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CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 1 USC

USC v Colorado Getty Images

2011 record: 10-2 overall, 7-2 in Pac-12 (1st in South)

2011 postseason: ineligible due to NCAA sanctions

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 6/ineligible

Head coach: Lane Kiffin (25-13 overall; 18-7 in two years at USC)

Offensive coordinator: Kennedy Polamalu (third season)

2011 offensive rankings: 51st rushing offense (162.6 ypg); 15th passing offense (294.2 ypg); 21st total offense (456.7 ypg); 16th scoring offense (35.7 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: eight

Defensive coordinator: Ed Orgeron (third season)

2011 defensive rankings: 18th rushing defense (111.4 ypg); 102nd passing defense (263.3 ypg);  54th total defense ( 374.7 ypg); 45th scoring defense (23.6 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: seven

Location: Los Angeles

Stadium: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (93,607; grass)

Last conference title: 2008

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
What’s not to like about USC in 2012?  Coming off a two-year bowl ban and a 10-win season to close out the postseason NCAA sanctions, the Trojans are AP’s preseason No. 1 and are loaded for Bear… and Duck and Bruin and Buffalo and, well, you get the point.  One of the most glaring weaknesses was at the running back position, and that hole was filled in late July by transfer Silas Redd, the 1,000-yard rusher from Penn State who will be eligible immediately and will be expected to play a significant and pivotal role from the get-go.

The Bad
Thanks to the NCAA sanctions, USC is limited to 75 scholarship players this year, so injuries/suspensions/etc. will be critical as depth is not the Trojans’ strong suit.  Already this offseason, they’ve lost starting defensive end Devon Kennard to a pec injury that could prove to be the season-ending variety.  One of those types of injuries the Trojans can withstand; a handful or more?  Given the roster situation, USC is simply not built to withstand and overcome myriad injury issues.

The Unknown
Speaking of injury issues, All-American wide receiver Robert Woods has been dealing with his own ankle situation since last season.  He underwent surgery in the offseason, missed spring practice and, is participating in camp but not quite at 100 percent.  Whether that injury issue bleeds into the regular season remains to be seen, although, fortunately for the Trojans, receiver is one of the few positions on the roster capable of withstanding a loss of this magnitude.  Provided George Farmer’s own injury issue isn’t a long-term deal either, of course.

Make-or-break game: vs. Oregon, Nov. 3
No offense to Stanford or UCLA (chuckle) or Notre Dame, this is the game Kiffin & Co. will have circled on their calendars — and probably have had circled since the curtain closed on the 2011 season.  As winners of the past three Pac-12 titles, the road to a conference conference championship runs straight through the school in Eugene.  If as expected both squads hold serve through the first two months of the season, an early-November match-up of 8-0 teams could very well be in the offing — as well as a preview of a Pac-12 title game that would be rife with BcS implications  The good news for the Trojans is that the regular-season game will be in Los Angeles.  The bad news?  The Trojans have dropped two of the last three to the Ducks —  including Oregon’s last trip to the Coliseum in 2010.

Heisman hopeful: quarterback Matt Barkley
Forget the best Heisman hopeful for USC; the senior will likely be the preseason favorite of the vast majority of Heisman prognosticators.  And it’d be hard to blame them. Barkley is coming off a season in which he threw for more than 3,500 yards and 39 touchdowns versus just seven interceptions in nearly 450 attempts, made a surprise decision to return for his senior season and will lead arguably the best team in the country — it’d be an upset if Barkley weren’t the leader heading out of the clubhouse.  Add that to weapons at the receiver position — don’t forget Marqise Lee is also in the mix — that are criminal in at least a dozen states, the addition of Redd and all of the attention USC will garner in the preseason, it goes without saying that Barkley will be the lead dog in the hunt for the Heisman.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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18 Responses to “CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 1 USC”
  1. timh1955 says: Aug 8, 2012 4:50 PM

    USC isn’t ranked #1 in any major poll and “if” they are it will be because they play an incredibly weak schedule in a weak conference.

  2. birdsflynorth206 says: Aug 8, 2012 5:07 PM

    Another USC hater. LSU who is ranked #1 in some polls plays a way easier schedule than USC
    #fight on

  3. birdsflynorth206 says: Aug 8, 2012 5:09 PM

    Didn’t meant to point out LSU i’m just tired of hearing that USC’s schedule is easy and that they only schedule crap teams

  4. ratedgap says: Aug 8, 2012 5:38 PM

    I understand your frustration, but USC will never play a tougher schedule than LSU. Ever. The PAC 12 is too weak. LSU played what was arguably the most difficult schedule ever last season. USC has to schedule OOC games slightly tougher, or who would challenge them outside of Oregon? Unless Stanford has another Andrew Luck in the wings? LSU plays Alabama every year. No one on USC’s schedule will ever be tougher than that. I understand you didn’t mean to single them out, but let’s be realistic. The conferences aren’t even close as far as overall toughness game in and game out so on the strength of that alone LSU faces a tougher schedule.

  5. jonanthans says: Aug 8, 2012 5:49 PM

    Its all for nothing anyhow, Oregon will beat USC, and Notre Dame may beat them as well. The #1 ranking is simply a result of the west-coast media inflating USC to something more than what they really are. This same Trojan squad barely beat Minnesota last season and was trounced by ASU. Chip Kelly and the Ducks have more credibility to be in the #1 slot than USC does.

  6. papabush88 says: Aug 8, 2012 6:03 PM


    You really don’t know what you’re talking about. The Pac 12 can very easily become the top conference just like it was during USC’s days of dominance under Pete Carroll. USC had No.1 ranked toughest schedule in 2004 when they ran the table and destroyed Oklahoma 55-19 in the BCS champ game. The Pac 10, as it was then, was stacked from 2002-2008. Oregon, UCLA, and Cal were great during those years. Even ASU was no school to sneeze at. The only problem back then was that USC was incredibly dominant. Today, the SEC is the top conference overall but there is no “dominant” team. It’s basically LSU, Alabama, South Carolina, and Arkansas and everyone else (I know Georgia won their division, but come on..they’re a joke). The Pac 12 is USC and Oregon and eveyone else with maybe Utah and Stanford making a case. It is not smart to say that USC will “never ever” play a tougher schedule than LSU because it definitely has happened in the very recent past. USC may be opening with Hawaii this year, but this game was scheduled when Hawaii went 12-0 a few years back. This was before June Jones left for SMU. Tough to know how good a team will be be when you schedule them so far in advance. Same with Texas. USC and Texas have a home and home series coming up in 2017 and 2018. USC scheduled this series when Texas last went to the BCS championship game. Who knows? Maybe Texas will suck 5 years from now. Maybe they will be good. The fact is that USC, UCLA, and Notre Dame have NEVER scheduled a game against an FCS opponent. The SEC, of the major conferences, does this more than anyone else. So, at best, an FCS opponent could be mediocre. But at best any of the FBS opponents USC schedules could be a national title contender like Ohio State in 2008/2009, or Auburn in 2002/2003, or Arkansas in 2005/2006, or Kansas State in 2001/2002, or Virginia Tech in 2004, or Nebraska in 2006/2007.

  7. papabush88 says: Aug 8, 2012 6:11 PM


    Thinking ND is going to beat USC is a big mistake. I can see Oregon beating USC once. And ASU was favored to beat USC last year. The loss wasn’t that big of a surprise. But you have to look at more than the stat sheet and the box score. At the end of the season, USC looked very good. They lost two games, both of which they were favored to lose. But they won another 3 games (Oregon, Cal, and ND) which they were also favored to lose. My point being that you have to use the eye test. USC looked very good at the end of the season. Their first three games, their passing offense looked solid, rushing offense looked weak, and defense looked suspect. But remember that they didn’t tap McNeal as their starting RB until the second half of the season. That is when their rushing offense took off. Additionally, their defense looked bad in the first few games. Remember that they were starting two Freshmen LBs (Bailey and Pullard), and then finally at the end they were starting 3 Freshman LBs (Bailey, Pullard, Dawson). That needs to be taken into account before writing off USC as a pretender. Now, they will have (2) 1,000 yard rushers, (2) 1,000 yard receivers, a 3,500 yard passer, a super deep and talented secondary, and a stronger and more experienced LB corps. My one concern is the D-line. D-line is a crucial part of a successful team. No question that the talent the Trojans have on D-line is top notch, but the experience is what is lacking.

  8. birdsflynorth206 says: Aug 8, 2012 6:37 PM


    usc’s schedule Sept. 1 — Hawaii

    Sept. 8 — vs. Syracuse (@ E. Rutherford, N.J.)

    Sept. 15 — at Stanford

    Sept. 22 — California

    Oct. 4 (Th.) — at Utah

    Oct. 13 — at Washington

    Oct. 20 — Colorado

    Oct. 27 — at Arizona

    Nov. 3 — Oregon

    Nov. 10 — Arizona State

    Nov. 17 — at UCLA

    Nov. 24 — Notre Dame

    lsu’s schedule
    Sept. 1 North Texas
    Sept. 8 Washington
    Sept. 15 Idaho
    Sept. 22 at Auburn
    Sept. 29 Towson University
    Oct. 6 at Florida
    Oct. 13 South Carolina
    Oct. 20 at Texas A&M
    Nov. 3 Alabama
    Nov. 10 Mississippi State
    Nov. 17 Ole Miss
    Nov. 23 or 24 at Arkansas

    which one seems easier to you?

  9. uscatjerseyshore says: Aug 8, 2012 6:54 PM

    Prognosticator Phil Steele strength of schedule (SOS) rankings puts LSU at #29 and USC at #30. He also calculated the SOS based on the NCAA method using the previous season W/L records. I can’t help to think that this is an extremely flawed system but it is what it is. In this case LSU is ranked #23 and USC is ranked #54.

  10. gatorword says: Aug 8, 2012 6:57 PM

    Gimme a break. USC does not have a championship caliber schedule. 1 maybe 2 tough games does not make a tough schedule. And acting like beating NOTRE DAME is a big deal doesn’t cut it anymore in the real world. It only does with ESPN, who by the way have predetermined Barkley to win the Heisman. He’s good, but they do still have to play a bunch of football before the Heisman Ceremony. Right, Luck? ESPN doesn’t care about that though. He’s a pretty boy from SoCal. It was meant to be.

  11. timh1955 says: Aug 8, 2012 7:51 PM

    Alabama will win it all again as they have the most talent and depth along with the best coach in all of college football.

  12. bringbacktheflex says: Aug 8, 2012 9:41 PM

    “Towson”???? Is that a vocational school?
    “North Texas”??

    The only reason the SEC is seen as having a tougher SOS is that the rankings always favor the SEC. So, if an average SEC team is ranked 9 and they get beaten by an SEC team ranked 3 then it looks like a tougher win. But did that team deserve the 9th ranking in the first place?

    If LSU doesn’t beat Towson beauty college by 60 to nothing then they don’t deserve to be ranked. Of course, after they do beat them 60 to nothing it will be seen as evidence of the SEC superiority.

    Circular tautology.

  13. timh1955 says: Aug 9, 2012 1:26 AM

    You failed to mention that Bama also plays LSU, Michigan, Auburn and Arkansas which are all top 10 ranked schools. Not sure what junior college you attended but I will put the SEC up to any conference and I will put Bama up against team as they have the best talent, depth and head coach in college football

  14. seanmmartin says: Aug 9, 2012 5:04 PM

    It’s incredible how SEC-lovers swear by God that their conference schedule is the toughest in the land.

    “Our easiest conference opponent is Mississippi State! That’s how good our conference is!”

    Yea? The same MSU that beat WAKE FOREST by seven points last year in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City bowl?

    Or, “Vanderbilt is BAD when you consider the SEC, but boy would they win seven or eight games in the Pac-12!” The same Vandy team that beat a five-win UConn by three points? LOL

  15. rsmeans says: Aug 9, 2012 7:35 PM

    No flag football team like USC with inexperienced coaching and quite good but reduced talent without a defense is going to win a NC in the next 10 years. They used to be an elite team when they had a defense and a great coach but now they are all hype without any substance. Their whole program stinks from mediocre coaches, AD and crime riddled smog covered campus and ancient stadium.

  16. thekatman says: Aug 12, 2012 7:36 PM

    LSU’s OOC schedule includes Towson State, a teacher’s college, North Texas State, a high school band teacher’s college and Washington, who lost to a team that didn’t have any defense, as they didn’t either, and lost after putting up 50+ points.

    And now that the honey badger kid is gone, LSU’s ranking and credibility has significantly dropped. Oh well. If Alabama takes it to the house and wins the SEC Champ Game, and USC wins the Pac-12, and they both end up in the BCS title game, Alabama will be so overwhelmed by an offensive juggernaut, their big, buirly defense will stand idle by, just like Mante Teo did as USC blew out Notre Dame last year.

    SEC is known for the defensive front 7, not for QB’s nor a strong offense. IF USC had played Florida for the Nattie, FL wouldn’t have those BCS trophies. USC would have 2 more.

  17. timh1955 says: Aug 12, 2012 11:55 PM

    There’s a HUGE difference in Alabama and Notre Dame! If your scenario happens USC isn’t going to know what hit them as USC doesn’t play anyone anywhere close to level of Alabama. Also, the only good team USC plays this year is Oregon and there’s a good chance Oregon will beat USC.

  18. olvera32066 says: Aug 29, 2012 8:30 PM

    USC !!! always # 1 no matter what …

    this college team has made L A forget about anything else in football. Nothing else matters, not that there isn’t a “pro” team here, not that there’s another college team here, not that there are any other college teams from anywhere. SC loves the competition in the PAC 12 and how they play against them with a vengeance…’s because every other team in the conference is loaded with players SC didn’t pick up for some reason or another.

    the rest of the country just hates on SC cause……everything here is better!!!!!! everything….even the crappy, spooky, 100 year old Coliseum is better the day the Cardinal and Gold take the field. Even if it’s in the worst neighborhood in the city, the stadium is packed to see winners!!!

    I love it,love it, love it !!!!!!!

    fight on Trojans!!! let the rest of the country hate and eat crow.!!

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