USC Football ranks No. 5 in Athlon Sports’ 2017 Preseason College Football Top 25, trailing behind the Washington Huskies as projected Pac-12 champions.
The hype train for USC Football in 2017 is still going full steam ahead, but Athlon Sports may be tapping the brakes just a bit, ranking the Trojans No. 5 in their preseason Top 25.
“Thanks to the emergence of quarterback Sam Darnold, USC should be a playoff contender in 2017,” Steven Lassan wrote of the Trojans, but in Athlon’s estimation the quarterback won’t lead the Trojans to the promised land of the College Football Playoff.
Instead, No. 4 Washington, No. 3 Florida State, No. 2 Ohio State and No. 1 Alabama will face off for the national title in 2017, according to the publication’s projections.
The No. 5 ranking means the Trojans are expected to be on the outside looking in because of a Husky victory in the Pac-12 title game.
Athlon believes UW’s “schedule also sets up for another playoff berth” while USC faces challenges against Stanford, Texas, Washington State, Notre Dame and Colorado.
The Trojans will battle three of those early in the season when they are still adjusting to life without three of last year’s starting offensive linemen — Zach Banner, Chad Wheeler and Damien Mama.
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Those questions will continue to dog USC as preseason polls take shape.
As Lassan notes that “Darnold is good enough to carry this team to a Pac-12 title on his own,” which is a statement that could prompt other publications to push USC into one of their projected playoff places.
Other preseason prognostications could factor in the presence of a strong running attack with Ronald Jones II and a defense coming into its own under capable defensive coordinator in Clancy Pendergast a little more heavily.
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Though USC won’t face Washington unless it’s in the conference championship game, a number of Trojan opponents make appearances in the preseason Top 25.
Texas ranks No. 13 in Athlon’s estimation, with Stanford at No. 17 and Notre Dame at No. 20.
Oregon also made the rankings at No. 21. Ed Orgeron’s LSU settled in at No. 11.