Preseason Top 25 rankings are starting to trickle in with spring camps wrapping up around the country. USC Football features among the most highly-ranked squads.
The USC Football hype train hasn’t slowed any since the Trojans rallied in the fourth quarter of the 2017 Rose Bowl.
That stunning victory in the final seconds, and Sam Darnold’s role in it, launched the Trojans into the conversation as one of the most exciting teams heading into the 2017 season and they’ve maintained that momentum through the midway point of the offseason.
With the latest of slate of preseason Top 25’s dropping at the conclusion of spring camp season, here’s a round up of where USC stands in the latest preseason rankings:
Sporting News — No. 2
Most analysts fit USC in the Top 5 of their preseason rankings, but Bill Bender of Sporting News took it a step further by settling the Trojans at No. 2 in his Top 25.
"We’re sticking with the Trojans at No. 2. Sam Darnold still is the Heisman favorite and potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but injuries along an offensive line that already replaces three starters makes us a little nervous. The focus for USC is to get healthy before fall camp."
While ranking the Trojans behind only Alabama, Bender does point out the very real anxiety surrounding USC’s offensive front, which is as unsettled as it was on the first day of spring camp thanks to injury absences for Toa Lobendahn, Nico Falah, Viane Talamaivao and others.
Behind USC, Washington sits eighth while Stanford gets little love down at No. 18.
Other Trojan opponents for the coming season include No. 21 Texas and No. 23 Washington State.
Fox Sports — No. 3
Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports is also fairly high on the Trojans, ranking them No. 3 in his preseason rankings.
"The Trojans boast “it” QB Sam Darnold, who spent the spring developing chemistry with a youngish receiving corps. Look for sophomore Michael Pittman Jr. to emerge as a playmaker. USC should be strong across the board on defense thanks to DL Rasheem Green, LBs Cam Smith and Porter Gustin and CB Iman Marshall. Replacing star CB Adoree Jackson will be a challenge, especially in the returns game."
The Pac-12 as a whole gets some love from Mandel, with Washington at No. 6, Stanford at No. 11, and Washington State at No. 21.
USC foes Texas, Utah and Notre Dame all missed the cut to be ranked, however.
ESPN — No. 4
USC actually dropped one spot from Mark Schlabach’s first Top 25 of the year, when they started out at No. 3.
However, Ohio State’s boom up the rankings forced the Trojans down to No. 4.
"After quarterback Sam Darnold guided the Trojans to nine straight victories, including a memorable Rose Bowl win, they figure to be a popular CFP pick, and he’ll be among the leading Heisman Trophy candidates. First, the Trojans will have to find him new receiving targets and pass-blockers. Michael Pittman Jr., Velus Jones Jr. and Tyler Vaughns look like the guys next in line behind top receiver Deontay Burnett. The offensive line lost three starters and remains in flux because of injuries, but Chuma Edoga seems pretty entrenched at left tackle."
USC checks in behind the Buckeyes, Alabama and Florida State, but they outrank fellow Pac-12 squad Washington, who also fell a couple spots to No. 9.
Stanford stands No. 16, also down a place, while Washington State slid from No. 21 to No. 25 to finish off the ranking.
Also of note, Texas ranks No. 23.
Athlon Sports — No. 5
Steven Lassan of Athlon is one of the few architects of a preseason Top 25 to rank Penn State ahead of USC, who settles in at No. 5 in his view.
"Darnold should be even better next season and has rising star Ronald Jones (1,082 yards) to rely on at running back. The Trojans are set to lose Darreus Rogers (56 catches) at receiver, and JuJu Smith-Schuster (70 catches) declared early for the NFL. Standout offensive tackles Chad Wheeler and Zach Banner also depart and leave big shoes to fill in the trenches. Coordinator Clancy Pendergast was one of the top assistant hires of last offseason, as USC’s defense limited opponents to 24.2 points per game despite major question marks in the front seven. Pendergast will have a solid core in place for 2017, but tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu must be replaced. Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson also decided to leave early for the NFL."
The reasoning behind the ranking is evident in the emphasis on USC’s personnel losses from 2016, with plenty to replace at key positions like receiver, offensive tackle, defensive tackle and cornerback.
Nevertheless, Washington ranks about as high as any other ranking at No. 7 despite their critical losses.
Stanford settles in at No. 19, with Texas at No. 20. Though USC won’t be facing them this year unless they meet in the Pac-12 title game, Oregon ranks 21st.
Lassan’s rankings are also unique in that they include Notre Dame at No. 23 while Washington State, UCLA and Utah get a mention as other teams to watch.