Coliseum.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A strong finish to the 2019 season was enough for Clay Helton to keep his job as USC’s head football coach. But the Trojans’ schedule in 2020, announced Thursday, may not be so forgiving.

USC will open the season in Arlington, Texas, against Alabama, arguably its most daunting challenge of the season. After that, the Trojans will face three other teams that finished last season ranked inside the top 15 of the final College Football Playoff rankings. Two of those games — against Oregon and Utah — will be away from the Coliseum.

USC will play six games at the Coliseum, beginning with New Mexico on Sept. 12 and wrapping the Saturday after Thanksgiving against Notre Dame. The Trojans will face Arizona State (Sept. 26), California (Oct. 10), Colorado (Oct. 31), and Washington (Nov. 14) in between.

But none of those Saturdays at the Coliseum will be consecutive. For the first time since 1969, USC will alternate between road and home games every week of the regular season.

The Trojans will open the Pac-12 slate against a Stanford squad that’s been savaged by the transfer portal this offseason. The two weeks after that could be critical in determining whether Helton continues on as coach past next season.


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USC will face Arizona State in its first Pac-12 home game on Sept. 26, then must travel to Salt Lake City on a short week to face Utah, the defending South Division champs, on the following Friday night. If the Trojans emerge unscathed from that difficult stretch, they may have a serious shot to win the division.

Unlike last season, however, they won’t have the benefit of a smooth final month of the schedule. To finish the 2020 season, USC will have to travel to Oregon to face the defending Pac-12 champs, before hosting Washington the next week. A road showdown with UCLA looms after that, before Notre Dame comes to the Coliseum to cap a tough November.


Sept. 5: vs. Alabama (at Arlington, Texas)
Sept. 12: New Mexico
Sept. 19: at Stanford
Sept. 26: Arizona State
Oct. 2: at Utah
Oct. 10: California
Oct. 17: at Arizona
Oct. 31: Colorado
Nov. 7: at Oregon
Nov. 14: Washington
Nov. 21: at UCLA
Nov. 28: Notre Dame