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USC has scheduled their first-ever FCS opponent in 2021

USC’s willingness to schedule an FCS opponent — and a pretty decent one at that — follows the Big Ten’s recent relaxation of its rule barring members of the nation’s oldest Division I conference from scheduling FCS opponents.

(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

In late May, senior associate Athletic Director Steve Lopes told The Athletic that the University of Southern California might begin scheduling future games against FCS opponents — something USC has long refused to do.

Along with rivals UCLA and Notre Dame, USC is currently one of only three FBS schools that have never played an FCS foe.

“If you start looking at the teams that are available, it’s very limited,” Lopes told The Athletic. “We’re looking at schools that might not even be FBS, which I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. We may get criticized if and when we do it, but everybody does it. … Are you going to die on that sword? You can play very good FCS schools that are better than some of the FBS schools you’ll play, the directional schools you’ll play.”

True to his word, USC recently announced that it has scheduled a September 4th contest against UC Davis during the 2021 season.

According to a press release, athletic department officials said that the school couldn’t find an FBS opponent willing to come to Los Angeles on that particular weekend.

The UC Davis game will be one of three non-conference opponents on the Trojans schedule in 2021. The other two games will be against BYU and longtime rival Notre Dame, two of the nation’s half-dozen independents in the FBS, a dwindling breed that includes Army, New Mexico State, UMass and FBS newcomer Liberty. USC’s other nine regular season games in 2021 will be against Pac-12 teams.

USC’s willingness to schedule an FCS opponent — and a pretty decent one at that — follows the Big Ten’s recent relaxation of its rule barring members of the nation’s oldest Division I conference from scheduling FCS opponents. The Big Ten now allows member schools to schedule FCS opponents in years when only four of their nine conference games are played at home.

Like other P5 conferences, the SEC has allowed its members to play FCS opponents for years. In fact, every team in the Southeastern Conference, including powerhouses as Alabama and Georgia, will face at least one FCS opponent this season while nationally-ranked Florida plays two — UT Martin and Towson — both of whom will have the unenviable task of taking on the Gators in “The Swamp.”

Similarly, ACC teams have scheduled more than a dozen games against FCS opponents this year, including a potentially lopsided Clemson-Wofford matchup on November 2nd. The Big 12 also features several games involving FCS schools this autumn.

Closer to home, eight Pac-12 teams will host FCS schools in 2019, including California which plays UC Davis — USC’s 2021 opponent — in its season opener on August 31

Darcy G. Richardson is a historian and the author of more than a dozen books. His latest is Loyola's Improbable Ramblers: 55 Years in the Making, available now on Amazon.

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