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ESPN Pac-12 Bloggers Rank USC 7th in Pac-12

With all of college football done with spring camp, it’s the week for post-spring rankings, and the always wonderful ESPN Pac-12 Blog is no exception to that trend. This afternoon, Ted Miller and Kevin Gemmell posted their Pac-12 post-spring power rankings, with the Trojans coming in at lucky number seven, just behind Oregon State and Washington. It’s a tad lower than most rankings seem to have USC right now, but they make a decent case.

This low power ranking has nothing to do with talent or potential. The Trojans have enough talent, if things come together, to play in the Rose Bowl. But coach Lane Kiffin sits on the hottest seat in the conference, the Trojans are adopting a new defense under Clancy Pendergast, and there are questions at quarterback and in the secondary. The Trojans might be the most volatile team in terms of predictions. They could win 10 games. Or six.

There’s a lot to be said there. While USC gets a more favorable schedule, an improved defensive scheme and a very top-heavy incoming recrutiting class, all of which makes a 10-win season sound doable, just remember that the Trojans had arguably their best roster since 2005 last year, and lost six games.

Injuries have to be a concern going into the fall with a reduced roster, as does the offensive scheme which might end up being one-dimensional and skewed towards Marqise Lee.

That said, a 6-7 season looks highly unlikely with the schedule that USC has. Games against Hawaii, Boston College and Colorado are gimmies, while the Trojans should beat Washington State, Utah State and Utah. That’s six wins right there, barring any surprises.

Should SC split the Arizona schools, they could conceivably head to Notre Dame at 5-1. At that point, the season could any which way for the Trojans, and right know, that’s OK for this squad.

Expectations were lacking going into 2011 and the Trojans played to a very well-coached 10-2 record, while the opposite could be said last year. Add in a small roster and new quarterback, plus an easier schedule and it’s easy to see why USC is”the most volatile team in terms of predictions”.

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  • Ben Factor

    Were it not for the cornerbacks’ showing in Spring, I would be inclined to dismiss the #7 ranking. (I don’t understand why Blackwell and Flournoy were not tried at CB this past Spring.)

    I cannot imagine that Kiffin didn’t learn the dangers of becoming too predictable, and not being rigorous enough in self-scouting. It remains to be seen whether he simplifies his offense so that more younger players can participate successfully.

    Yes, there is uncertainty at QB, but would any betting man wager that none of those three QBs can even be a game manager?

    By my rough count, USC recruited 53 combined 4-star and 5-star players in 2010-2013–I repeat, FIFTY-THREE.

    Utah St. recruited 0, Hawaii 0, Colorado 3, Wash. State 3, Boston College 8, Arizona 9, ASU 13, and Utah 14.

    USC’s total was larger that the combined total of ALL EIGHT SCHOOLS.

    USC recruited 13 5-stars alone, while I don’t recall any 5-stars at any those other colleges.

    OK, let’s assume a fair number of injuries at USC. Doesn’t that happen to every team?

    So, how should we interpret USC losing more than one of those games?

    Moreover, USC has significantly more talent than Stanford or Cal. Should USC lose both of those games?

    I agree that injuries will be very important. I agree that CB is desperately undermanned.

    Nonetheless, unless the injuries are staggering, if USC can’t adjust itself to rise above the #7 position in the Pac-12, the causal factor will not be a mystery. And it will not be uncertainty at QB.

    • Michael Castillo

      You’re right about Cal. USC Should beat Cal. That’s seven games that should be wins.

      Stanford, though? They’re probably the best non-SEC team in the country right now. Does USC have more pure talent? Sure, but Stanford is better coached and they’re far more experienced than SC is right now, especially in defense. While USC’s defense will be improved this season as the front seven returns, they are learning a new defense and have to replace those corners like you mentioned.

      Now, as for the 7th ranking, I personally do not agree with it. I think USC is 5th right now, ahead of both Oregon State and Washington. Add in the fact that Oregon State has a torturous second half schedule and UCLA has the toughest schedule in the nation, I think it’s very possible USC crawls right up the rankings come November.

      But again, it will come down to coaching, injuries and attitude. Those things affect every team, that’s for sure, but those three crippled USC last year despite their talent, with the coaching and mindset not allowing them to overcome injuries.

      • Ben Factor

        I know that you don’t see USC as #7, and I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. I very much agree with your assessment. Having a lot of talent, but a short roster, Kiffin must vary his preferred m.o. The defense is supposedly simpler. I favor a simpler offense, in which young players can contribute right away.

        The challenges for Kiffin are to brainstorm more with his staff in scenario planning, process information and recognize problems faster, and respond with more flexibility and experimentation. He seems too insular, too “command and control,” and not highly adaptable.

        Too often, the refrain was: “Our opponent didn’t play as they had played in the film.” First, that is what opponents should have been saying ABOUT USC! Second, here’s the kind of thing one would have hoped to hear from Kiffin: “When our opponent threw us off by doing A and B, our coaching team conferred and took counter-measures C and D. C didn’t work well. We had some initial success with D and stuck with it until diminishing returns set in. Then, we switched to E.”

        Against good teams, things WILL go wrong. When your roster is small, things will go wrong. What do you do to prepare, and how are you proactive when it happens?

        Not that Kiffin cannot change, but is he COMMITTED to that kind of change? He better be, or he should leave generalship to someone else.

        • Michael Castillo

          You raise very good points. And I think that moving forward, it’ll be interesting to see how giving some of the keys to the offense to Clay Helton affect that. Kiffin’s supposedly giving Helton more and more leeway with the offense and if it makes Kiffin has more time allotted to game planning and change, then perhaps he can regain that coaching form he had two years ago. Either way, it’s a make or break year for him and it’ll be fascinating watching how he reacts week in and week out.