Bet on the Trojans at your own risk.

Not “bet” in the “I’m a 5-star high school recruit who no one believed in and I need to bet on myself” sense. Take that statement literally. USC’s record last season against the spread was easy to remember—the same as their actual record, 4-8. At Oklahoma, coach Lincoln Riley was 5-6-1 against the spread. It’s an interesting picture with Riley.

The new USC leading man has had a meteoric rise as a head coach. He sports a 55-10 record. He’s never lost more than two games in a season before. He’s 15-2 in the month of November—closing time—as a head coach, and he began with 14 consecutive wins.

But even during that time, he hasn’t been great against the spread. In those November games he doesn’t lose, he’s 8-7-2 against Vegas.

This upcoming season, USC will play November games against Cal, Colorado, UCLA, and Notre Dame. The Bruins will host on Nov. 19. The Trojans will host the Irish on Nov. 26.

According to early projections from ESPN’s Football Power Index, USC should be viewed as an underdog in both of those final meetings.

In nine of its 10 games prior, however, FPI thinks the Trojans can gain some momentum.

Released earlier this month, FPI is presented as a “points above average” metric. Specifically, a “measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team’s performance going forward for the rest of the season. FPI represents how many points above or below average a team is.”

The Trojans ranked 37th nationally in FPI, behind UCLA, Oregon, and Utah in the Pac-12. We can use FPI ratings as a baseline to create projected point spreads and win probabilities for each game based on those spreads. Reminder: just because a team is a favorite does not mean the model is guaranteeing that team a win.

Here’s what USC’s schedule looks like, according to the first batch of FPI numbers:

2022 FPI – USC

FPI doesn’t view Rice, USC’s season-opening opponent on Sept. 3, to be much of a challenge. The Trojans should have a talent advantage and an emotional edge be it that Riley will be making his official debut as the Trojan head coach. Perhaps Vegas is a little more conservative on the number, though, as the Trojans will look to prove themselves on the heels of a 4-8 campaign.

ESPN’s model thinks Stanford will be better next season than it was in 2020, and views that early-season trip for the Trojans to Palo Alto as a legitimate test. That looks to be about a touchdown difference between the two teams on a neutral field, according to FPI’s view. Give the Cardinal a 2.5-point boost for homefield advantage.

Oregon State, Arizona State, and UCLA are all viewed as toss-ups. FPI sees little separation between the Bruins, Trojans, and Sun Devils, with all three ranking between 34th and 41st in the national ranking.

With a projected win total hovering around eight, would that kind of season be viewed as a success in Riley’s first year? Might depend on how it looks. Might depend on how those November games turn out. We’ll see.