USC Football: 5 Games That Could Ruin the Trojans' 2014 Season

Rick McMahan@@RickMcMahanSenior Writer IJuly 31, 2014

USC Football: 5 Games That Could Ruin the Trojans' 2014 Season

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Before we start this slideshow, let me clarify something that you may already be thinking:

    Any loss for the Trojans in this or any other year has the potential to ruin their college football seasonthat is the cost of defeat for a proud program such as USC.

    Having put that profound truism to bed, the purpose of this slideshow isn't necessarily to state the obvious but rather offer some games that USC would really, really hate to lose.

    The criteria for inclusion in this slideshow varies from logistically important games within the conference to traditionally critical games that bear historic significance.

    While each and every game is important and the Trojans will strive to win them all, there are some games that are crucial for USC to win.

    And here they are...

Arizona State (October 4)

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    There are many reasons why the Trojans circled Oct. 4 on their calendar, not the least of which is a little payback for the 61-41 trouncing USC suffered at Tempe which marked the beginning of the end for now-departed head coach Lane Kiffin.

    Beyond the revenge factor, however, is the unmistakable fact that the Sun Devils reside in the South Division of the Pac-12 and are considered a contender for the title along with a certain local team which we will get to later.

    This will be the first game for the Trojans in the division, and a loss here could spell doom for USC's title aspirations in the south.

at Arizona (October 11)

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    USC will complete its Arizona portion of the 2014 schedule when it travels to Tuscon to meet the Wildcats in the sweltering desert heat.

    Although Arizona is undergoing a makeover in personnel, especially on offense, it is still tough at home. This will be a formidable challenge for the Trojans on the road.

    Though USC will be favored, this could be a trap game if the Trojans beat Arizona State the week before and let their guard down against the Wildcats.

at Washington State (November 1)

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Revenge is the primary factor for including this road game at Pullman against Mike Leach and his Washington State Cougars.

    It was a warm September evening last year when Leach took his upstart Cougars into the Coliseum and shocked the Trojans 10-7 in a game that began a shaky start which eventually would lead to the dismissal of former head coach Kiffin.

    Now, Steve Sarkisian and his Trojans have an opportunity to return the favor against the Cougars, who finished with a record of 6-7 but finally made a bowl game in 2014.

    Though this contest is not within the division, it still is a conference game and one USC would dearly love to win.

Notre Dame (November 29)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    For many Trojans fans, the Notre Dame game is the pinnacle of the season for USC and there is no other game that is more important than the one that features the Fighting Irish.

    After all, this is one of two rivalry games for USC. The historical importance of this contest makes it imperative for the Trojans to win, which is why it is included in this slideshow.

    Combine that with the their recent losing streak to the Irish, and it is easy to see why this game is circled by Sark and his staff on the 2014 schedule.

    However, as a writer who has gotten to know the Irish fanbase, a group of folks who are passionate about their team but are respectful as well, I have put the defeat of Notre Dame behind the other Trojans rivalry game (More on them in next slide) because...well...I like Notre Dame fans.

    And I can't say the same about those who follow the next team I am going to talk about.

at UCLA (November 22)

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    UCLA Bruins fans are sure to be a smug bunch based on their little mini-streak of victories over USC in the last couple of years.

    The main thrust for USC needing to win this game is that it is the crosstown rivalry, and there is no other game that features two prominent teams located in such close geographical proximity.

    The last thing the Trojans want to hear is their rivals in powder blue and gold chirping in their ears about another victory. That is why this game has the potential to ruin this year for the men of Troy.


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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    As was stated in the opening slide, any loss for USC could conceivably ruin the season in 2014.

    Certainly, a loss to Colorado or any other conference foe could derail the Trojans from reaching a significant postseason bowl game. Therefore, every game this year is important.

    However, the five games featured in this slideshow are of particular concern for USC to win mostly because they carry significance beyond wins and losses.

    Still, in a year when big things are expected from the Trojans in Coach Sarkisian's inaugural season, coach Sark can get his "era" kicked off right by winning the games outlined here.

    Oh, and winning the rest wouldn't hurt either.

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