USC football is the fourth most-talented team in CFB, time to hold them to it

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images /

Setting expectations for USC football’s 2019 season is simple enough when you factor in 247Sports’ Team Talent Composite and the Notre Dame standard.

MORE. Game-by-game predictions for 2019

USC football is one of the five most talented teams in college football.

Does that statement surprise you? It shouldn’t. It’s a fairly well-acknowledged fact that the Trojans have recruited as well as anyone in the nation this decade, let alone this century.

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On Monday, 247Sports just put what was obvious into objective form: USC ranks fourth in the newly-updated Team Talent Composite.

Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia outpace USC on the talent front, though not by much. The Trojans are ahead of LSU, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida State, Clemson and Michigan.

You have to go down to No. 13 to find the first of USC’s 2019 opponents. Oregon, Washington and Stanford rank 16th, 18th and 19th respectively. UCLA made it into the Top 25 at 22nd.

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The Trojans lost to No. 30 Arizona State, No. 47 Utah and No. 50 Cal last year. They did best No. 48 Colorado, No. 57 Oregon State, No. 64 Arizona and No. 70 Washington State.

In 2019 they can look forward to facing No. 69 BYU and No. 89 Fresno State.

To recap: USC ranks fourth in team recruiting talent. No one on the upcoming schedule comes close.

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So why does the 2019 schedule look so daunting?

The skepticism has nothing to do with talent obviously. Development has been an issue for the Trojans. Lack of discipline and identity have also taken a toll.

USC has spent the offseason trying to address those things, as evidenced by Clay Helton’s staff changes, practice adjustments and more.

When it comes down to it, the Trojans are rebuilding after last season’s 5-7 earthquake, but they’re doing so with the best possible material: talent.

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Judgement of the coming campaign should be a reflection of that.

As the nation’s fourth most talented team, it’s not enough to expect a slight uptick. Mere bowl eligibility, i.e. a one game improvement, isn’t enough. Even flipping the results of two games feels insufficient.

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In the midst of last year’s disappointment, athletic director Lynn Swann and Clay Helton both invoked Notre Dame as a proof that a team, and a head coach, who fell as low as 4-8 could rebound to 9-3 in the regular season with the right adjustments.

USC thinks they have made the right adjustments. So fans have every right to hold them to the Notre Dame standard.

Meeting that standard shouldn’t seem as daunting as it does. USC’s schedule is tough, to be sure, but so was the Irish’s in 2017. They played ranked Georgia, Michigan State, USC, North Carolina State, Miami and Stanford squads.

For the Trojans to do the same, all it would take is beating nine teams over which they have a distinct talent advantage.

All it would take is a coaching staff proving its worth by giving the offense an identity to lean on, the defense a tactical safety net and the team a structure which encourages competition and discipline.

A 9-3 record should be a minimum for the nation’s fourth most-talented squad. A minimum.

Anything less is a waste of the nation’s fourth most-talented squad.