USC tops Pac-12 in Preseason FPI rankings from ESPN

The USC depth chart still needs to come together. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
The USC depth chart still needs to come together. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

ESPN’s Football Power Index ranked USC as the top team in the Pac-12 for the 2020 preseason, slightly ahead of Oregon.

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USC’s goal this offseason is to convince fans the Trojans can indeed lift themselves back into Pac-12 contention under head coach Clay Helton.

Turns out, it doesn’t take much convincing when it comes to computers.

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ESPN’s Football Power Index, a measure of team strength and predictor of future performance, ranks USC as the No. 13 team in 2020 preseason standings.

That’s one spot ahead of Oregon, who ranks No. 14. The Trojans claim the top spot in the Pac-12.

Statistically, the Trojans are just one spot below national champion LSU.

No one would suggest USC is close to the Tigers in terms of present prominence, but the numbers go to show how well placed the Trojans are to compete with teams of that ilk.

That USC hasn’t been more competitive, is an indictment of Clay Helton and the job his coaching staff has done.

Looking ahead, the Trojans should have the juice to contend for the Pac-12 crown.

Maybe it’ll be Todd Orlando’s defense that helps USC get over the hump.

Graham Harrell’s offense had that effect. In 2019, Harrell improved USC to the No. 13 offense in ESPN’s Team Efficiencies. That’s up from No. 67 in 2018. It’s also worth noting that the 13th rating came while starting three different quarterbacks, including a true freshman, and struggling with major injury issues at running back.

The Trojan defense in 2019 ranked 55th in ESPN’s metrics. Orlando’s Texas ranked 49th, which was their lowest mark under the DC. In 2018 the Longhorns were 34th. In Year 1 under Orlando, 2017, they were fifth.

It wouldn’t take a rise that far to secure USC’s overall FPI standing.

Granted, USC faces a difficult schedule in 2020. Even so, the preseason FPI rankings show very few of the teams on the slate are far from the Trojans range.

Alabama checks in at No. 4 while Notre Dame sits at No. 9. No one else ranks ahead of USC.

In Pac-12 play, the Trojans will have to navigate road trips to No. 14 Oregon, No. 24 Utah, No. 28 Stanford, No. 49 UCLA and No. 64 Arizona.

They will welcome No. 29 Washington, No. 30 Cal, No. 41 ASU, No. 56 Colorado to the Coliseum.

No. 124 New Mexico doesn’t figure to provide much of a threat in Week 2.

Next. Win-Loss Expectations for 2020