SportsRatings 2012 College Football Pre-season Top 124
|USC Trojans (Pac-12 #1; South #1)
|Record: 10-2||Strength:#11 Success:#15 Overall:#12|
|AP #6 USA N/A||Bowl: None (ineligible in 2011)
|Record: 11-1||Picks: Lindy's #2; Athlon #1; Steele #3
|AP #1 USA #3
||Bowl: BCS Championship (Eligibility odds: 99.9%)
One year removed from a bowl ban the Trojans could be in line for a national title.
|'11 Scoring Offense: #16 (raw) #16 (adjusted for competition)|
|'12 Projected Scoring Offense: #2 (adjusted)
With a Heisman candidate quarterback, a great wide receiver duo, and a timely transfer give USC one of the nation's top offenses.
|'11 Passing Rank: #15 (raw) #13 (adjusted)||'11 Sacks Allowed (adj.): #2|
|'12 Projected Passing Rank: #4 (adjusted)
||'12 Sacks Allowed (proj.): #1|
Matt Barkley is already #3 on USC's all-time yardage list, with around 3,000 yards to go to pass #2 Matt Leinart and #1 Carson Palmer. Both of them are Heisman Trophy winners, and Barkley is the pre-season front-runner. He had 3,528 yards last year with 39 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions. Just as amazing is USC's wide receiver duo of Robert Woods and Marqise Lee who both had over 1,000 yards and combined for 26 touchdown catches. The offensive line allowed just 8 sacks last year and if they can better that they will as four starters are back. The USC passing game will be one of the best in 2012.
|Rushing||'11 Rushing Rank: #53 (raw) #48 (adjusted)||'11 Projected Rushing Rank: #12 (adj.)
Curtis McNeal rushed for 1,005 yards and 6 touchdowns last year and he's back while Marc Tyler (568 yards) departs. But late in the off-season the rich got richer as Silas Redd transferred from Penn State. Redd had 1,241 yards and 7 touchdowns last year and is immediately eligible, giving USC it's usual tandem 1-2 (sometimes 1-2-3) punch. Four starters—Khaled Holmes, John Martinez, Kevin Graf, and Marcus Martin—are back from last year's offensive line. The ground game was fairly pedestrian last year but with Redd and McNeal it should be one of the best.
|'11 Adjusted Stats:||Rush Defense: #13 Pass Defense per-game: #73 Per-attempt: #21|
|'11 Scoring Defense: #47 (raw) #14 (adjusted)||'11 sacks: #18||'11 picks: #87|
|'12 Projected Scoring Defense: #15 (adjusted)
||'12 sacks: #21||'12 picks: #69|
USC's defense is strong at linebacker where co-tackle leaders Hayes Pullard and Dion Bailey are back. The secondary had four starters back until Isiah Wiley was lost to academics. Still, T.J. McDonald, Nickell Robey, and Jawanza Starling return and look for more than last year's 9 interceptions. If USC's defense has a weakness this year it's the defensive line where only one starter is back at most. They lose Nick Perry (9.5 sacks) and part-time starter Devon Kennard was lost to a pectoral muscle tear. Overall the defense is probably as good as it was last year but some areas are better than others.
- Kicking Game: Kicker Andre Heidari made 15 of 17 field goals last year and he's back along with punter Kyle Negrete (40.1 average).
- Return Game: Robert Woods returned both kickoffs and punts last year, while Marqise Lee had the only touchdown return on a kickoff and Nickell Robey the best average (11.0) on punts. All are back.
- Turnovers projection: USC could see a small improvement in fumble margin and interceptions gained on defense. Barkley might even throw fewer picks, but he's got it down pretty far (7) already.
Coaching/Recruiting 2012 Recruiting Rank: #13 2011 Recruiting Rank: #2
Lane Kiffin was starting to get some kudos around the country for maturing and basically, being less of a dick. Then came the reports that, after he said he wouldn't vote USC #1, he voted them #1. He pulled out of the coaches poll over it. We're not sure the USA-Today should have revealed his vote, but the whole thing makes you wonder if he's really less of a dick or is just hiding it better. He's certainly recruiting well. Despite a 15-player limit over three years, he managed to bring in a near-top-10 class after last year's huge, almost-#1 class.
It didn't start out looking like a turnaround season for the Trojans. Banned from the post-season, it looked like USC would sleepwalk through the season after they almost blew a lead against Minnesota at home (19-17) and hardly dominated Utah (23-14). When they were spanked by Arizona State 43-22 it looked like another 8-5 season was on its way. But they persevered and beat Arizona, then topped Notre Dame 31-17 on the road, and most impressively took Stanford into 3 overtimes before losing. By the end of the year they were beating Oregon 38-35 and blasted UCLA 50-0, and were playing like a top ten team.
USC 2012 schedule & forecast
Straight up: 12-0 Cume: 11-1 Undefeated: 32%
This season USC will be expected to be good right off the bat, and there are only a few teams that can challenge them. One is Stanford on the road, but the Cardinal have lost a lot more than the Trojans. Likewise Oregon, who has to play in Pasadena. Notre Dame also comes to town late in the year.
USC has a good shot at going undefeated this year, their only problem—as has been pointed out lately—is depth. For example they have two great receivers and not much proven beyond that. Matt Barkley will be backed up by freshmen, so he better stay healthy.
If injuries start to build over the course of the season the Trojans could be in trouble, as they are limited to 75 scholarship players of which there are currently 70.
But if USC somehow handles that, they have about a 1 in 3 chance of going undefeated. They have about a 40% chance of going 11-1. That's a 70% chance of 11 or 12 wins. Assuming they win the South division they'd play in the Pac-12 title game (vs. Oregon) and if they do that, probably the BCS championship game against Alabama.
If attrition occurs over the season, will they have enough at the end to beat Notre Dame, Oregon, and Alabama back to back to back? It's probably a good thing for them the title game isn't played until about January 10th these days.
More Previews • Full coverage of all 124 FBS teams
SportsRatings 2012 College Football Pre-season Top 124