The football season is getting closer, and while our Bruins are getting ready for the 2015 season, so is the rest of the Pac-12. So we're taking a quick look around the conference to see how the other 11 teams are stacking up. We posed the same 4 questions to each of our Pac-12 conference mates so we can get to know their team and expectations a bit better, and added a 5th question geared for each school individually. We add some notes on the teams key losses and returns after the Q&A, as well.
So we've saved the best for last. Or the worst for last. Or perhaps just the most hated for last. In any case, today we chat with Southern Cal. Julian Lopez is a Manager with SC's greg SBN site Conquest Chronicles and was kind enough to share his thoughts on the Trojan football team with us. Check out his thoughts in the Q&A below, and for the best inside look at the team across town, head over to Conquest Chronicles and join in the conversation there.
BN: Who are the players on offense we don't know about, but should?
The two names that instantly come to my mind that will have a huge impact for the Trojans offense this season are tight end Tyler Petite and wide receiver Steven Mitchell. Bryce Dixon is gone (for now?) and in comes Petite, a 6'6 235 pound tight end from Campolindo High School. Petite is going to thrive in USC's offensive scheme and made at least one jaw-dropping reception in every USC practice this fall. Mitchell only had seven receptions during his true freshman season in 2014 but with Nelson Agholor gone to the NFL, Mitchell has stepped in his place since spring ball and has looked great. He has elusive speed and great hands and will be a great complement to JuJu Smith-Schuster.
BN: Who are the players on defense we don't know about, but should?
Greg Townsend Jr. was given high expectations when he arrived on campus in 2011 but has yet to live up to them. It was unfair to Townsend Jr. that everyone expected him to be like his father (four-time All-Pro with the Raiders) but 2015 is his year to shine. Leonard Williams was taken in the top ten in the 2015 NFL Draft and the Trojans are looking for someone that will disrupt opposing offensive lines. Two freshmen are going to make a huge impact from day one. Cameron Smith enrolled at USC in the spring and Osa Masina has played well during fall camp. Both guys have great instincts and will contribute in 2015.
BN: What game has the biggest circle on the calendar and why?
November 21st @ Oregon. This is going to be the game of the year in the Pac-12 and one of the best of the college football season. Its going to be nasty weather in Eugene and a hostile environment for the Trojans. It will be the first meeting between the schools since 2012 and first in Eugene since 2011 when the Trojans won 38-35.
BN: What is your prediction for your season record?
10-2. Pac-12 South Champions. The Trojans are deeper than most people believe and Cody Kessler is going to put up sensational numbers for the second straight season with all of the weapons he has. I see USC losing a game to a team they are favored against and a loss to Notre Dame or Oregon.
BN: The sanctions are over, the roster is getting deeper, recruiting on fire, and Steve Sarkisian has a year under his belt in Los Angeles. It's starting to look like the SC that everyone got used to seeing. Is this the year the Trojans get back on top of the Pac-12 South and more, or will youth delay that by another year?
I think the Trojans get back on top of the Pac-12 South judging by my season prediction. The Trojans do have some youth at positions but I expect a lot of freshman to make impacts in 2015. One group to watch that has struggled in camp is the offensive line. Expectations are high in Los Angeles, can Sark bring the team back to national prominence?
Head Coach: Steve Sarkisian, 2rd year
2014 Record: 9-4, 6-3 (conf), tied for second in Pac-12 South
2014 Bowl: Beat Nebraska 45-42 in the Holiday Bowl
Key Returnees: QB Cody Kessler (Sr), RB Tre Madden (Sr), WR JuJu Smith (So), C Max Tuerk (Sr), LB Su'a Cravens (Jr), DB Adoree' Jackson (So)
Key Losses: DT Leonard Willliams RB Javorius Allen, WR Nelson Agholor, TE Randall Telfer, LB Hayes Pullard, S Gerald Bowman, TE Bryce Dixon (suspension)
AP Preseason Rank: 8
Matchup with UCLA: @USC, Saturday, Nov 28
Thanks again to Julian and the team at Conquest Chronicles for wrapping up our Preseason Q&A series, and to every one of the SB Nation Pac-12 sites for joining us. You can visit CC here and follow them on twitter at @CChroniclesSBN.