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USC football schedule: Trojans to kick off season vs. Arizona State

USC coach Clay Helton prepares to lead the Trojans onto the field before a game against Oregon in November 2019.
USC coach Clay Helton prepares to lead the Trojans onto the field before a game against Oregon at the Coliseum in November 2019.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Before its season was postponed, then revised, then restarted again, USC appeared to have a reasonable path to a Pac-12 title. Now, in its third iteration of the schedule, that path appears to have gotten even easier.

It’ll also be earlier — at least, to start. The Trojans will open an already unprecedented season before many of its fans have finished their first cup of coffee, as Arizona State comes to the Coliseum on Nov. 7 for a 9 a.m. PT kickoff.

“We’re grateful for the opportunity to play a game, a great game … at a time that I think the whole nation will be watching across the board,” USC coach Clay Helton said on Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff. “We’re excited. You want to be under the brightest lights, on the brightest stage.”

Although the kickoff time will be the earliest recorded in USC history, the Nov. 7 opener marks the latest start date for its season since 1918, when the Spanish flu delayed the start of USC’s season until Nov. 23.

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UCLA will kick off its coronavirus-shortened 2020 Pac-12 football season on the road against former coach Karl Dorrell and Colorado on Nov. 7.

That early-morning matchup may be the biggest stage of USC’s season. Only two of the Trojans’ six opponents finished last season above .500, and both of those matchups — at home against Arizona State on Nov. 7 and at Utah on Nov. 21 — take place within the first three weeks of the season.

USC won’t leave Los Angeles after that until potentially the last week of the season, when it hopes to be playing for a Pac-12 title against the North division champion.

A favorable schedule — one that avoids conference contenders like Oregon, Washington and California — could leave USC in a particularly good position to stake its claim atop the conference, when the Pac-12 finally plays its altered title game Dec. 18-19.

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A Friday meeting with Washington State, which lost its coach in the offseason, will be the Trojans’ only cross-divisional matchup, while its rivalry showdown with UCLA on Dec. 12 will be the only road game in the second half of the regular season.

2020 Pac-12 schedule.
(Pac-12 Conference)

But even a Pac-12 championship — along with six more wins before it — may not even be enough to lift the Trojans to a College Football Playoff berth.

“You get six opportunities, in half the games, to be able to present the best resume possible for postseason play, and usually we get nine conference games,” Helton said last week. “So if you do have a hiccup in one, you have the chance to make up. Here every game is going to matter and every game is critical, and you have to approach each game like it’s a championship game, because it could cost you. So you have to have a sense of urgency.”

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A single hiccup would almost certainly rule the Pac-12 champion out of the College Football Playoff. But with a favorable slate ahead of that final weekend, the Trojans appear to have the smoothest path to 7-0 of any team in the conference.


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