USC will be hoping to take a step in the right direction in 2024 as it moves to the Big Ten.

The Trojans had a disappointing campaign in 2023. They went just 7-5 during the regular season, squandering an opportunity to compete for the Pac-12 title with reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams under center.

Instead, it was another nightmare season defensively for USC. The Trojans had one of the worst defenses in the league and parted ways with defensive coordinator Alex Grinch late in the year. Still, there’s some optimism that Lincoln Riley and USC will be able to get the program headed back in the right direction in 2024.

With the College Football Playoff expanding to 12 teams, the path for the Trojans to reach the CFP has never been clearer. While the betting markets are not currently expecting USC to ultimately land a spot in the CFP, it’s worth taking a look at what the market says about USC’s playoff chances entering 2024.

USC is currently +410 to make the Playoff in 2024, per the latest odds from FanDuel. Let’s take a look at USC’s roster, schedule and more to see if there’s value on betting the Trojans to reach the CFP.

USC’s 2024 roster and returning production

With Caleb Williams departing, USC does have a big question mark at the quarterback position going into 2024. However, on paper at least, the Trojans have some good options at their disposal. Miller Moss is back after he had an eye-opening performance in USC’s bowl game win over Louisville to cap off the 2023 campaign. Moss threw for 372 yards and 6 touchdowns in that win. Former UNLV quarterback Jayden Maiava also transferred in this offseason and has some starting experience already under his belt. Whoever wins the starting job will likely be put in a good situation to produce big numbers — as Lincoln Riley quarterbacks typically have.

In addition to Williams, USC also lost 4 other offensive starters to the NFL Draft. That includes last year’s leading rusher (Marshawn Lloyd) and top 2 leading receivers (Tahj Washington and Brenden Rice). USC ranks just 99th nationally in weighted offensive returning production, per ESPN’s Bill Connelly. USC brought in a number of transfers on the offensive side of the ball this offseason, but will largely be relying on top-recruits in recent classes to make big leaps in 2024.

Defensively, it’s a clean slate for USC. Riley brought in former UCLA defensive coordinator D’Anton Lynn this offseason to succeed Grinch as USC’s DC. Lynn was excellent in that role for the Bruins in 2023 and has a lot of experience at the NFL level in his coaching career. Most of USC’s high-profile portal additions came on defense, with players like Kamari Ramsey, Greedy Vance, Easton Mascarenas-Arnold and Nate Clifton all expected to compete for starting roles. USC also returns its 2 leading tacklers from a year ago (Mason Cobb and Jaylin Smith) as well as a former 5-star defensive lineman in Bear Alexander.

USC’s 2024 schedule

USC’s 2024 schedule will obviously look a lot different than it historically has in the Pac-12. The Trojans will face Washington and UCLA this season, but will otherwise be tasked with battling a completely new set of conference opponents.

It’s notable that Oregon, who is expected to compete for the Big Ten title this season, is not on USC’s 2024 schedule. Nor is Ohio State, who is currently the favorite at most books to win this league. USC does have to face Penn State and Michigan, but it gets the Nittany Lions at home. All in all, it’s a very favorable conference slate for USC’s first year in the Big Ten.

The nonconference schedule is another matter, however. USC will face LSU on the road in Vegas on Sunday night of Week 1 (a game the Trojans reportedly tried to back out of). Southern Cal also still has its annual matchup with Notre Dame on the calendar for Nov. 30. That game vs. the Fighting Irish could carry heavy College Football Playoff implications for both teams.

Here’s a look at USC’s schedule in full:

  • Sept. 1: vs. LSU (neutral site)
  • Sept. 7: vs. Utah State
  • Sept. 21: at Michigan
  • Sept. 28: vs. Wisconsin
  • Oct. 5: at Minnesota
  • Oct. 12: vs. Penn State
  • Oct. 19: at Maryland
  • Oct. 25: vs. Rutgers
  • Nov. 2: at Washington
  • Nov. 16: vs. Nebraska
  • Nov. 23: at UCLA
  • Nov. 30: vs. Notre Dame

Will USC reach the College Football Playoff in 2024?

It’s likely that a 10-2 record would be good enough for USC to make the Playoff out of the Big Ten, although a 9-3 mark may be sufficient with how difficult its nonconference schedule is. Even with a manageable B1G slate, ESPN’s FPI is projecting the Trojans for roughly 7 wins in 2024 — far below what would be required to reach the 12-team Playoff. FPI gives USC only a 13.4% chance of making the Playoff in 2024. Similarly, FanDuel has set USC’s regular-season win total over/under at 7.5.

Using FanDuel’s line of +410 to reach the College Football Playoff, that translates to an implied probability of 19.61%. That means there’s negative expected value (-$31.66 on a $100 bet) on USC to make the CFP. However, FanDuel’s line for USC to miss the playoff at -590 is much more enticing from a value perspective. There are some things to like about this USC team in 2024, but the nonconference slate is daunting and there’s enough uncertainty on both sides of the ball to warrant fading them on this prop.

PICK: USC to miss the College Football Playoff (-590 on FanDuel)