USC football soared to heights it hadn’t seen in over a decade in 2022 with Heisman winner Caleb Williams at quarterback, only to fall back down to earth at the end. The Trojans ended the regular season 11-1, and they were just one win away from making their first College Football Playoff appearance. Instead, the Trojans lost badly to Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game, then gave up an improbable comeback against Tulane in the Cotton Bowl to finish 11-3.

Despite the bad finish to the season, USC still had a wildly successful year. Remember, this team finished 4-8 in 2021 and hadn’t made a New Year’s Six bowl game since 2017. Lincoln Riley took a team that had fallen on hard times in recent years and made it a title contender in the first year.

That first season may have just been a taste of what’s to come. The Trojans should be a serious national title contender in 2023, and the expectations are there this time. In fact, the Trojans have the fifth-best odds to win the national championship next season, per FanDuel.

But why is USC football receiving such great hype? Let’s go over a few reasons why the Trojans could win the national championship next season.

3. USC could run the gauntlet

To be the best in college football (or any sport, really) you have to beat the best. Based on their 2023 schedule, the Trojans clearly know this and know it well. The season starts off easy with home matches against San Jose State, Nevada and Stanford before the first of two bye weeks. After that, though, there are no easy weekends for the Trojans.

In their final nine games, the Trojans face five teams that finished this season ranked in the top 25. Other teams, such as Colorado and Arizona State, should be much better in 2023 and won’t be easy outs for USC. Even games against the likes of Arizona and Cal will be a bit tricky due to the familiarity and distain between the teams.

Building a schedule like this comes with a lot of risk, but also a lot of potential reward. On one hand, it is very possible that USC drops a key game or two and falls out of contention. On the other hand, it will be very hard to deny the Trojans if they do make it through.

2. Great transfer class

The transfer portal has completely turned college football on its head in the last few years. Recruiting transfers is now a requirement to compete on the national stage, and the teams who haven’t adjusted have struggled to keep up. Fortunately for the Trojans, they are one of the premier destinations for transfers across the country.

Lincoln Riley and USC have absolutely cleaned up in the transfer portal this offseason, better than nearly every other team. The Trojans have signed six four-star transfers this offseason, including four players in the top 50 of 247Sports’ transfer rankings. Four of those players are on defense, which was a big problem for USC in 2022.

It may take a bit for these players to adjust, but once they do, they’ll be unstoppable. The Trojans built themselves into a contender with their transfer class last season, landing studs like Jordan Addison. If that trend continues, this class could put them over the top.

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1. Continuity at quarterback

The biggest reason why USC is a true national title threat is that it returns the best player in college football. Caleb Williams was an absolute phenom in 2022, accounting for nearly 5,000 total yards and over 50 total touchdowns. The Heisman winner was only a sophomore in 2022, so he still has at least one more year at the collegiate level.

Williams should be the same outstanding player once again in 2023. He’ll have to deal with some losses, especially Addison, but his insane playmaking ability will help him succeed no matter what. However, retaining Williams is even more important when looking at the college football landscape as a whole.

Three of the four teams that made the College Football Playoff this season will be looking for new signal-callers next season. The only exception is Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy, but Williams is a vastly superior quarterback. When looking at the national championship betting favorites, only three of the top 10 (aside from USC) retain their quarterback. To the surprise of no one, Williams is better than all of them.

While titans like Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State have to replace stars, USC football picks up right where it left off. Williams’ presence alone can make any team a title contender, and the talent surrounding him makes USC a true threat.