ESPN’s Paul Finebaum sat down on “First Take” to discuss a variety of college football topics, including USC’s Playoff outlook for 2023-24. When asked about the Trojans’ chances, Finebaum merely shook his head.

“The problem I see for USC is still the defense,” Finebaum said. “I remember that Cotton Bowl. They blew a 15-point lead to Tulane, and I still can’t trust that defense after they crashed and burned against Utah twice.”

Stephen A. Smith agreed, citing that the schedule is what turns him away from picking USC in his playoff this year. He went down the list of the Trojans’ schedule and explained that he does not get excited about any game until Oct. 14, when the Trojans visit Notre Dame in South Bend,

“Am I supposed to be excited about that particular schedule?” Smith said. “When you talk about the CFP, yeah you talk about records, but at some point in time, you talk about the level of competition.”

The Trojans open the season on Saturday against San Jose State at home. Games against Nevada, Stanford, Arizona State, Colorado and Arizona follow the season opener.

“Good for Lincoln Riley, he’s got LA bought in,” Finebaum said. “But he’s going to need to do more next year; let’s see how he does in the Big Ten.”