USC Football: Comparing Preseason and Final AP Poll Rankings


The preseason AP Poll comes out today at 11:00 a.m. Pacific, meaning that USC football will likely find themselves with a high ranking, considering that the Trojans were ranked 10th in the Coaches Poll last month.

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With an abundance of offseason hype fueling an expected high ranking, comes a likely backlash to the Trojans being ranked so high.

This of course stems from USC being pegged as the No. 1 team going into 2012 under Lane Kiffin, before ultimately ending up buried in a ditch on the side of an El Paso road with a 7-6 record.

But aside from that season, which was practically a college football first, what does the preseason AP Poll usually mean for the Trojans?

For starters, it’s been a pretty accurate predictor the past two years. USC was ranked 24th and 15th in those seasons, before finishing ranked 19th and 24th. Relatively speaking, that’s pretty spot on.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

And in general, dating back to 2002, USC’s preseason ranking has been just 1.39 places higher than they have finished on average.

In that time frame, the Trojans have breakout years like 2002 and 2011, when USC bettered their preseason ranking by a total of 35 spots. The former ranking started at 20th and finished 4th after a win over Iowa in the Orange Bowl, while the latter started 25th, only to wind up 6th with a 10-2 record.

During the peak of the Pete Carroll era from 2004 to 2008, the Trojans were ranked among the top six teams every year, finishing no lower than fourth.

That certainly skews USC’s long term accuracy by AP voters, though the ranking differential since 2002 is at -2.13 places if you exclude those five seasons. With those years excluded, USC has finished with an average ranking of 14th, while starting out 16th.

What’s it all mean? Voters are human. They’ve routinely assessed that USC will be good and have been validated by that fact, but sometimes they’ve been way wrong in each direction.

READ ALSO: Phil Steele’s Preseason Rankings Have USC Overrated

That’s exactly what you’d expect for any other team from a preseason poll in a sport without preseason games. That should go a long way in dispelling the misconception that USC is always overrated.

They’re not. They just happen to own the failures of the most overrated season in recent memory, which is a hard stigma to shed. However, the 2015 Trojans can start by winning some games and backing up their ranking.

For a breakdown of where USC has started and finished in the AP Poll, see below.

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