USC enters Year 1 of the Lincoln Riley area considered by many to be a contender for the College Football Playoff.

However, ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) isn’t nearly as high on the Trojans. In fact, Riley’s squad doesn’t even crack the top 25, checking in at No. 35 in the preseason rankings, a spot below UCF.

Even with the transfer portal additions of quarterback Caleb Williams, running back Travis Dye, and wideouts Jordan Addison (last year’s Biletnikoff Award winner), Mario Williams, and Brenden Rice on offense and linebacker Shane Lee and others on defense, the Trojans are underdogs in three games this coming season, according to the FPI projections.

As you can see below, the Trojans won’t be favored at Utah on Oct. 15, at UCLA on Nov. 19, or against Notre Dame on Nov. 26:

  • Sept. 3 vs. Rice — 96.1% chance of winning
  • Sept. 10 at Stanford — 61.7% chance of winning
  • Sept. 17 vs. Fresno State — 80.1% chance of winning
  • Sept. 24 at Oregon State — 58.0% chance of winning
  • Oct. 1 vs. Arizona State — 69.6% chance of winning
  • Oct. 8 vs. Washington State — 83.2% chance of winning
  • Oct. 15 at Utah — 26.9% chance of winning
  • Oct. 29 at Arizona — 77.4% chance of winning
  • Nov. 5 vs. Cal — 79.8% chance of winning
  • Nov. 11 vs. Colorado — 85.3% chance of winning
  • Nov. 19 at UCLA — 45.7% chance of winning
  • Nov. 26 vs. Notre Dame — 33.6% chance of winning

Going 9-3 after the ballyhooed arrival of Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams this offseason would seem like a bit of a failure for USC. Can the Trojans come out strong and make a trip to the Pac-12 Championship Game this December?

We’ll find out soon enough if they’re Playoff good or not, as that Week 2 trip to Stanford could prove tricky.